I have so much hate to give. (damonite) wrote,
I have so much hate to give.


The topic of games, or more specifically World of Warcraft, coming between couples has been something I've been a party to my entire life. I've been a gamer since I was five or six, transitioning between consoles, PCs, fields, and card tables at various points. Recently a woman outlined her issues with WoW here. Basically she echoes what have been the common complaints from all people who feel second place to a hobby. Not enough time or attention given to her, not enough affection or intimacy, nothing that really makes her feel important.

I commented on a few things in the thread, but this is something that I've had to deal with in my personal life, and something I've seen affecting the personal lives of my friends. However, I think this whole issue suffers from poor PR and that poor PR leads to obfuscation of the real issues, and creates an environment much less conducive to resolving any actual problems. Namely, that the person feeling rejected labels the issue as the specific game. The title of the thread, "Warcraft is ruining my marriage." is the perfect example of this.

Yet, it's not Warcraft. It's not Everquest. It's not Magic: The Gathering. It's not Dungeons & Dragons. It's not poker. It's not Football. It's not any one specific thing, and to label it as such does allow one to vent one's anger and frustrations in a safer venue - to complain that the game is the issue and not the person playing it - but as I stated, it reduces the chances of any forward motion being made on resolving the issue at hand.

Let me first start by describing the issue as I have seen it unfold. When relationships start, everything is shiny and new. You're in that infatuation period where everything's cute and your partner is just the funniest/handsomest/hottest/sweetest person you know. I mean, why else would you be there, right? This initial stage seems to be some kind of fusing process. The initial elation and infatuation serve to keep you in each other's company, it serves to make you want to be with them, to do things for them, to be a part of their emotional life. However, that boost at the beginning begins to fade.

This is where the core issue springs up. Before you met your partner, chances are they had a full life already. They had a social circle, a job, hobbies, and other responsibilities. You're looking to find a place within that already relatively full life, and odds are they're looking for a place for you in there as well. They had things they liked and enjoyed and filled their lives with meaningful (to them) activities and connections. Now, you want to be as important to them as they are to you. Lopsided relationships tend to fall apart because of this, someone wants too much or isn't getting enough, and that stresses that infatuation fired connection and it snaps. So you're sitting there after the first two or three months of glee with the haze of being smitten burning off and the reality of your situations hits you.

The reality is that you're competing for a spot in their life with a core, long lived part of their life. It's not just WoW or EQ or MTG or whatever that you're competing with. It's the part of them that is a gamer that you're competing with. You're fighting for the finite amount of passion and effort they have to put into things. And you're fighting against an opponent who has likely been there since they got their first set of lego or their first NES game. What it comes down to is that games provide gamers with a very real set of emotional and internal experiences. It provides a sense of accomplishment, it provides a structured path to achieve, it provides a focal point which people can gather around and socialize. Even if the game's not multiplayer, you can bet there's a forum or a shop in the mall where you can chill and talk about it.

And not only does gaming provide a wealth of emotional fulfillment, it's been doing so for years and possibly decades. That's what you're up against. A source of entertainment, a source of community, a source of validation in some ways, a source of happiness, frustration, and a source that's been such long before you arrived on the scene. I don't think this is an uncommon situation for anyone at any point in time. We all fill our lives with things to do, and we all get attached to the things which provide us the most benefit on the whole. Yet, there's something unique to gaming that seems to spawn a higher level of disillusionment in relationships, and I think it happens on both sides of the fence.

For instance, I play WoW regularly. I have set raid days, and I farm outside of those times so I have everything I need for the raids. I consider these obligatory playing times. I don't get anything less out of them, in fact raiding provides much more than casually playing ever would, however I also like to play when I have no obligations in game, so I play on off days as well. That's a shit load of WoW. An average raid night goes for five hours or so on a week night, and upwards of eight to nine on our Saturday raids. On the low end that's eighteen hours of raiding, on the high end it's twenty-seven and a half. Add in two to three hours a week of farming to make sure I have the minimum consumables I need and I have a hobby that's damned near a job. Add in the free time play and it is the equivalent time investment of a job.

Now, during all that time I am sitting in front of a computer chatting and likely talking on Ventrilo. Unless my current lady friend is a gamer, there's nothing she can do to be involved in that. It's a stone wall for her. Sure, she can watch me play, but without being a gamer there's just not a lot of intelligible action to get involved in. Watching me fight a boss that we're killing for the first time is a confusing experience and likely more than a tad boring. Meanwhile on that same fight my heart rate is elevated and tension is building throughout my body. The same experience, but we're both taking something completely different away from it.

Contrast this with my last major expression of gaming, Legend of the Five Rings. This is a CCG that features a good competitive crowd with plenty of enjoyment and skill involved in playing it. The time invested is no less than WoW. I would go to a couple different gaming stores a week to play in local tournaments for a few hours a night. On top of this, I would meet up with my friends and play with them to tune decks and get more experience against the cards in the environment. Now add on to this researching the environment in my spare time, learning and memorizing cards, scouring forums looking for hot new decks I need to keep an eye out for, and playing games online via a java program custom made. And on top of all of this, regional tournaments and championships brings in road trips to surrounding states.

However, this game which requires no less time, a lot more money, and keeps me out of the house more was traditionally more accepted by the girls. This, I believe, is because they can see the entirety of the experience. They don't just see me in a chair staring at cartoonish figures casting magic missiles at the darkness. They can see me sitting across from another person. They can actively see the socializing as it happens. They can understand me going to a friend's house for a few hours. And of course when it comes to road trips, they could come along and at least get to spend a weekend with me even if part of it I'll be in a convention hall swinging imaginary katanas.

That's the first big factor I believe PC gaming has against it in this situation. They can watch you play all they want, but they're not going to grasp just exactly what's going on. They have no means to engage the game and at all understand it. So instead of it being something that takes your time, money, and effort but has rewards they can see if not agree with, they just have this box that for all they know makes you a zombie. In the L5R situation, they can see the value in it, so the effort they're putting into that instead of you is more understandable. With WoW, they see all the effort and none of the reward. Granted they may academically understand it, but I can academically understand female circumcision.

The next thing that causes PC gaming to inspire so much angst in significant others is an extension of that previous point. You see little to no value in the game, and it's also a major part of your partner's life. So you get concerned or jealous or catty or self doubting. You feel like you have to compete with them, and generally speaking a lot of people end up trying to make their partner choose between them and the game at various points. This inspires hostility on the part of the gamer as any healthy gamer would have no legitimate reason to need to make that choice, and being confronted with it puts them on the defensive immediately. This desire to abolish the feeling of inadequacy compared to a PC is an emotional need, and can often express itself in irrational ways, and irrationality tends to breed more irrationality and ultimately leads to a conflict between you and a game when that conflict never should have existed in the first place.

It shouldn't have existed because you're not actually competing with the game unless your partner legitimately has issues with addiction. What needs to happen, and what I think many gamers don't feel like they can do, is that the gulf or void you feel emotionally needs to be spanned or filled, but that doesn't have anything to do with the game. It has to do with you feeling like a valued and important part of their life. After all, if you're in a relationship, you ought to feel that way.

Now to the point of this entirely over done rant. Gamers are just people like everyone else. They just have a hobby that's more arcane and less accessible to those around them. When you can see your partner's hobbies and socializing, it's real to you, and you can respect that and engage it in a way that you simply cannot do with something you don't know. With baseball or soccer or model airplanes, you can see those things, you can cheer them on and actually feel joyous for their accomplishments. You can genuinely enjoy the skill it took to build the boat in the bottle. With a game, you're fighting against the unknown.

So where gamers see their hobby as no less valid than any other past time, their non-gaming partners often see it as something less valid. That disconnect spawns all of these things I've spoken of, yet it's not that disconnect that is the problem, and resolving that disconnect won't fix things any more than having your partner join your baseball team would (if they didn't actually like it.)

So what you have to do is look past the game. You're not going to feel as ok with WoW as you will with any number of other hobbies, but you can't just dismiss it simply on the grounds that you don't grasp it. I think golf is stupid as shit, but if I dated a golfer I wouldn't toss her clubs out and say "It's me or that par four." You have to look at the core issue - you are not being made to feel as you want to feel. That's the long and the short of it. It has little to do with what they're doing when they're not with you. It has to do with what they're not doing, period. You have to approach the issue like that. The medium is irrelevant. What matters is that you honestly and openly address your concern. "Honey, I don't feel like I'm getting as much out of this relationship as I want, and here's what I think I'm missing."

Of course, if you need more than is reasonable or more than they can give, or if they simply don't want you, then you ought to end the relationship. But if that honest desire to be together exists, just explain what it is you need, and leave the game out of the lime light. It's not that they're playing WoW, it's that you're not getting enough together time, or you don't feel wanted, or whatever. That's the issue. Relationships take work from both sides, and to this day I am amazed at how easy it is to work things out just by talking honestly.

Psychological Symptoms

Having a sense of well-being or euphoria while at the computer.
Because feeling good about what you're doing is something only addicts do!

Inability to stop the activity.
Granted, but I wouldn't qualify anyone as unable to stop until they're shitting in socks.

Craving more and more time at the computer.
God damn I hate when I enjoy doing something and so I'd like to do it more!

Neglect of family and friends.
Personally, if I wasn't online, I'd be neglecting them a whole lot more.

Feeling empty, depressed, irritable when not at the computer.
Unless your computer has an FuFme drive, this is a legitimate sign on the whole.

Lying to employers and family about activities.
This is not a sign of addiction, this is a sign of the stigmatization of computers, and an inability to realize people who mock you for doing shit you like are assholes to be ignored, even if you are related to them.

Problems with school or job.
Because nobody's ever hated their boss or teacher without being addicted to a computer.

Physical Symptoms

Carpal tunnel syndrome.
Dry eyes.
Migraine headaches.
Back aches.
Eating irregularities, such as skipping meals.
These things are also known as working on a computer for a living.

Failure to attend to personal hygiene
Hobos are clearly addicted to computers.

Sleep disturbances, change in sleep pattern.
God knows I've never stayed up late unless it was to do some computin'!

These symptoms are less helpful than just saying "Person eschews legitimate responsibilities in favor of computering despite having full knowledge of the consequences." Of course, this is also a list for people who needed to consult google to see if someone's addicted to computering.
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