Gamer Interrupted: How to turn your wife into a gamer

Each week, Robin Torres contributes Gamer Interrupted, a column about balancing real life with MMOs.

I aim to please. So, by popular demand, this week's column is about getting your wife or live-in girlfriend to enjoy playing MMOs with you. This advice will only apply to women who are non-gamers. Turning your WoW-playing wife into an EVE Online player requires a completely different strategy. And getting guys to play video games has historically been an easier task. Also, this is directed toward those who are sharing the same living space and expenses because you may not want to be spending a grand or more on outfitting the girl who turns out to be the one before you meet Ms. Right.

The Preparation Phase
Step 1 in turning your wife into your gaming partner is to ask yourself some preparatory questions.
  • Why do you want her to join you? If your relationship is not doing so hot, then this is not the way to fix it. Sharing your escape with someone you often want to escape from is, in general, a bad idea. If you are just looking to feel less guilty about neglecting her, well that's no good either. Make sure you are keeping up your end of the relationship before you try to make her change her ways. However, if you are looking to share your favorite game with the woman you love or you want to increase the quantity and quality of your together time, then go forth and geekify your wife.
  • Be careful what you wish for. Think carefully about your wife's personality. Having separate interests can be a good thing, particularly if her playstyle is going to infringe on your gaming happiness. And, again, think of the state of your relationship. If things are a bit rocky and you wouldn't trust her to socialize without you, she's not going to become more trustworthy on the internet with a bunch of horny, lonely guys looking for a little gamer-girl cyber-action.
  • Do you have the resources? If you've only got one computer and don't have the resources to get another, now is not the time to convert your loved one to a gamer. Likewise, if you are playing a game like EQ2 and only one of your computers can handle the power, put this project off until you can afford an upgrade. Do not have her try the game on your account. If she does end up liking the game, you won't be able to play your mains together and you'll be fighting over the main account. She needs her own gaming system and account for this to work. If you do have the resources to get your wife a gaming machine, I highly recommend a laptop. Commenters on my WoW version of this column highly recommend the convenience and portability of a laptop for converting their significant others into gamer-girls.

The Discussion Phase
Open, honest communication is important in all facets of a relationship. This is no exception.
  • Invite her! Droning on and on about your LotRO character isn't the same thing as telling her you would really like to play it with her. Yes, gauging her interest is a good thing, but you may be surprised at how successful a direct approach is. Invite her in clear and enthusiastic terms. Tell her how much you want to share this with her and how much it would mean to you. Even if she doesn't say yes right away, she will probably appreciate the sentiment behind your proposition -- possibly softening her up for a future appeal. And a no from her doesn't mean forever. It's unlikely she will want a divorce because you ask her to play your favorite MMO with her -- particularly with all the paperwork involved. But there is also a fairly good chance that the woman who loves you will say yes. And then you can just skip down to the Trial Period phase.
  • Listen. Don't interrupt. Really, really listen to her concerns. If she says no, listen to why. Look on this as an opportunity to make a more informed appeal. Then, logically, unemotionally, and above all without condescension, address her concerns. For a list of common concerns and good answers for them, go here.
  • The gateway drugs, er games. I meant games. This phase may take up to a year or it may be skipped altogether. You know your wife and can coax her to the next step when you feel she is ready. I'm not saying to be sneaky about this, however. Go ahead and be playfully open about your intentions. If this whole process is like a game the two of you are playing, then it will be a lot more fun and healthier for both of you.
    • The Intro Game: Encourage her to play her favorite solitaire or single player casual game while you are playing your MMO. If she doesn't have one, then Bejeweled is a delightfully addictive game that usually pleases the intro casual gamer. If you are feeling really adventurous, hook her up with a free account of Puzzle Pirates. Addictive puzzle gaming mixed with an introduction to a multiplayer environment may be the right way to get her hooked.
    • The Transition Game: Sims 2 is a really great game for this step. The character creation is rich and the dollhouse simulation is familiar gameplay to most women. I recommend Sims 2 over Second Life because she will get bored with Sims 2 much sooner and Second Life may hook her into a habit that is too distracting from the one you are trying to share with her. Unless, of course, Second Life is your final goal. Then this is the time to welcome her to your world.
    • The RPG Intro Game: If she still isn't quite ready to roll a Night Elf or "Fight for the living", then load up your favorite single player RPG. It's ok if the graphics are way outdated, in fact that can be a plus. You want her to become comfy with the gameplay and standard RPG elements, but still be wishing to upgrade to the newer, prettier game that is your final destination.
The Trial Period
Free trial periods FTW! Getting her to try the game for free will make her first MMO attempts pressure-free. If she knows you both are paying extra for her game-time it may add unnecessary guilt and stress if she doesn't find everything to her liking right away. If your game does not offer a free trial period, then make sure she understands that the first month is free with purchase of the game (if applicable) to give her 30 days to figure out if this MMO-thing is for her. During this phase you have two very important tasks:
  1. Spend time playing with her and not running her through stuff with your high level. Level up with her, let her read the missions/quests -- have her choose the pace. Rushing her through the game will cause her stress and the whole point is for both of you to have fun. Your patience now will pay off very soon.
  2. Give her some alone time with your game -- though you should be accessible for questions. She should have a chance to stumble and find things out on her own and experiment without you hanging over her. If City of Heroes/Villains is the MMO she is trying, encourage her to spend as much as she likes making characters. Don't get impatient for her to bring one up for you to play with her.
If you have succeeded, you now have gaming time mixed with together time. It won't necessarily be smooth sailing, however. You may find that she won't make a Horde character or that she wants to spend most of her time crafting. She may want to roleplay or PvP or whatever it is you like least about the game. Or you may be such a control freak that she gets no pleasure out of grouping with you. In short, she may love your favorite MMO as much as you do but for completely different reasons. If you are both playing at the same time, that may be enough together time for you.

If you do have compatible playstyles, however, I highly recommend creating a Duo. When my husband still played CoH, we had the best time with Jack and Jane Blaze. It was sheer gaming pleasure. (Then Blizzard released that MMO you may have heard of and there was no more man in tights for me to play with.) Whatever game you play, keep characters solely for leveling with each other. You don't have to play them all the time, but never play them without your partner. Even if you have to cut your raiding time down, I think you will find that your husband and wife duo is exactly the together time you both were looking for.

Failure may still have some success. She may find another MMO she prefers and you both will be playing your own MMOs at the same time. Or she may just do her own thing with a greater respect for yours. Even if you don't end up with an MMO playmate, you have both worked hard on increasing your together time and this will only strengthen your relationship.

Good luck and I love to hear your success stories.

Robin Torres juggles multiple characters across multiple MMOs, two cats, one preschooler, one loot-addicted husband and a yarn dependency. After years of attempting to balance MMOs with real life, Robin lightheartedly shares the wisdom gleaned from her experiences. If you would like to ask Robin's advice or if you have a story you wish to share, please email Robin.Torres AT weblogsinc DOT com for a possible future column.
This article was originally published on Massively.