When my wife and I first met, she was a gamer who only played one game: The Sims. She might occasionally find other games intriguing, but—for the most part—none of them appealed to her. If I asked her about trying games other than The Sims, she would say that she really didn’t “play video games.”
Well, after a while, I began to understand that when she said “video games” she was talking about the fast-paced, and often technically-demanding, games that I was playing. She was looking at Call of Duty and Dying Light and assuming that all of the games I played were chaotic, gory, and overly complicated.
The Beginning of a Journey
At first, I asked if Vii would be willing to try some side-scrolling platformers, retro arcade games, or some other games that I’d deemed to be “Beginner Games.” She agreed to play a couple and see how it went.
She lost interest very quickly. She also felt that the controls were too complicated and that the games we were playing required timing and reflexes that she just didn’t have.
It was a little disheartening. Gaming has been a huge part of my life since I was a wee lad, and I really wanted to be able to share that part of my life with the person I loved.
Eventually, I understood a few very important things:
- Vii might never develop an interest in gaming, and I had to be okay with that
- I was the one dictating our approach to gaming
- Point two might have been affecting point one
So, I took a different approach. I asked her what she liked about the one game she did play.
She told me that she liked:
- That she got to pause and think about her actions
- That she could play with the genetics of sims and see how the children turned out
- That she got to make decisions for her sims and see what the outcome would eventually be
- That she could stop at any point and pick it back up when she wanted.
With those points in mind, I asked her if she would be willing to scour STEAM for games that met her criteria (that I might also enjoy), so that we could try playing something together.
The two games we ended up buying were Massive Chalice and Darkest Dungeon. Both were turn-based strategy games, with some decision making and resource management. Massive Chalice had the added benefit of having a genetics aspect, while Darkest Dungeon’s aesthetics and impeccable voice work managed to pique her interest.
To this day, those are two of her favorite games. I attribute some of that to nostalgia, but the truth is that those were games that she was interested in, and they allowed her to see what “video games” had to offer her specifically.
> Half Way
When I talk to a lot of gamers—who also did not marry gamers—I often hear that their significant other “won’t even try playing” or that they “tried them, but didn’t like them.”
If your significant other really doesn’t like video games, that’s fair.
More often than not, however, I believe the gamers I was talking to were approaching this the wrong way. When I asked what games they were asking their partners to try, it was always a game with a high bar for entry. They were trying a first person shooter or an action RPG. Even the most tame version of either genre requires a degree of hand-eye coordination and a familiarity with the subject matter. Just because Ni No Kuni looks adorable and is pretty forgiving by my standards doesn’t mean that a complete novice will be able to pick it up easily.
So, you really need to meet your significant other where they are, rather than where you are. Even meeting them halfway is still a big ask.
The Deep End
A lot of people will say that the best way to learn something is to jump into the deep end. While that might work with some things, there is a very simple reason that you can’t just throw your partner into the deep end with something like video games…
Basically, it takes all the fun out of playing.
Starting with a game that requires you to know how to use two control sticks, previous knowledge of how action-RPGs work, the prerequisite reflexes to be effective, and the genre savviness to know not to shoot the red barrels when you’re standing next to them is completely insane. You don’t start them with a Dark Souls game. Hell, you don’t even start with Mario Odyssey.
You start where they are most comfortable.
If that means starting with a point and click adventure, or a visual novel, or even a dating simulation game, then that’s what you have to do.
Playing games is about having fun, and if your significant other isn’t having fun, then there’s no point. You could get them to try some of the best games in the world, but they wouldn’t be able to appreciate them.
Even we gamers did not spring forth from the womb with a controller in hand, ready to play every game. We learned slowly over time, and if your significant other has never played a video game, then they need to learn just like you did.
A Gradual Incline
Once you’ve figured out exactly what your significant other would enjoy playing, and if they would like to continue to pursue gaming as a mutual hobby, then it’s just a matter of introducing new concepts gradually.
Did your significant other enjoy playing turn-based games? Great, maybe try a real-time strategy. Were they really feeling the visual novels? Maybe try something like Valkyria Chronicles that combines strategy with a story that unfolds as a visual novel.
It’s about finding out what they love about games, and then exploring new ones together.
After playing Massive Chalice and Darkest Dungeon, my wife and I played The Wolf Among Us, so that she could see if she liked adventure games. We then moved on to quirkier titles like Crypt of the Necrodancer and Shovel Knight. Games that were a little more difficult, but had simple controls that were hard to master.
These days we can play games like Skyrim or Hades, which require spatial awareness, fairly quick reflexes, and the ability to navigate and remember several menus at a time.
This doesn’t mean that we play all games together…
…but the overall number of games that Vii is willing to try has increased from almost none to over half of the games I play.
This is because she has a better overall understanding of what video games are and how they operate. She also has the confidence to know what she likes about them and what her skill level is. She even seeks out games that she knows I have no interest in, but that she would really enjoy.
She now “plays video games.”
Fun and Games
Now, I’m not saying that what happened with us will happen for everyone.
Some couples may try several types of games and never really develop a taste for it. Others may find one game, or genre, and decide to stay there. No outcome is “bad,” they’re just different. It’s all about comfort levels and fun, because if no one is having fun, then there is no point.
So, if you are a gamer and would like to try sharing your interests with your significant other, remember that handing them a controller and a copy of Call of Duty is not the way to go.
That’s just frustrating for everyone involved.
Instead, take the time to see things from their perspective. Find out what they like and what they’re interested in, and see if you can find a game that really speaks to them. Because while it’s sometimes true that people “don’t play video games,” I honestly believe that there is a game out there for everyone.
You just have to find it first.
And that game could lead to another, and another. And that could lead to a passion that you and your partner can share.