Rants & Essays

How To Avoid Being a Gamer Widow

How To Avoid Being a Gamer Widow

While video games are slowly becoming more welcoming to all kinds of people, there is still a persistent trope that plagues partners of hard core gamers. That is, the ‘gamer widow(er),’ the woman (or man) who finds themselves shunted to the side by their partner in favour of video games. It’s a pernicious and somewhat toxic trope that casts that partner (often a woman) as “anti-game” and gaming in general as something that is incompatible with a functional relationship.

While this term can certainly be used humourously, I find that it is more often used by people bitter about the time and attention that their partners devote to their games, instead of their partners or relationships in general. When Rick and I got together as a couple, I was determined not to be a gamer widow, choosing instead to immerse myself in video game culture and bring a ‘game positive’ attitude to our relationship. However, there are still times when games win out, and I find myself alone in the apartment, even when Rick is technically there.

The most recent incident for us revolves around Rick’s current obsession with Overwatch. It all started on the weekend of free Beta access. While Rick did try to warn me beforehand that Overwatch was all he wanted to do that weekend, I nonchalantly nodded and shrugged approval without really thinking about what he was trying to tell me. He literally did nothing for those three days but play the game. No chores. No outings. Nothing.

I did my best to be understanding considering this was a time-dependent situation, but I was pretty disappointed. To make up for being MIA for 72 straight hours, he agreed that we would do whatever I wanted the following weekend, and even posted about it in an Overwatch subreddit thread for husbands who’d ignored their wives during the free Beta. Surprisingly, someone replied to Rick’s post, saying that he “hates when wives aren’t supportive of their husband’s hobbies.” Rick was aghast.

I’m clearly not the woman this anonymous commentor thinks I am. I’ve been writing a blog for five years about how supportive of Rick’s hobby I am. I advocate regularly for women to get involved and educated about video games. I am not a bitter gamer widow. But when a man is asked to balance his hobby (or work, or art, etc.) with his relationship, it is the person doing the asking that is immediately cast as unsupportive.

Rick quickly replied, explaining that agreeing to spend a day with his wife was the least he could do after treating her like an invisible maid for the better part of three whole days. Like with anything in a relationship, it all comes down to communication. I am very fortunate (or rather, I chose well) to have a husband who is willing and able to negotiate with me over his hobbies. He acknowledges the respect I show his hobby by respecting me in turn.

But that doesn’t mean that I don’t still sometimes feel left out. When is comes to Overwatch, this feels especially odd considering it is a multi-player game. I could join him if I wanted, but then again, not really. Rick is extremely competitive when it comes to these types of games, and I frequently have to put my headphones on when watching TV while he plays behind me to drown out the sounds of him excitedly bossing his friends around. I’ve tried playing Overwatch on my own, and I certainly understand the appeal and agree it is an exceptionally well made and fun game, but playing with Rick isn’t really an option. I’m just not good enough.

So Rick plays his game and I watch my shows and we take breaks periodically to share what we’ve been doing with each other. I think it’s healthy in a relationship for both parties to have separate interests that they can pursue independently. Problems arise when there is no common ground, no respect and no communication.

As I mentioned in an earlier post about how we prepare for big game releases, communication is key to navigating these issues. As it is with most contentious situations faced in a relationship. Compromise will always be a part of a healthy relationship, whether video games are present or not.

If you’re a gamer widow and you’re angry, the problem is with your relationship. Not video games.

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  • Reply
    August 9, 2016 at 10:20 am

    YES. So much truth in this post! That last line – “If you’re a gamer widow and you’re angry, the problem is with your relationship. Not video games.” – 100% correct. I dealt with this in a previous relationship when I was younger. In the end, he completely refused to compromise and actually spend time with, you know, ME, and it ended. I love video games, and have for most of my life, but if you’re in a relationship and don’t actually want to spend time with your partner, then what the heck is the point?? Communication is definitely key, in sooo many aspects of a relationship.

    • Reply
      August 14, 2016 at 4:49 pm

      I have a feeling a lot of us dealt a lot with this sort of thing when we were younger, whether it was games or something else. Like you said, communication is key and the older you are (hopefully) the better you get at it.

  • Reply
    August 14, 2016 at 1:33 am

    Sounds like you guys negotiated it awesomely! Definitely applies outside games too, I know I can get lost in creative pursuits and be a little non available whilst my head spins on a different plant but as you said if you’re able to talk about it and put back some time and commitment back into your relationship – you’re golden!

  • Reply
    Jane Y.
    August 14, 2016 at 7:11 am

    I get this way sometimes with Yangkyu as well and like Rick he does give me a heads up. He’ll sometimes want to play games the entire day after he’s worked overtime for an entire week and so I totally get it. Sometimes though, when it gets to be a bit too much (like when that day turns into two or more) I sometimes do get disappointed too because I wanted to go out, or do something with Piri or I didn’t want to be the only one doing the dishes. But thankfully Yangkyu too is like Rick and gets it and devotes other days (or let’s say most days of the year) to hanging out and doing his share around the house. most of my girlfriends though have a negative view of their husbands (aka grown ass adults) playing video games like a “10 year old.” It’s one of the many aspects that has made it super hard to make girlfriends because all the “girl night and girl time” they want to do is totally what i don’t want to do and instead i’d rather hang with the guys and play video games! or just watch and enjoy the storyline or graphics 🙂

    • Reply
      August 14, 2016 at 4:13 pm

      I guess that has a lot to do with why I wrote this piece. I’ve definitely been guilty of blaming relationship problems on games, instead of the fact that we were twenty and literally did nothing but drink until we passed out every weekend. And the advice holds whether your partner’s hobby is gaming or golf or organizing flash mobs. You have to work together to make sure you are both happy, otherwise it was never going to work in the first place.

  • Reply
    Dina Farmer
    August 18, 2016 at 5:33 am

    Yeah, I think more than anything it is important to have caring and respect for one another in a relationship. I don’t like to play video games when my husband is around unless we are playing together. I don’t like to make him feel like I am ignoring him or my child. As such, I reserve gaming time for when they are both sleeping or not at home. Although, my husband does game with me around (on a No Man’s Sky binge right now) he has never ignored me or chosen video games over me. At one time he was playing The Division religiously but as the demands from his friends got higher and higher of the game he found that he didn’t want to commit that much time to them and take that much time away from us. As a family now we don’t spend that much time together because of my husband’s work hours so our time is precious together. I am thankful we respect each other to put down the controller.

    • Reply
      August 22, 2016 at 10:49 am

      I definitely think maturity comes into it as well. Your husband is mature enough to recognize when his gaming is taking away from your life as a family and is able to make adjustments on his own to accommodate his priorities (you and your son).

  • Reply
    Jessica | OhHeyJess.com
    August 21, 2016 at 10:59 am

    My ex-husband loved to play video games, he was a Call of Duty addict. We would be together and he would be playing his game and I would be on the computer. Just like you, we’d have little breaks where we would talk or both look at what the other person was doing. It worked just fine and we never got upset. The only times that his game playing annoyed me was when it was late at night and I was trying to go to bed and he was screaming or shouting, lol. Kinda makes me laugh now thinking about it. It’s been so long now… actually I hadn’t even thought of those memories until now. Gosh he used to be so annoying, lol but he would always whisper “sorry” to me, I think he thought I was sleeping but I was still half-awake and I would hear his whisper and it made me laugh. Okay. I’m thinking too much about the past now, lol. But anyways, video games are never THE problem in relationship troubles… it all comes down to communication and respect!

    • Reply
      August 22, 2016 at 10:45 am

      That’s cute about your ex whispering when he got too loud. That totally sounds like something Rick would do. And yeah, I get upset when Rick gets too worked up after playing, but the same held true with my ex who would get worked up watching hockey and scare the cats.

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