I was recently chatting with a friend who was contemplating moving in with his girlfriend of around a year. He was generally feeling pretty positive about the situation, except for one thing:
I’m going to have to tell her about my gaming.
Oh dear. Is this a thing? How had their relationship gotten so far without her knowing about his favourite hobby? And how had it gotten to the point where he was worrying about these two major parts of his life crossing paths?
I must admit, even in the early stages of my current relationship, gaming was a bit of an unspoken topic. I had already known my gamer guy for quite a while, but I only really found out about his gaming habit after a mutual friend asked me if I “knew about his computer games”. What?! What did that even mean? Why was it that important that it needed be specifically discussed? Why didn’t he already tell me? This must be bad. Suddenly, something very normal became something of concern to me.
It seems like even on a broader level, people are ashamed to admit they like video games. For example, most of my friends are ready to profess their love for football, rock climbing, or watching and rewatching every single Nicholas Cage movie to date, but video games is another story. That’s one of the topics that I find that few are willing to bring up voluntarily. If someone is brave enough to confess first, then sure, they can chat about video games all day, but it seems to take a courageous person to admit that they are a gamer. From what I can tell, the age old stigma of the typical geeky, antisocial gamer is still that strong that gamers are even too ashamed to share their hobby with their friends, let alone their significant other.
The more you worry though, the bigger the problem it will become. If you hide your hobby from your girlfriend/boyfriend right from the start, it will just get harder and harder to bring it up. And the longer you drag it on, the more it will become That Thing That They Don’t Know About.
As someone from the non-gamer side, all I can do is to encourage you to share your hobby with the ones you love, and share it early. If you continue to keep your partner and your gaming as mutually exclusive events, then this creates a Me vs The Games situation for them, and they have no choice but to feel threatened.
And do not speak disparagingly of your hobby or shrug it off as “some stupid thing you just do when you’re bored”. If you want people to respect your love of gaming, you need to show some respect for it too. Footy fans are rarely ashamed of their obsession – they’ll defend their team and their sport no end. Why should gaming be any different? The gamer stigma will never disappear if gamers themselves are ashamed of their hobby.
Also, as I’ve explained in previous posts, if your partner is not a gamer, they may not have that same immediate appreciation for games, so be patient when you’re sharing your hobby. It may be that the only thing they know about video games is the nasty stereotypes that go along with it, so you’ll have to be patient and break through that barrier first. It will be so worth it. And worst case, even if after all that your partner still does not appreciate your hobby for what it is, at least you know early on and can take suitable action, whatever that may be.
Someone who shares my opinion is the team at Have You Nerd in their recent article about relationships and video games. They discuss the problem of gamers who give up their lifelong hobby for a partner who doesn’t agree with gaming.
Perhaps as gamers we are used to people judging us for our interests, or that many of us are wary of conflict and will go out of our ways to avoid it in all forms. Whatever the case may be, if you or someone you know is in such a relationship I ask you to reach out to them. Don’t tell them to break up, but encourage them to make their own decisions and not feel pressured by their partners (mis?) conceptions of what their hobbies are…
…If you really love gaming and find yourself just giving it up so you can be with someone, shouldn’t you be asking what next you might be asked to sacrifice?
Or, if they loved you for who you are, would they even ask that of you?
Don’t try to hide your hobby from your partner, share it with them. Try to tell them what makes gaming so great, or better yet, show them. It’s likely that once they get a chance to learn what these games mean to you, they will understand the part that games play in your life and appreciate that.
Gamers out there, are you ashamed to tell your loved ones about your hobby? Non-gamers dating gamers, how did you find out and how did you react? I’d love to hear your stories.