Daddy needs a date.
The days since I’ve known the loving touch of a woman have grown long and cold. I can’t fathom why. Is it my taste in music, which is best described as firmly rooted in rock of the classic sort? Maybe my wardrobe is the problem, light as it is on the Enzo Angiolini and heavy on the Iron Maiden World Tour ’97. Perhaps it’s my Severus Snape haircut, which doesn’t seem to flatter me in quite the same way it does Alan Rickman.
Or could it be my hobby of choice? Let’s face it, everyone plays videogames, but not everyone is a dyed-in-the-wool gamer. Particularly not people my age. And as it turns out, chicks today are about as impressed with my cogent insights into the Half-Life 2 plot as they were 20 years ago with my ability to rack up six-digit scores in Bosconian. Let’s just say I didn’t see a lot of action in high school.
But has all that changed? Gaming is suddenly a major mainstream market, no longer the exclusive stomping ground of weirdos and geeks, and you know what that means: Pandering and exploitation can’t be far off! Thus it was with some trepidation that I approached Game 4-A-Date, an online dating site for people who apparently are just as passionate about games as I am.
As I filled out my profile, I noticed with some suspicion that I was not once queried about my gaming habits: Not what I liked or disliked, not my platform of preference, not even something as basic as my favorite game. Even more disconcerting was the discovery, once I had finished filling in the paltry information non-paying members have access to, that I also couldn’t search through any prospective matches based on game-related criteria.
How am I supposed to meet that special someone if I don’t know where she stands on the question of DRM? Could I really take seriously any woman who believes that the release of Halo was a pioneering moment in FPS history? And how – how – am I supposed to have a conversation with someone who thinks a keyboard and mouse is “too complicated?” Yet this is what I’m faced with: A dating site for gamers that never actually mentions games.
Deciding to probe deeper, I started scanning through candidates, accepting and rejecting potentials with my keen eye for the superficial. I read the brief bios that are attached to the hopeful photos. Age, height, race, religion, hobbies, likes and dislikes: Before long, they start to blur and melt into one another, a hazy melange of banality put together by dozens of women who had read hundreds of similar messages before they screwed up the courage to try it for themselves. And among them all, not one – not a single person – even mentioned videogaming as an interest.
I don’t give a shit if you’re a smoker or a social drinker! What’s your Gamerscore?
I began to think that I’d been had, that all this noise about a dating site for gamers was really nothing more than an attempt to sucker in the desperately lonely (and sex-hungry) hordes who clog the tubes of the internet. I felt cheap and used… Well, no, I didn’t. Not really. In fact, I wasn’t even all that terribly surprised or disappointed. Discovering that a dating site for gamers was a scam was about as shocking as my 200th viewing of goatse: I was way too hardened to the wicked ways of the internet to even bat an eye.
There are valid social sites dedicated to gaming, of course. Vigster, a site that entered open beta in June 2008, is one such example. Combining a MySpace-like social network with a “videogame IMDB” featuring over 30,000 titles, Vigster offers forums, user reviews, a Yahoo! Answers-style question-and-answer section, a “virtual game shelf” where you can display the titles in your collection for the world to see and more. It’s a thorough and full-featured site, if a bit rough around the edges ( it is beta, after all) and it also appears to be largely unused. Going back to November 26, the Vigster forums – that most basic element of online communities – have accumulated 30 topics with a total of 70 posts. The game database is hefty but very few people seem to be using it, and day-to-day activity appears to be minimal.
But as I thought about it, I realized the whole thing was a wasted effort anyway. Gamers are already social; we have places to congregate, to talk amongst ourselves, to get to know one another and, not-always-overblown concerns about stalkers, slashers and other creeps aside, to arrange meetings with one another in meatspace. Conventional social networks like Facebook incorporate casual gaming as a major part of the user experience, while more dedicated gamers can get their fix with like-minded fellows at places like, to use a completely random example, The Escapist. Sites like these offer forums, chat rooms and user options through which people can show off their picture, their Gamercard, links to personal web sites and more, all in a vast, interconnected and perpetually growing web of online friends. Real gaming communities of all shapes and sizes have been around for ages: Dating sites and social networks aimed at “gamers” – which is a ridiculously wide-ranging demographic to begin with – are redundant.
It belies the old stereotype of the solitary gamer ensconced in his parents’ basement, bathed in the iridescent glow of a monitor and a vague whiff of nacho cheese, but gamers are social creatures. Always have been. I don’t have much hope for efforts to attract gamers to online social scenes, because we’re already there. We’ve been doing this for years – meeting and greeting, finding friends, falling in love, getting it on, getting married, making little mini-Master Chiefs – all without the benefit of Game 4-A-Date. It’s who we are. It’s what we do.
Andy Chalk doesn’t really need a date, but feel free to send solicitations and revealing photographs to [email protected].