It seems like a lot of people in my social media circles have spouses, kids, family members, etc. that are also into all manner of gaming and nerdery. I really enjoy reading their posts, seeing the pictures of the cool things their kids do, and generally basking in the glow of gaming goodness.
My own situation isn’t quite that way. Now, I’m not writing about it in any kind of “Woe is me” way, or to bemoan how I want it to be different, or invite any kind of criticism or advice on how to change it. I just want to discuss the factors involved and the reality it creates, because I know not every gamer out there has the perfect geek significant other or kids who like to play rpgs.
Most of us acknowledge that not everyone can be into the same things that we are. You can’t always say, “I will only get involved with someone who likes the same things as me” – that’s not exactly the way that love works. If it happens to work that way for you, then that’s absolutely fantastic. But I don’t work like that. As a result, most of my major relationships have been with non-gamers and often times completely non-“geeky” types. This includes my current long-term relationship. She is not a gamer, at all, beyond the occasional video game that she played when she was younger (it is my firm belief that she actually is a nerd and just won’t admit it – but that’s beside the point). Both of our young girls just really aren’t interested in structured role-playing. My son is a larval gamer, but for a long time was explicitly denied the opportunity to play games and didn’t quite develop the role-playing chops at a young age like I did. That is actually what I’m going to work on fixing in the near future, because he has the interest and the inclination.
Even then, and this may come as a surprise to many, but I never push the issue – on my partner, or my kids. That’s not the kind of person I am. I don’t make my significant other sit down and watch the TV shows I like that she doesn’t. I don’t try to force my kids to play games if they don’t want to, because I don’t try to mold them into tiny versions of me. I’ve seen it happen with people I know, and it always strikes me as kind of sad. It’s great when your kids like something that you do…but to me it’s better when they develop their own independent interests. This has the effect that most of my gaming is done in the periphery. Our activities as a couple and a family, by necessity, involve lots of other things. Then there’s my career, maintaining a household, and other interests besides gaming (which, not surprisingly, are typically not far along the spectrum from gaming, but still). I carve out my gaming from the time that is left over.
So now the second potential shock: this doesn’t bother me in the least. It used to and I was absolutely unmoving with regards to playing in or running games, to the exclusion of pretty much everything else. Basically my mantra was, “I’m going to game and you can’t stop me, it’s part of meeeeee!”. Understandably this caused a lot of friction, and more than a couple relationships suffered as a result. Over time I began to realize that while an understanding non-gaming partner won’t stop me from gaming, I also don’t have an absolute right to do it either – especially when there are other factors involved. Gaming is a hobby, and while it is a fulfilling one that means that other needs must be met first.
So, I’d say that while I truly appreciate it when I see posts of gamer families engaging in all manner of gaming goodness I’m not jealous. I’m happy that they have that balance, but I don’t see my life of relative non-gaming at home any less fulfilling. We still have a pretty “nerdy” household. I don’t have to hide the fact or pretend that I’m not a gamer – that is one environment that I would never tolerate. It’s just that to me, a non-gaming household means that gaming cannot be the focus of everything and I’m perfectly fine with that.