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Azeroth Interrupted: Reader Mail -- Balancing WoW and a non-gamer girlfriend


Each week, Robin Torres contributes Azeroth Interrupted, a column about balancing real life with WoW.

This week I'm answering an email from Guilty Gamer:

Dear Robin,

My problem's not too much school or work, but a girlfriend who'd rather have me in bed (we live together) than leveling in the wee hours. As it is, I sneak WoW into my life. If she's got a one-hour class, I've got time for five quests. But my play is ruined by the fact that I have to hide. I'm not looking at porn for crying out loud. I just want to enjoy my game.

I want to sit down for a whole evening and sink in to an instance, but it seems impossible considering we always plan so much. Her hobbies/interests can be accomplished in an hour or less while mine eat a whole evening. She's not geeky like me. I tried to get her to into WoW and it made no sense to her (fair enough). I usually get an evening a week but even then she's mad or distant if I'm not talking and paying attention to her while I play.

At points, I wish I could play so much more or just give up the game entirely. I really enjoy WoW and love my girlfriend. I don't know how to find harmony between them. I'm always either deprived of my time-consuming hobbies or guilty for enjoying them.


Guilty Gamer

Dear Guilty Gamer,

One of the biggest problems with our hobby is the lack of respect that non-gamers have for it. It is considered juvenile and a waste of time, so non-gamers resent when their significant others play video games rather than participate in more "adult" or socially acceptable pastimes. Even though 9 million people internationally are playing WoW, that is out of about 6.6 billion total -- a rather small percentage. This adds up to a whole lot of people who can't relate to us wanting to spend time questing in Azeroth.

I have two solutions for you to try at the same time -- a kind of two pronged attack.

Solution 1: Convert your girlfriend to a gamer

This is going to take a long time, so be patient. I've discussed this topic before, but I want to go into more detail about the slow approach. She wasn't interested in playing WoW right away, but you may have greater success with a gradual course of game progression. Here are some steps to take to slowly turn her into a gamer:

Step 1: Does she play any casual games? They can be a great gateway to becoming a gamer and the more addictive ones will help her understand your desire to play your favorite game. 76% of casual gamers are female, so you have a decent chance of success. A good starter game is Bejeweled. I recommend getting the full copy of the latest version so that she can keep track of her scores and develop more of a commitment to it. If she already considers another casual game a favorite, then buying a more complete version of that would work, too.

Step 2: Once she grows tired of her "starter game", or when you think she's ready, get her a copy of Sims 2. Not only does the Sims franchise do a great job of incorporating favorite childhood gameplay like paper dolls and dollhouses, it also introduces non-gamers to the concept of saving a game and returning to it later. She will probably have a blast playing Sims 2 for a month or two and then you can either get her the expansions or you can move her onto her RPG starter game.

Step 3: Your favorite single player fantasy RPG is the best choice for taking her to the next step. I probably wouldn't go all the way back to something as delightful but archaic looking as Ultima V, but anything in the last decade will probably do. If it is your favorite, your passion for it will be infectious.

Step 4: She may be ready now for going straight to WoW, but if you aren't sure, you could always play Diablo 2 with her cooperatively on a local network. This will introduce her to some WoW concepts such as talent points and quests as well as teaming up to accomplish tasks. I've played Diablo 2 recently with my husband and while the graphics and the ever-changing geography were a bit annoying, overall it was a blast thought it was 6 years after its release.

Even if she never goes beyond Step 2, she will have a better understanding of your hobby and will probably be more patient about you playing it more often instead of hiding.

Solution 2: She needs her own hobby

If her hobbies and interests can be accomplished in about an hour, then she doesn't really have a compelling hobby of her own. Most couples get along best when they have at least one separate interest. There are a lot of relationship experts who talk about how separate hobbies can increase self-esteem, establish independence and make time spent together more special. It really isn't healthy for her that she needs you for her entertainment most of the time. Having a hobby will make her feel better about herself and make her feel better about you playing at your hobby. But her hobby should follow certain criteria to really make it compatible with yours and your current lifestyle:

It should be creative. A creative outlet feels great, is mentally healthy and produces something she can "complete" -- giving her a sense of accomplishment. Everyone should have at least one creative outlet.

It should be time consuming. Collecting things that are special to her is nice, but the time spent pretty much ends with the acquisition and placement. Cleaning and researching may take some extra time, but overall, she is not going to spend a few hours happily collecting another spoon or stamp while you are PUGing an instance. The hobby should take enough time that she will want to spend an evening at it every once in a while (or more often).

It should be something that can be done at home. If your girlfriend takes up rock climbing or scrap metal sculpture, it is not something she is going to want to do at night in the living room -- hopefully. She should be able to do this hobby comfortably on the couch or at a desk with easily obtained resources while you are enjoying your guilt-free gaming.

Bonus traits: If the hobby is at all addictive and/or not taken very seriously by people who don't do it then you will have hit the jackpot. She will be much more understanding of your gaming guilt -- as long as you are just as understanding of her new hobby. This works both ways.

Good hobbies to try to gauge her interest in are the standard crafts that you can get the basic mats for at places like JoAnn's or Michaels. Activities like scrapbooking, cross stitch, beaded jewelry making and sewing all fit the above criteria. Encouraging her to pickup a craft that she abandoned years ago will probably work best. Getting one of her friends to introduce her favorite craft (that follows the above criteria) to your girlfriend will also work well -- and you will probably get a very enthusiastic accomplice.

But the hobby I recommend most (and you may have seen this coming) is knitting. Knitting is something that your girlfriend can do while watching TV or while watching you play. It doesn't require patience (in fact, it is perfect for impatient people). It is easy to learn with just a little practice and teaching (there are only two stitches in knitting which is way less complicated than, say, DPSing and crowd-controling in an instance). And there is a huge community, both online and local, of people who are just dying to have another knitting convert. When she is not knitting, she can be looking up patterns and mats online and when she is knitting, she is going to be much more into you babbling about PUGs and Mana as long as she gets to chat about LYSs and WIPs.

If your girlfriend shows an interest in learning to knit, but doesn't know how to begin, I recommend calling up a Local Yarn Store (LYS) and signing her up for a beginning class. Get her a $50 gift certificate and send her on her way. The knitters will welcome her into the fold, sympathetically listen to her complaints about her gaming boyfriend and tell her how lucky she is to have so much knitting time while you play. You can't lose!

Easing your girlfriend gradually into sharing your hobby while at the same time encouraging her to get a hobby of her own should solve your problem. You both will be better off individually and this will take away an obvious source of friction in your relationship.

I hope that you will be able to enjoy WoW guilt-free soon, with your girlfriend gaming and/or crafting nearby.

Good luck and keep in touch.

Robin Torres juggles one level 70 Tauren Druid, multiple alts across multiple servers, two cats, one toddler, 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.

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