A few years ago, my boyfriend enticed me to play WoW. We are still together, and I love him dearly, though he drives me crazy sometimes. But that’s what love is, right? Give and take. But over time, I found myself not wanting or needing to play with him. I learned so much from other players, male and female, and from reading, researching, and practicing. He was a gamer for years, I might add, and many a night he would be playing WoW while I read a book or watched a movie by myself. I don’t mind spending time on my own, and think those little breaks are healthy. I really love playing WoW, and have gotten in with some fun, friendly and helpful players. The problem is now he wants to play again after a break, and he was mostly PvP. I steered toward dungeons and dabbled in raids. Now the tables have turned, and I feel he doesn’t ask enough questions, or when I offer insight or game-mechanic knowledge, it’s met with defensiveness, or worse, dismissal of my knowledge. I just see this image of the old man in the car who refused to stop and ask for directions–these conversations have become cliche and tired. I don’t want the same dynamic with him in or out of game, but our time to be spent in the real world having real fun, and my time in WoW to be my friend time. How do I do this without hurting his feelings? I know there are many couple-run guilds, and I don’t know how they do it, and quite frankly, not sure I want to know.
I don’t think there is a woman who plays who does not understand what you are saying in one situation or another. When I read blogs, forum posts, and general cloud chatter, it is obvious that in no capacity are we able, equipped or even motivated to extricate our human relationships from our virtual ones. We are social chimps. I have very mixed feelings about Samuel Jackson and Zooey Deschanel pitching i-phones–the Sam Jackson one implies that there is a human partner who is going to participate in “date night,” and that Siri has the night off, but alas, I am not entirely confident it is. And poor Zooey! In her jammies, all quirky and clutter-y! Just try that when you’re fifty-eight, dear Miss Deschanel, and you’re just going to look sad. (Actually, that would be a funny Saturday Night Live skit – fast forward Zooey to middle-age, and see how quirky girl she is then.)
But I digress, as usual. The phenomenon you are experiencing is one I have theorized and labeled as “Game Wife.” A “Game Wife” is someone who, in some form, is in a friendly relationship with another player that takes on some characteristics of a real-life wife. I am not including a cyber-sexual nature in this conversation: that is a range from Role Playing to flat-out, well, something else altogether. Many women joke, married, in a lesbian relationship, or other, that it would be great to have a ‘wife,’ and what women mean by this is someone to handle all of the drudgery, minutiae, and organizational duties no one else wants to do. I am not sure a Game Wife is this, but it sure is nice to have someone who is an equal peer in the game who matches one’s own goals, skills, and drive to keep, let’s say, a guild bank organized, a dungeon run fun, quest or leveling help knowledgeable and expeditious. The truth is, friends are friends and intimate relationships are quite different: we can vent to friends about boyfriends/husbands/partners, but that’s where it stays. We vent, get it out, and move on, and our partner doesn’t have to get the brunt of it. Men shirk at nagging, and never want to ask for directions. When we add the layer of game knowledge, then that brings out another layer of tension.
I guess in the process of negotiating and working on any relationship, it’s just that. Be clear in your boundaries, you can be honest without being cruel, just say you enjoy playing a certain way, and do so–however, make sure if you want to keep the real relationship healthy, make sure you and he keep finding common ground and interests together, too. It is very healthy to have your own mind, interests, and creative outlets, as it is for him. But remember what brought you together in the first place, and pursue those interests, too.
There are more thoughts about this in my experience: those who want a “Game Wife,” and don’t understand boundaries of friendship, those who are too possessive of other [male] players’ time and space (they don’t allow the players to play with any other female player), and those who end up in a row because their real life boyfriend/girlfriend is angry about something that happened in-game. There is also the sadness that arises when someone has stopped being our friends in game -the signs are there. They don’t greet us, respond to letters, or invite on runs. Everyone has been on both sides of that, and it’s harsh, but it’s a “he’s just not that into you” thing. If your friend isn’t returning your virtual texts or phone calls, get a clue. It hurts, but perhaps the friend isn’t able to articulate or is being polite by dodging gestures of friendship. Perhaps he or she has gotten their personal partner to play in real life, and needs to discard the ‘game wife.’ Ouch, yes, but reality.
Siri: How do I down Deathwing? We’ll see what she says.