188: The Dating Game

The Dating Game

It's pretty well established that movies are great for first dates. Why not videogames? Wendy Despain imagines what it would take to make a videogame that's an acceptable first-date activity.

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Crazy-great premise for an article. I agree entirely with your conclusions. No, I think games are better suited as an activity for the hundredth date - when you know each other pretty well, are probably living together, and have talked about pretty much everything under the sun. Games have an interesting way of revealing characteristics that might've remained hidden otherwise... say, for example, my girlfriend's preoccupation with GTA IV.

I found out she hated birds - pigeons in particular - to an almost psychotic degree when I came home and found her trying to use Niko to beat a pigeon senseless with a bat. So I found a guide online and over the next few days she killed ALL of the pigeons in Liberty City. She disdains shooting games, incidentally, and never once killed a pedestrian the whole time she was pigeon hunting. But yeah, good times on our hundredth date.

All good analysis, but I think one assumption which needs to be questioned is the "date" archetype itself. In particular, when you refer to the fact that games are seldom played in arcades anymore and point out the problems with the venue being "your place or mine", that implicitly rules out the way the majority of good relationships start in the real world: as friendships.

If you meet a potential partner at a friend's house or perhaps at a party there's a pretty good chance that gaming will be on offer (at least if you yourself are a gamer). Maybe the two of you ace a Rock Band duet or develop a friendly rivalry as the last two standing in most of the Powerstone 2 matches. Much as games set a barrier to entry it could be either your future partner's skills or even their positive attitude to the learning process which first attracts you to them.

It's time to leave behind the stereotype of needing to take partners to movies or out for meals because they're too hopeless to cope with anything more demanding than a completely passive experience. If your potential date is rubbish at Guitar Hero that doesn't matter. If he won't pick up the Guitar for fear of looking silly then forget about him and pick someone more worthy of your attention.

Once you know someone well, inviting them round to your place isn't a big deal. How about we try taking on the 2P co-op mode together? Next Wednesday? See you then.

Once again, another good article that i've read here!

My solution to the "not in a public sphere" problem is....

When I took a girl that I KNEW to be a hardcore gamer to one of those gaming places (pay $$ for an hour or whatever).

Now, normally I would never waste my money on one of those places (espically since I own most, if not more, then what they do) but, since it was a first date, it seemed like a good idea.
If the girl is as into gaming as you (and you know it through either first hand, or even second hand knowledge) then it can work!

However, movies still dominate the dating scene.. XP

Fantastic article. There is much to learn about our little society by asking these questions.

I disagree with games being particpatory as a bad thing for a date. If anything, the fact that watching a movie is NOT participatory is what makes it a bad early date - no opportunity to converse or learn about your partner.

Obviously a strictly competitive experience is not really date friendly, but as cooperative game design improves, there's a lot of potential there. I mean, a relationship is participatory - what better way to figure out how your partner, or potential partner, deals with challenge and works together with you to solve problems, by trying it out in a virtual, safe (relatively speaking) environment? If they can't work with you there chances are they won't be able to work in real life (massive caveats about approachibility of interfaces & controls apply here, granted).

I actually wrote a bit more about this topic a couple months ago on my blog: http://www.plushapocalypse.com/borut/?p=177

Good read, although I've been seeing a lot of bars that have a Wii or other console lying around. People gravitate to them because it's still a fun way to get folks talking.

The advantage of a movie is that there isn't a lot of talking either. You can just have chit-chat and basic "get to know you" stuff and then the movie takes over the evening. It's a bit like a third wheel. If you want to make a game that replaces this function, just break down the elements of what you need the game to do: generate conversation, be the dominant part of the date, and make sure bad players won't be an issue.

I'm sure someone will put one together eventually.

You forgot another thing that makes movies a good date. It provides an easy out. Movie over, it's time to end the date or move the date to my place(or yours). Most games are either open ended experiences or much longer than a couple hours. This makes it difficult for a date to either naturally end, or move on to the next level.

It's funny - for a long time I was under the impression that going to the movies was a bad date idea, especially for first date, since you are sitting in the dark, not talking to each other, and the whole point of a date is to get to know someone. IMO, gaming is a BETTER option to a movie, because, assuming you can both play at the same time or take turns, you can also talk and get to know each other a little bit. On a first date, chances are you won't be doing anything with your hands anyways...

dcheppy:
You forgot another thing that makes movies a good date. It provides an easy out. Movie over, it's time to end the date or move the date to my place(or yours). Most games are either open ended experiences or much longer than a couple hours. This makes it difficult for a date to either naturally end, or move on to the next level.

Oh yeah. But as a previous poster noted; Wiis making their ways into bars-and so has Guitar Hero/Rock Band, so there is a space for those games.

But I think it has to do more with the kind of games we often play; they're for the hardcore-and by this I mean, people who are at least familiar with the videogame culture, and willing/interested in investing hours and hours into a game. Wiis make it into bars-but nobody is going to play Fallout 3 on them. As a matter of fact, I can't think of one Game of the Year candidate that is on a Wii; but I think that Wiis serve a different audience than most of the GotY games do.

Now all that said; I've found that the quickest way to learn about someone (anyone, date or no) is to play a game with them. All their weird shit comes out, good or bad.

You can always play L4D ;)

Here are the cliff notes for the TL;DR crowd.

Gaming is a bad dating idea, because dating is always about what the woman wants. The woman doesn't want to play games, she wants to eat poopcorn and wonder why she can't have Brad Pitt instead of a loser like you or me.

ckeymel:
It's funny - for a long time I was under the impression that going to the movies was a bad date idea, especially for first date, since you are sitting in the dark, not talking to each other, and the whole point of a date is to get to know someone. IMO, gaming is a BETTER option to a movie, because, assuming you can both play at the same time or take turns, you can also talk and get to know each other a little bit. On a first date, chances are you won't be doing anything with your hands anyways...

This also came to my mind. I figure a better first date would be to a coffee house, where the guy can treat the girl to coffee but not have to pay a lot, and they both get a comfortable atmosphere to talk and get to know each other. Plus, if it turns out there isn't much of a spark or connection, well, you only spent about $2 on a cup of coffee for her instead of $6-$10 on a movie ticket or meal.

When it comes to multiplayer, I've found that different games work in different ways for friends and couples. You can rig some games to be co-op, such as Smash Bros. Brawl (team based and against the computer). There are also an increasing number of games including co-op possibilities. Resident Evil 5 looks like it could be a good dating game (that is, if your partner is also a gamer capable of taking on such a difficult campaign). It requires teamwork and communication. You also learn pretty quickly how your partner deals with frustration. If they start taking the game way too seriously or start flying off the handle in anger, then it may not be the best relationship. After all, who knows how they'll react to a real problem? Similarly, it can help two people learn how to work better with each other, improving their relationship down the line.

Thing is, it all depends on the people and the games themselves. I'd just say that video games are a terrible first date, but not bad in the long run.

Great article
The games we have today are mostly casual games that are easy to jump right into which I guess can be both good and bad. It provides quick and accesible fun for both parts but it is also very superficial. More meaningful games that truly takes advantage of the real possibilities of co-operative gaming might be betters suited for the later stages of dating.

i really like this as a premise for investigation, not that i'm in the dating world anymore but it does make me think about the time i spent with guys playing games, LAN or console in various numbers but it has the potential for superb bonding.

The final note was something that was in my mind the whole way through. To me overt aggression in a guy is very unatractive, a lack of self control or perspective troubles me, so to see a guy lose it over a game/level/boss whatever was a good way to find out if we were emotionally compatable or have the same perspective on life - meaning I like a good game but there's no need to scream and shout about it if isn't going your way.

A lot of geeks I know suffer from some kind of performance anxiety because some social situations are alien to them, and this makes the WOW geek the star quarterback because his prospective beau is in his world, where he is king and I like the idea that the playing field can be leveled like that.

First of all, great article, I really liked how you broke down why movies are generally accepted "good dates", and why games would not necessarily "good dates".

I don't know why you didn't talk about board and card games, though. I get that these days "gaming" is generally considered to be talking about video games, but card games can be great fun on a date, a good way to get to know someone, and, importantly, an even lower cost of entry than a movie has. You can still a buy pack of 52 cards for less than 5 bucks after all.

Clemenstation:
Crazy-great premise for an article. I agree entirely with your conclusions. No, I think games are better suited as an activity for the hundredth date - when you know each other pretty well, are probably living together, and have talked about pretty much everything under the sun. Games have an interesting way of revealing characteristics that might've remained hidden otherwise... say, for example, my girlfriend's preoccupation with GTA IV.

I found out she hated birds - pigeons in particular - to an almost psychotic degree when I came home and found her trying to use Niko to beat a pigeon senseless with a bat. So I found a guide online and over the next few days she killed ALL of the pigeons in Liberty City. She disdains shooting games, incidentally, and never once killed a pedestrian the whole time she was pigeon hunting. But yeah, good times on our hundredth date.

That's interesting, since one of my flatmates doesn't like pigeons. We wound her up to great effect at Halloween last year, most of the flat dressed in grey capes and orange beaks and looked like pigeons. She was a red devil, incidentally, so there's a few photos of the group as pigeons scaring the Devil :)

Trivun:

That's interesting, since one of my flatmates doesn't like pigeons. We wound her up to great effect at Halloween last year, most of the flat dressed in grey capes and orange beaks and looked like pigeons. She was a red devil, incidentally, so there's a few photos of the group as pigeons scaring the Devil :)

Ha, not bad! I don't think I've ever seen a pigeon costume before, but it makes sense. I bet more people are scared of pigeons than ghosts in some parts of the world. Like super-urban parts.

Clearly Rockstar harbors a certain hatred for pigeons, or "winged rats", themselves.

On topic, a new candidate for 'date' game: Worms. Turn-based, so not overwhelming. Frequently hilarious mistakes. The only downfall is the soundtrack, which is starkly militaristic in comparison to the toonish feel of the rest of the game. Doesn't really foster a sense of companionship, unless army-love is your sorta thing.

I was always comparing games to books myself. While they are played on tv (like movies) and stuff, actual process IMO resembles reading books rather than than watching movies: In games, players have choice what to do (which quest to complete, or ignore, run the level or stay and enjoy the view and stuff). In books reader can decide whenever he want's to create an image of character/location from description.

Bottom line is: just like two people playing same game can have completely different experience, two people reading the book can do very well the same.

IMO

When I first saw the article, I thought it was going to be about those dating simulations. But this is even more interesting.
My take on the issue is that gaming is probably too exciting for a date. Not many people take their first dates to an amusement park. It's exhausting to be in the middle of so much stimulus for extended period. Heck, even the most hardcore gamers has to stop and take a break every now and then. Along the same line, even non-repetitive, but good games are going to be very taxing on its player. And that could cause a date to go sour.

My solution: Buying a console should subscribe you to a life-time, home-delivery service for alcohol. Cuz you know, drinking something before a gaming session can turn the experience from the most intense into the mellowest and most relaxing thing in your life.

Good article, although I have sometimes attempted to share gaming with my girlfriend. She handled the shooting part on an FPS whilst I had a hand on the movement. Good fun! Although perhaps her attention was maintained primarily at the fact that she was Chinese and the game in question was VIETCONG. Now that I think about it, her eagerness to go red and shoot up "yankee pigs" was a little harrowing.

But if you want to really include your girlfriend in gaming, I'd honestly stick to the wii if I were you.

As others have noted the piece assumes a particular dating paradigm. There are two alternatives:

First, as people have said, games such as SingStar, RockBand, Mario Kart (Wii) etc which can be very much about a shared experience, low barrier of entry, known genre and lots of physical contact.

Second, there are those where both people have already overcome barriers an are in a shared virtual space. Over on TerraNova (where I blog) Andrea Fryer wrote a fantastic piece "Better dating through MMOs" which showed how virtual dating can be superior: http://terranova.blogs.com/terra_nova/2006/10/better_dating_t.html

viddylan:

I don't know why you didn't talk about board and card games, though. I get that these days "gaming" is generally considered to be talking about video games, but card games can be great fun on a date, a good way to get to know someone, and, importantly, an even lower cost of entry than a movie has. You can still a buy pack of 52 cards for less than 5 bucks after all.

Yeah, I find bridge a very fun game for a first date...or would if I was an octogenarian XD

Amazing article, I am just very happy to see people in the business looking to expand the genre and take it in new directions :D

I met my (now ex) boyfriend while we were all playing Eternal Champions at my friend's comic book store. I've also been hit on at my college's arcade (when I was in school). So yea, it's all good!

wsmieszek:
You can always play L4D ;)

xD its both enjoyable AND cooperative!

wsmieszek:
You can always play L4D ;)

Or RE5!

...hmm...maybe zombies aren't the most romantic option...

Co-op on Gears of war, Halo,army of two , 50 cent: blood on the sand and COD don't seem to work either.

Viva Piņata? That's just patronising...

 

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