Editor's note: Evan returns with another edition of Bitmob Splitscreen. This time around, he and Alex R. Cronk-Young discuss gaming with the ladies. -Brett
Bitmob Splitscreen is a one-on-one discussion conducted over email on a single topic. For this, the seventh installment, Bitmob's resident struthiophile, Alex R. Cronk-Young, and I sat down (at our computers) to talk about gaming's relationship to our…relationships. Read on for a slight case of denial, a bit too much information, and a poor Nintendo 64 left on a doorstep, cold and alone and…*sniff*.
Alex Cronk-Young: My wife, Zoe, has never classified herself as a gamer, but she can be pretty obsessive. When we were dating I burned copies of the few PC games that I had (shhh): Diablo and Age of Empires. Neither of these games would be considered "girl friendly," but she got pretty hooked. To me, the draw of Diablo was online play, but she just pored over it offline.
I'm pretty sure she played the game through with all three characters. She even played through the Hellfire expansion with that Monk character they added. I fed her hunger with Starcraft and Diablo 2, and she played them just as much.
Nowadays her tastes aren't as hardcore, but that's probably just because our PC sucks. I always find excuses to buy her video games, and even though she complains about it, she always plays the crap out of them. I bought her Harvest Moon: Tree of Tranquility about a month ago in lieu of buying a game for myself, and since then I have fallen asleep to the glow of her feeding her animals every single night. I then added some Cooking Mama to the mix on Mother's Day, with the same results.
Do you have any idea how many months she played Clubhouse Games for the DS before I bought those two games? Every single night. I'd love to possess her dedication to video games.
Evan Killham: I hate to break it to Zoe, but she sounds like a gamer to me. I couldn't get into Diablo that much, and I've got cred: When I was playing The Force Unleashed, I once planted Darth Vader on a bridge for an hour and made him Force push endlessly spawning Wookiees until an Achievement unlocked. And then I moved on to the choking.
That's interesting, though. Where do you think the line is between a "person who plays games" and a "gamer," and why does she place herself in the former category? For lack of a better word, is there shame involved?
AC-Y: It's probably just a stigma. I think if all of the "Facebook gamers" found the one game that really clicked with them, they'd change the way they identify themselves.
I always liked games as a kid. We had an Atari 2600, an NES, and a Genesis, and I played them all a fair amount. Still, while I'm nostalgic for all the games I played on those systems, we never had very many games, and the ones we did get weren't the amazing games that people remember. My friend, however, had all the good games, and I played through the SNES RPGs I'm still fond of over at his house.
But when I picked up Ico in a bargain bin, and then Shadow of the Colossus once it came out, my whole outlook on games changed. I see those two games as the point where I stopped defining myself as "someone who plays games" and started thinking of myself as a lifelong "gamer."
If my wife and all the other casual players found a game that really connected with them on a level deeper — in other words, something other than a time-killer — then maybe they'd change as well.
EK: I think you're on to something there. It seems like the line between the two is the point at which games stop being just something to pass time when you should have something "better" to do. But I've taken us a bit off-topic.
My girlfriend, Meghan, actually identifies herself as a gamer. She plays a lot of RPGs and has recently gotten into first-person shooters. She bought me Assassin's Creed 2 and Dragon Age: Origins last Christmas — and she played through both of them before I did.
She's also my go-to partner for co-op games, which is fortunate because I don't play much online. This works out pretty well, because Resident Evil 5 is all but unplayable alone, and Borderlands is a lot less fun. When it comes to buying games, she has two standard questions: "Can we play this together?" and, barring that, "Will I be bored watching you play this?"
AC-Y: Man, the closest thing Zoe and I have come to co-op is sharing a town in Animal Crossing for the DS. I'd love to sit down and play through a game with her, but I'd probably end up acting like an ass toward her, and then she'd get mad. I'm pretty happy with watching her plow through a Castlevania on our DS every night, or even a Harvest Moon on the Wii. Plus, she can kick my ass in Dr. Mario every single time.
Was Meghan raised in a gaming household? I really wasn't. I mean, we had systems, but we barely had any games, and I was the only one who cared enough about them to ask for new ones. Zoe's parents actually threw game parties and invited kids over to play Track and Field with their NES Power Pad. And they bought her and her siblings a TurboGrafx16, which I hadn't even heard of when we started dating.
EK: Meghan didn't grow up in a gaming household at all. I don't know if it's quite accurate to say that her parents hate video games, but it's usually best if I don't bring up anything gaming related around her mom. But in spite of that, Meghan's first major solo purchase was a Genesis, and she also bought her own PlayStation.
How about your previous relationships? Did any of your past girlfriends feel strongly one way or the other about games?
AC-Y: Zoe was my first…for eeeeeverything.
AC-Y: Uh, yeah. Sorry for the creepiness. But we met and started dating sophomore year of high school and got married five years later.
Any past girlfriends for you that were gaming nightmares or hardest of the hardcore?
EK: Back in high school, my first girlfriend was a pretty serious gamer. She introduced me to the awesomeness that was the opening cinema and theme song of Wild Arms, and the balls-out insanity of Knights of the Round in Final Fantasy 7.
She also gave me her Nintendo 64 for what she called an "extended loan." She actually told me, "If we break up, you can keep it." You can probably guess how that story ends… We broke up later, and then she wanted the N64 back. I guess she couldn't stand to look at me at that point, so she told me to just put the box on her front step, ring the doorbell, and then leave. I'm not going to be dramatic and say that it was like abandoning a child, but it was definitely embarrassing and shameful. That's the only time I've ever wished I hadn't dated a gamer.
AC-Y: Oh man, that's a traumatic experience right there.
Since Zoe and I have been together, I've claimed that I purchased lot of consoles for her. I told her I bought the DS for her, mainly so she wouldn't yell at me as much for spending money. But here's a secret: I really wanted it. I did the same thing with the Wii, although in that case, I kind of used her as an excuse: I still thought the Wii was a lame gimmick, but I was curious about it. I can't imagine how much it would suck if she demanded I not touch "her" systems, or dumped me and took them with her.
A lot of people have hairbrained theories on whether or not a gamer should date another gamer, or if they should avoid non-gamers like the plague. But I think the real goal should be finding someone who likes you no matter what your hobby. Despite Zoe's assorted gaming-related childhood experiences, she never really cared about games. She still thinks of them as mere time-killers, but she knows I like them a great deal more than that, and she's okay with it. And I like to think that some of my adoration rubbed off on her a little bit.
Thanks to Alex for his time — and for not caring which picture I used up there. Seriously…it could have been the Devo one.
Do you have any cute or traumatic stories about gaming with (or without) significant others? Put them in the comments.