Sunday, November 7, 2010

[Weekly Whimsy] The Girlfriend

Welcome to Weekly Whimsy! Meandering into more mature material, mumblings and missives maintenant. Guys, I'm gabbing on the glamorous, gorgeous, garrulous, gamine, gracious, and gratifying gender; germane to gaming and giving guys a gamble.

[One of these days I'll find a tougher letter. On to the subject at hand! As hinted to above, this is a little more serious. I still plan to be lighthearted and fun, but this is a slightly more adult topic today.]

Hey little girl, I wanna be your boyfriend

Ramones, I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend

over heard at the game store:

Gamer 1- “So, after 9 months of dating, I finally told my girlfriend I played [insert game title here]”

Gamer 2- “What was her response?”

Gamer 1- “ I still have a girlfriend.”

[remainder of conversation irrelevant]

Seen at the game store:

Gamer C brought his girlfriend to a MtG event. By all accounts, she wanted to play and was hanging out with C's friends A & K. C generously and willingly paid for her entry. A & K teased C mercilessly for paying and being a gentleman, but in a gentle, chiding sort of way.

Girlfriends. While as a rule, gamers seem to want them (a few notable exceptions come to mind); they seem to be a strange and compelling quandary for the men I know.

I've seen a lot of girlfriends- been the participant (unwilling) of a spectacular breakup; seen a few eruptions and dramatic explosions; and seen the group's reaction to all the shenanigans. I've also seen some relationships get beyond the 'girlfriend' stage and turn into great marriages. I've witnessed the evolution of gaming groups around stable, committed deals, many times for the better. Girlfriends tend to bring about
a pretty standard set of reactions- at least from my vantage point- and I think those reactions are fairly telling with gentle examination.

These particular outcomes are likely to be co-morbid, and do not always appear in specific order. They're also more than a little bit reactive, and change or reflect other responses quite fluidly. Lastly, all of these
behavioral tendencies are based on my observations; I'll gladly allow there may be others I've not witnessed or some I've overlooked. My observations:

 FEAR- As seen in the first example above; Gamer 1 felt a great deal of trepidation at telling his girlfriend he gamed. The response by Gamer 2 is equally telling: there was concern on how the lady in question would respond.

Some of this comes from genuine fear (or failure to understand, if you will) of the female kind. I've witnessed countless occasions where a fellow blows a perfectly good relationship all to pieces simply due to a lack of
confidence or knowledge of the gender.

Girls seem a mystery; a puzzle; and in many cases almost alien to the males in the midst of the dating ritual. The inability to understand or even fathom the female mind causes more than a few dudes to lose their cool and hang motives and intentions on their lady friends without any real evidence, often to a bad result.

 I've spoken on this subject before and likely will again. Girls aren't so hard to understand; they're people with feelings, concerns and lives just like the guys. Talking to them and getting to know them on more than a
'wow, she looks great' level can change the dynamic entirely and even get you some unintended and possibly very pleasant benefits.

 There is also a correlated apprehension that shows itself in this almost dumbfounded stage of the game; fear of change. This alarm at the unknown and the idea of 'losing' gaming buddies can (and has) made more than one gent behave like a genuine idiot and blow his chances with a gal just as quickly as bad manners.

 This fear is dual in nature and comes from outside forces as well. The gang the guy hangs with can (and often do) react with a bizarre mix of pull-in/push-away behavior aimed at the girl in question. The trepidation and alarm at the idea of one of the fold entering into anything deeper and more meaningful than a short term fling brings about the specter of marriage, and with it, wives. That wives are both revered and revolting to those of the gamer stripe is another post entirely; but it brings about a definite style of action from most guys. This behavior is pushing the friend forward and keeping him from the danger ahead all at the same time. It's this particular force that can do the most serious damage at the early stages of a relationship, but can be overcome with intelligence and wit.

TEASING- We've all seen it; the jokes regarding being “whipped”, the comments about losing a “man card”, maybe more than a few rough jokes about availability and quality of sex; general jokes in reference to the fact that the guy actually has a girlfriend are not uncommon in any way.

 In the somewhat socially awkward set known as gamers, the dating world is understandably terrifying. This fear is pretty well related to the fear of unknown/change; and jokes help us ease our fears. There's also a level of congratulatory bravado in the joking- a note of “wish it was me; but I'm macho regardless” in the commentary.  

 This can be a true sign of friendship, a signal of fidelity and admiration. It doesn't always happen, but when it does, it's a nod to the bonds that the males of the group share. 

 Mostly, the jokes are a way of accepting the idea that whiling away the hours playing with “little plastic men” might not be the only avenue for entertainment, and that the friends with girls are finding those areas most pleasant.

ACCEPTANCE- The gamers I know are pretty welcoming folks. They're members of a strange and widely unknown subgroup of culture, and have gotten pretty accustomed to admitting whatever strays come their way for lack of other more regularly feasible options. When a new person enters the midst of a group of gamers, there's usually a bit of introductions, a short “testing” phase, and then usually a level of inclusion.

With girls, it works a little differently. Girlfriends are mostly accepted based on the boyfriend's merit; the better known and more respected a guy is in a group, the higher the level of affirmation for his
lady will be at first. I mention 'at first' because there is a definite exception to how well or
widely a girl will be included; and it has to do with how the guy acts after he's been around her a while.

OUTRIGHT HATRED- It happens on occasion that the gaming group will simply hate a girl being dated by one of their friends. This is usually due to fear;  or idiocy by the guy in question. 

The guy dating the girl is usually his own worst enemy, and quite often the source of the hatred. He often  displays terrible behavior or becomes a foreigner that's not your friend. Examples of this include kowtowing to the wishes of the woman in a overly fawning way, the loss of any sort of sense of identity outside of her, or the adoption of bizarre and hurtful beliefs of practices. 

Occasionally,  the guy dating the girl will bring his female friend along to game. He'll involve her in the group, and then employs the infuriating and stupid tendency of letting her do no wrong. We've all seen the GM's girlfriend that hits every monster every time, or the magical inability on her character's part to be injured in a fight. The terrible nights of no consequences, dice fudging and favoritism; they're all part of a bigger picture. The guy has become an ass. 

The "girlfriend as goddess" issue in games does more than lose the guy respect, it does a disservice to those few of us women really want to be there. When combined with a girlfriend that's obvious and blatant about her attitude of only doing this as a "favor" or out of a desire to spend time with the guy but shows no interest in his friends; it's crippling to the genuine girl gamers both in the group and in general. 

 Very rarely it's because the guy is dating a total hosebag, and won't toss her over for any number of reasons. This refusal is pretty douchy, but who can blame a guy if this is his first (or most recent after a long dry spell) girlfriend?

NGA (No Girls Allowed)- This is almost always due in some part to a guy in the group who behaved abominably regarding his girlfriend. Often, it's due to more than one fellow being a fool or fuck-up and the group getting soured on girls in general.

Some might argue that the NGA is a desire for a refuge from the female kind, a desire for a boy's club; and try to hold it as true. With gaming being such a male tendency to begin, this is a rough argument to make
successfully with any witty and knowledgeable woman. A few have tried it with me, and most fail- it falls back to a badly behaved boor or a bitch.  In over 25 years of gaming, I have only seen this beast be a genuine gentleman's club one time.

As a girl that games, but not because I was a girlfriend or as a 'favor' to TheDude, I take a lot more away from these observations than many of you might. These reactions indicate that there's still a divide between the girls and the boys, and that guys still act like fools in the pusuit of relationships and future happiness. Sometimes those actions have far reaching consequences, and sometimes, there are some truly dispicable dames that influence the shape of attitudes around me. 

I do my best to show females as real folks, and to prove that not all girls are going to steal your friend away, or induce douchery. I hope my point of view has had an effect, even if it's minor-and that you'll view girlfriends with a critical and fair eye when one arrives on the scene. 

Be Well.


  1. I don't think I've ever dated a girl who didn't know up front that I'm a bookish eccentric, and I don't think I've ever gamed with anyone who had a problem with other gamers having girlfriends. Either of these scenarios seems depressing and weird to me. Predicating one's relationships or creative hobby on hiding something central about oneself seems perverse.

  2. When I met my now-husband, in our teens, he was keen to tell me he was in a band, no doubt expecting this to work like a verbal aphrodisiac. A little time passed before he told me, with a little reluctance and not a small dose of shame, that he played D&D. I think he was waiting for me to run away screaming. What he didn't know was that I had wondered about the game for a very long time and was thrilled to know someone who could show me how it works.

    University and partying laid D&D dormant for a long time but since we had kids all the books got resurrected and we now play regularly once more.

    I am, usually, the only girl in our group. There is a friend of mine who has since moved away but she does play on occasion, there is also a girlfriend of one of the other guys but she's not all that keen. She has confessed that she is put off by all the dice-rolling and paperwork, preferring to get into the storytelling and discussion aspect of it, I can't say I blame her. Another guy's wife is just not interested at all, is repelled by all things fantasy related but that doesn't interfere with our game in any way, each to his or her own.

    Past girlfriends have played and I think in general it was just to please their boyfriends, boredom set in very quickly. I hate to think that relationships come between gamers and vice versa but I guess it's no worse than any other pastime.

    In theory RPGs ought to appeal to girls - sitting round a table talking with a group of other people?

  3. I agree with you, Scott. And when Tim and I got together, we both had our geek on. In some ways the same and some ways not. Regardless, there was never any hiding of something central about ourselves. We knew what each other was. It's the only way that makes sense and works for me.

    Hey D, good point about the girls sitting around the table and chatting. I also enjoyed reading about you and Prim. Very cool.

    Interesting post L - Thanks for writing it. Nice to read where others are coming from, how they feel and what they enjoy now.

    Have a great day, everyone. Tim for me to hit the lab and make a new batch of marshmallows.

    Happy Eating and Happy Gaming :-)

  4. I have a woman in my gaming group. The group hassles her about always being lawful good (regardless of game played) way way more than they do about anything related to gender.

  5. Never having had a girlfriend (and most likely being the worst for it), I HAVE run and played in several games with female players. I must have been very lucky because I never noticed any of the "negatives" spoken about here. I have known a couple of ladies who were as much into the hack & slash as the guys (one dubbed Killer Kelly by the group).

    From my perspective, most ladies seem to game more for the interaction between people. They like to push the emotional or investigative side of the game more than the physical.


  6. I'll have to say that the guy who hid his gaming from his girlfriend's kind of immature anyway, but it was a pretty typical exchange in some regards.

    Greg, I'll probably address the girls/women in games separately- this was specifically about girlfriends; which are a different animal as a rule, at least in my area.

  7. Tom- I really think female players are different overall from girlfriends, though. I didn't get too in depth to this point as this post was getting pretty epic (even for me), but I see a direct difference.

    Um,...a good example- think back to FLB days- there was a girlfriend that dang near destroyed the gaming group because the guys were all idiots and she was... not very nice.

    Way different than say, K or C (or myself) who game because we like it and not because of the guys we are or were dating.

  8. Hmm, I posted this over at the HoP, expecting more discussion there.. apparently not :) Just to throw my own two cents in - Excellent post, and covers a lot of the aspects very well.

    I was part of the "outcast" group in school, so female gamers were never a mystery - we were accepting of anyone and had them.

    But I've still seen all the above. The Storytellers who bribe the women with free stuff, the women that "don't see it" then dump their BFs for STs AND the women who brag about being able to wrap any of the boys around their fingers. (Though being part of the LARP ST meeting regarding how to deal w/ the woman who has everything was amusing) There's also the jerk guys who suddenly turn into huggers.

    There was certainly fear over asking girls out, but they were all friends and already accepted within our groups, so no more than the usual highschool awkwardness with the other sex.

    There are the gaming stores we walk into with our womenfolk in tow and EVERY head turns and stares the whole time we're there. (creepy)

    What bugs me is I've lost three friends to women, HUGE gamers, but they found girls who aren't gamers, aren't even geeks in any shape of the word. Two seem happy, the third complains about her whenever they're apart. I'm glad they're happy, but I can tell they miss it and that they've pushed that aspect of their lives away and hidden it. They're lying to themselves about who they are and when they talk about the things they can't do, it's obviously gnawing at them. That is of course on the few times we see these people as the gamer who turns their back on themselves doesn't tend to look back too often.

  9. No doubt about it, our hobby is male-dominated. That said, I've played with a few chicks in my time, and most of the things you outline I've yet to experience. At present, most of the guys in my group are married and/or living with a woman. That has never been an issue either.

    You say: "The inability to understand or even fathom the female mind causes more than a few dudes to lose their cool and hang motives and intentions on their lady friends without any real evidence, often to a bad result"

    I agree, but I've found this to just as true if you switch the sexes in that sentence. Girls over-think boys just as much (if not more) than the other way around. Being aware of the fact that it is so is a step towards avoiding all sorts of needless drama.

  10. Having gamed since I was a wee tyke and having been married twice (but thankfully only divorced once), I have a few observations on this topic.

    Meeting my first wife in high school did mean that it was almost impossible for her not to know that I was a gamer, considering in high school I literally spent the entire weekend gaming . . . until I met her.

    I think the dynamic of the girlfriend, if she does not come into the relationship a gamer or at least a geek of some stripe, is different depending on the age you are discussing. In high school I think its hard to deny that the drive is to be together constantly, so that if the girlfriend doesn't share a common interest, any interests not in common do tend to fall away.

    Since my ex-wife worked on the weekends, however, this didn't curtail gaming quite as much as it might, until we were out of high school. At this point, she decided to game with the group so that I wouldn't "loose" my hobby, but the results were less than desirable.

    I would like to think that I wasn't "that guy," the guy that favored his girlfriends characters in the campaign. Whether I was or not, it became painfully apparent that she was so into being part of the group that she had to always be the center of attention. Given that this was AD&D 2nd edition, and she was playing a cleric, this was even more of a problem.

    Let's put it this way, my friends decided to "tough it out" instead of asking for healing from the prima dona cleric, and once they all died, so did the campaign and the gaming group. I hate to put it this way, but it did almost seem as if my ex picked up on this and pushed the situation so that my friends were marginalized, and quickly substituted "non-geek" friends from her work and school to fill out social hours.

    My current, lovely wife and I had our very first conversation about Dune, and then went on to discuss Star Trek, so I didn't feel too strange explaining my gaming past to her, even though when we met I had not had a group for quite a while.

    We've gamed together one time, and it was fun, but she's since determined that while it doesn't completely disinterest her, its not a drive for her to game, but she "gets" it. She determined that my gaming nights are my nights, and she rarely makes me feel bad about my nights out, she just asks that I not take too many of them or string them too closely together.

    What have I learned from this? Probably that I'd rather have a spouse that is a "geek" but not 100% the same kind of geek I am, than a spouse that isn't a "geek" at all that tries to "fake it" to maximize our time together.



  12. Knighterrant- I definitely agree, age and overall "geek cred" have some influence on how all parties interact and behave.

    Sorry about your first wife- that stinks. Your second wife is a peach and I enjoy being around her, even though we're not gaming together; just busy gabbing like crazy. (It's kind of fun to be around her. I am loathe to admit it, but she talks more then ME!)