I cannot tell you how many times I have had male gamers say to my husband, in my presence, “Wow, you’re so lucky your wife is a gamer. My wife doesn’t like gaming. I wish my wife gamed too.” First, let me say that this is one of the most demeaning and degrading things male gamers say to and about me (and other women gamers). If you say things like this – Stop doing it! – I will come back to why in a minute.
Second, it is hard enough to find the right person to be your life partner, finding one that shares all the same hobbies can be impossible. With that in mind, have you really thought about why the women* already in your life aren’t gaming with you? I have some thoughts about this. While I am not an authority on this subject, I can share with you some ideas and information to help you and your partner to determine if role-playing could be hobby you can share.
A couple months ago I conducted a completely unscientific survey of what I called “gaming converts”. I defined “gaming convert” as an adult, late teens/post high school, who came to gaming specifically because of a significant other’s introduction to the hobby. I am not a gaming convert, I started gaming at the age of 13 after being told I could not be part of an established D&D game because I was a girl. That’s right, I was shunned from the game because other 13 year old boys didn’t want a girl sitting at their table. It was due to this treatment that I went out, bought my own Red Box and taught my younger brother how to play. I did meet my husband through gaming, but I considered myself a gamer for over 12 years before we met.
I put together a brief survey and scrapped together about a dozen people who mostly fit my loose criteria and willing to answer a few short questions. Those questions were:
- Your name and how old you were when you converted.
- Who converted you?
- What did you think of gaming before your conversion?
- How would you describe your conversion? Were you a closet gamer looking for an excuse or did you think gaming was beneath you?
- What kinds of games do you play? Please include all types of games – board, role playing, console, internet, etc. Do you still game?
- If your spouse/partner/SO (significant other) was instrumental in your conversion, what did they say/do/promise/sacrifice to get you to try gaming?
- If this applies – what most turned you off from gaming prior to your conversion?
- Is there anything you feel like I should know what wasn’t covered in this off the cuff, non-scientific survey?
- What advice would you give a gamer who is looking for or hoping to convert their partner to gaming?
For reasons of anonymity, I cannot share the specific answers I received, but I can say that there was some diversity in some answers and others were not so surprisingly similar. I’ll give some of the highlights below:
- The ages ranged from late teens to mid-30s (I’m certain there is no top end to this time frame though). There were both female and male respondents.
- Almost all were “converted” by their current significant other, regardless of their current ages. Some have been together for a many years.
- All had some kind of prior interest in gaming elements, such as computer gaming or board games, science fiction, fantasy, or some other similarly related genres. A couple of the respondents were raised in conservative anti-gaming communities, but took up gaming as a hobby in spite of it.
The answers for 4-9 all build on each other to some degree. Almost all of my small sampling indicated that they had some affinity toward science fiction, fantasy, or some other type of non-roleplaying gaming (such as board games or online/digital games). They also reported that their significant other made some special effort to help them find a way to role play the way the convert liked to engage in science fiction, fantasy, or whatnot, rather than giving them something the SO made. The SO and convert sat down engaged in the process of making their first character together. They shared some time talked about what was important to the gaming convert.
That last part is what I believe is the most important part of finding or helping a partner who wants to share a role playing hobby with an established gamer – sitting down and sharing time together. If you already have a partner who isn’t a gamer, think back to what it was that brought you together. You probably went on dates and shared long periods of time talking about something you both found mutually agreeable. Gaming can be that topic. What the established gamer needs to do is find something that bridges the gap. It is that question – “what can we use to bridge the gap?” – that spring boarded my kitbashing blog. Every game that your party plays does not have to take place in a fantasy world, such as Golarion (although I really like Golarion). Your games can take place in space, in a near future, in a distance future, or even right now. Maybe your partner loves ancient history, consider running a game in their favorite time period or favorite movie/book genre. Do some research for this endeavor, show the same level of engagement for your partner’s interests as you hope that they will show toward your hobby. Be your partner’s partner in this experience.
For example, a friend of mine, James Walls is an active gamer and after many years, his wife Jennifer became a gaming convert. He blogs frequently about how he system kitbashes to bring all manner of genres and known settings to the table. One of my favorites is his blog on “Downton Abbey Goes to War”. While Downton Abbey may not be your partner’s cup of tea, something out there is and you can find it. All relationships are about each member making an effort to support the other members of the relationship. It is unrealistic to think that your spouse who has never role-played is going to want to role-play just because you have asked them, again. You’re going to have to make a serious effort to show your partner how role-playing can be fun for them. One of the interesting pieces of information that came up time and again in the survey answers were the converts didn’t want to play in a game where there was a clear “winner/loser” aspect. Role-playing does not have to be adversarial, it can be about team building and permitting the PCs to be the “winners” or the heroes of their own story.
Now I’d like to go back to that first paragraph for a moment. When anyone talks with my husband, especially in my presence (but even if I’m not present), about me as though I am a great used car find, that is demeaning to me as a person. Saying things like “You’re so lucky that your wife games” sounds an awful lot like “You found a used car that comes with heated seats and rear view camera with only 20k miles for that price?! You’re so lucky!” I am a sentient
person with feelings, just as your SO or your future SO is a sentient person with feelings. While I would be incredibly happy if all gamers had partners who were also gamers, I can hardly feign surprise when I see single gamers loudly lamenting their lack of “suitable” partners when they speak indiscriminantly and dismissively about others. If you are a gamer, looking for a gaming partner, be respectful of those around you at all times. It is impossible to know when you’re going to catch the eye of someone who ends up being the “right person”. Openly speaking dismissively of someone will be noticed and it will make an impression, probably a bad one. If you have already found that special someone and would like to introduce them to gaming, take the necessary time to cater to their interests. It will pay off in enriching your relationship regardless of their gamer status. Put together a one night game that showcases something they already engage with so that they can see how much fun role-playing can be and perhaps they will find out that they have been missing out on a great hobby all along.
With all of this said, there are people who do not like playing role-playing games, no matter how hard you try to find some common ground to encourage a love of the hobby. If your partner really just doesn’t like role-playing games, there are a lot of other great options that you can share together. The important take away here is that you are looking for a partner who shares similar interests and so is your partner. Showing interest in their hobbies may be just as important to them as them sharing interest in your hobby. Remember, they are a sentient person with feelings too.
*This article has some bias, I speak from the perspective of a woman to men who are seeking women gaming partners. I recognize that there are other coupling partnerships out there, but I am ill equipped to speak to them as directly as I can this specific type of partnership. I acknowledge that this is a shortcoming for this blog, for which I apologize. I welcome any readers with additional insights to please leave comments to help other gamers who would like to encourage their partners to come to the gaming table.
Special thanks to my many friends who allowed me to use their personal photos for this blog.