Gaming and Relationships
I stumbled across a lurid tabloid headline recently that read “Fed-up welder divorces his missus because she’s addicted to Candy Crush”. This reminded me about an article I read several years ago regarding gaming and relationships. Divorce Online, a website facilitating non-contested divorce proceedings, claimed that 15% of the cases it has administered in 2011 can be attributed to one party allegedly being addicted to gaming. As per usual, top titles World of Warcraft and the Call of Duty franchise were cited as examples. As I thought that this subject may make for an interesting blog post I decided to do some cursory Google searches on the matter. Within minutes I found numerous links to stories and research on the matter. It would appear that the impact that gaming has upon relationships is a common theme and is widely reported to varying degrees of intellectual and scientific rigour.
Whenever writing about that nebulous group known as gamers, it's very difficult not to invoke all the standard clichés. Furthermore, if you even hint at going down this route, you will receive a deluge of rebuttals from those who are affiliated to this group, providing a detailed analysis of why they are an exception to the (ambiguous) rule. This is hardly surprising, as no one like to be criticised or associated with a stigmatised social group. It should also be noted that where the online community seems to have a broader understanding about gamers, the tabloid press still like adhere to their hackneyed, eighties perceptions. So, a lot of the headlines I’ve read about this subject, lack a degree of impartiality and favour hyperbole.
So rather than start focusing on the gaming aspect of the subject, let us first look at the subject of relationships itself. Oh the duality of relationships. They can be sublimely simple or fiendishly complex or even both. Although the principle of a relationship is a simple one, there is no dictionary definition or universal standard that all individuals abide by. Although the dynamics of any relationship are theoretically the same, everyone is ultimately unique. Context as ever, is everything. A lot is dependent on the emotional baggage that each participant brings to the situation. Their world view, cultural and religious experiences etc. However, let us not muddy the waters so quickly in the proceedings. Let us agree on some basic concepts with regard to relationships. Such as mutual respect, shared time and the mother of all problems, compromise.
If you are in some sort of a relationship, there is inevitably an expectation that you will do activities together or at least spend some time in each other’s company. This is having to be balanced with the desire to pursue pastimes your partner may not wish to participate in. As there are only a finite number of hours in the day, sometimes choices have to be made and one individual may have to forgo a personal indulgence for the sake of the relationship. For example, Mr and Mrs Coltart are coming round to play Bridge, so you can’t spend the evening paying Hang Gliding Dachshund Simulator 2017. This is not rocket science. It happens in every aspect of life. The simple fact is you want to function within the confines of society you have to give and take. It's not mandatory but if you've never had to do it, then you are a.) lucky, b.) selfish, c.) heading for a major fall at some point.
Back to gaming. It is, as far as I can see, one of the most self-absorbed leisure activities I can think of. I'm not saying that in a judgemental way. I am simply trying to articulate its purpose. Gaming is all about indulging in virtual activities that apart from providing a transient pleasure, serve no wider purpose. Gaming doesn’t produce anything tangible apart from may be RSI. Yes, some will argue that there is an element of social interaction in MMO's but this is a secondary result, a by-product and possibly even a conceit. Therefore, it is fair to say that gaming is inherently solitary in nature which makes it a divisive pastime. Unless you are into gaming, then watching somebody else spend hours online poking trolls with a pointed stick, is hardly entertaining. It is also pointless to try and talk to someone who is engrossed in an MMO or a FPS. You'll only be met by a series of grunts or possibly a tirade of abuse if you put them off. However, getting your partner to agree to less enjoyable activities such as shopping, dinner parties with trying friends and DIY can be cunningly arranged during these conversations.
Naturally, any activity that is undertaken at the expense of time with your partner, is going to cause friction. This is not exclusive to gaming either. Other leisure activities such as fishing, football, train spotting, interpretative dance or being the First Minister of Scotland can keep you from your loved one. However, as gaming can be accessed more immediately than these other activities and is not subject to the weather or a regional election, it can be abused far more easily. Furthermore, the indulgence of profligate gaming is often blamed or labelled as an addiction. However, this is not always the case. The criteria for psychological addiction are very specific. I suspect that some folk conveniently choose to misappropriate such terms to cover for their own hedonism and selfishness.
A simple way to negate this perceived battle between the gamer and non-gamer, is to find another activity that can be shared together. There are plenty to choose from and it can be beneficial in many ways. Mud wrestling, river widening and Kabaddi spring to mind. It will certainly reduce the animosity felt by both parties towards separate hobbies. Of course, there are also couples who share an interest in gaming. Why not try to find a genre or title you can mutually enjoy? MMOs often spring to mind in this respect. I know several couples who play LOTRO together. Indeed I actually know of two people two met specifically because of the game. I'm not stating that MMO's are a bulletproof online dating services and would remind readers to be cautious when meeting someone through a game. However, the social nature of the genre is applicable to relationships.
Ultimately, like everything in life, the question of whether gaming is good or bad for relationships comes down to the choices that each individual makes and their disposition towards their partner. I won’t bore you with details of my personal life but I’ve managed to balance my gaming interests with a relationship. I happily admit that I’ve spent nights staying up late with the latest release. But it’s never became an issue for the simple fact I prefer my significant other’s company to gaming. Common sense dictates when enough is enough. All things considered, whenever someone finds there’s a conflict between their gaming and their relationship with another, is not the game or gaming per se that is the problem. The fault lies with the individual and the choices they make. If you want to spend as much of your leisure time gaming the best way to achieve that is not to have a relationship. You get your game time and no one else gets hurt.