Monday, February 14, 2011

Special Valentine Post - This Thing of Ours...

Ah romance - and dice. Seems like they rarely mix for a lot of folks. If you're a guy who plays tabletop RPGs or miniatures, or even board wargames as a regular hobby thing then you've probably had The Conversation. You know, the one where you reveal your terrible secret to the object of your interest. Typically she then runs screaming.

The younger set has it somewhat easier now - nerdy things are much more common and accepted than they were. Odds are good that at least a few girls in the school play WoW and that's a good start. I can tell you that in the 80's there were maybe a few girls in an entire school that knew what D&D was and only 1 or 2 of them would play it. For the rest, it just tagged you as "NERD" and ensured they wanted nothing to do with you. So many of us did what smart guys like us (who liked girls) thought was best - we hid it.

When I got my first apartment, all the gaming stuff went into its own room along with the computer. Compartmentalization ensures that your place looks like a perfectly normal  guy pad as long as you keep that door closed or don't let her go up to the loft - at least not with the lights on. It's also a good place for those posters that you realize are kind of dorky but secretly still think are cool and don't want to just get rid of. It's also a safe place to hang up your Greyhawk or Faerun or Metropolis poster maps.

As a single teen or twenty-something getting your own place you might think "Sure, I hid it from girls in junior and high school but now I'm getting out into the working world or going to college, it's different, right?" No - keep hiding it. Trust me, it's better that way. She's probably hiding something too so it ensures balance in the relationship.

Ok but what if you meet that special someone and you date for months or years and you really want to open up to her about this thing we do. You can show her your Hall of Gaming and see if that freaks her out or you could let her sit in on a session and see if that freaks her out, but the order might be important. Is she more likely to think ill of you because you have a shelf of books that say GURPS on them or will she be bothered more by your friends speaking in weird accents and quoting Monty Python and Arnold Schwarzenegger? Whichever one it is pick the other one first. I'd say you've got about a 50-50 shot of keeping her that way. if you aren't sure but she's still asking why you are unavailable every other Friday night let her go right on wondering - she might think you're cheating on her but that sometimes makes girls feel competitive and that usually livens up those other Friday nights - at least for a while.

Oh, another hint- before you try to explain it by saying "it's kind of like WoW" FIND OUT WHAT SHE THINKS OF WOW! It is possible to make things worse with an unwelcome analogy. If she's into scrapbooking then "it's kind of like scrapbooking with dice" is a solid opening. Plan this out and make it work - you only get one shot.

When I got married (see - hiding your stuff works) all of the gaming stuff lived in the garage - mini's, paint, poster maps, shelf after shelf of books - a lot of women won't mind your obsession as long as it lives in The Garage which is the traditional storage place for guy stuff (at least down south - for our more northerly brothers it may be "The Basement" or more likely "That small unfinished room off the basement with the bare concrete walls and floor" ) This also ensured when I got divorced that my stuff was already out in the garage and it could be conveniently thrown in  boxes and left in the driveway to be hauled off, but that's not really what you're shooting for at the beginning.

So then, being 30-something, single, gainfully employed, an adult, and on my own again I went about setting up my own place and sticking with what worked before I hid my game stuff again. I had a garage and a spare bedroom so that's where the shelves went. Close one door, keep them out of the garage and voila - I look like any normal person upon a casual inspection. Plus it keeps kids and pets from messing with them too - I still shudder at the memory of the 3-Year old vs. the Man O War mini' poor ships!

I continued this policy for several years being vague about how I was spending some of my weekend evenings and found no lack of female companionship. Only after someone had been around for at least 6 months did I show them the Batcave and reveal my secret. Generally this led me to realize there were only a limited number of states one could be in:
  • Significant Other/Doesn't know about game stuff - This is where most relationships will start. Hey if she doesn't know then it's not a problem. She will probably find out eventually though. Stability: Moderate
Once she finds out or you open up the secret door and let her in, then you can be in one of three states:

  • Significant Other/Does Know/Doesn't like it - Doomed, baby. You're not going to stop gaming are you? She's not going to stop hating it is she? Hear that ticking sound? You should. Stability: Minimal

  •  Significant Other/Does Know/Doesn't Care - A refreshingly open-minded stance that can last for a long time. She doesn't gripe about it (most of the time) and doesn't care about joining in. She also knows you're hanging out with guy friends so she isn't concerned about other girls causing problems. Stability: High
  • Significant Other/Does Know/Likes it - this is the rarest situation of all in my experience but it is wonderful if you can find it. You don't have to hide it anymore, your stuff can come in from the garage (some of it anyway) and she might even let you paint minis on the dining room table when the garage is too cold. You almost have a gaming group right there at home, you can plan characters as a team if you choose to do so, and you finally have a reason to paint up that "female fighter in chainmail" mini you got in that set 10 years ago. The only potential problem is that if there's a game on Friday night at a buddy's house and you have kids she's not going to volunteer to keep them at home while you go play - so find a good sitter and don;t screw it up! Stability: High
Now after several years of interviewing potential candidates I eventually ended up with that last situation, pretty much for the first time ever, and I highly recommend it. Now she wasn't a gamer before I met her - she was pretty much unaware of the whole scene. I eventually let her in on it then she asked if she could come over during a game. She did, she liked it, and within a month or so she rolled up a character and joined in. Of course I married her pretty quickly after that as you don't let something like that happen and just ignore it - it's clearly a sign from Thor or Uatu the Watcher or something.

Sheriff Sandie and Sheriff Blacksteel

 Now we had known each other for quite a while (years) and had many other things in common (kids etc) so gaming was not the only factor there but it definitely made a difference. Finding a long term relationship that enhances my little hobby instead of ignoring it or even interfering with it is an amazing thing.

Night Falcon and Storm Bird
 Sometimes they will even indulge you with your silly computer games and join you in something they never would have even conceived of a few years earlier - making up a costumed superhero and joining you in your new obsession.

Aluminum Girl and Aluminum Falcon

So this is my tip of the helmet to Lady Blacksteel, who sometimes reads my ramblings and is usually polite enough not to make fun of what I say. Thanks for being just that little bit more special- in this particular way - than I already knew you were. I don't say much about it  when we're together but it's one of the many things that assured me you were the one when this started, and I still shake my head sometimes because of it and think about how lucky I am to have found you.

Captain Shamrock and The Martian Manhuntress


Jeremy said...

Huzzah for gamer gurlz!

I always worry when I luck into a game that the significant other will play with me that she's doing it to humor me and I need to be careful not to burn her out on it. But of course, that isn't a question you can ask because the act of asking it will lead to inception of the idea.

But so far I've gotten minimal amounts of Starcraft, Warhammer 40k, Rock Band, Magic, D&D, Street Fighter, Dynasty Warriors, House of the Dead, and Dance Dance Revolution participation and I must agree, finally getting to share closeted hobbies rather than hide them for fear of very real and very likely aversion reactions is .. I don't know the word for it... Refreshing? A relief? It's definitely a level of partnership to be grateful for.

Barking Alien said...

I don't want to go into too much detail here and now since I'll need to head out to finish work in a bit but I've been abnormally fortunate and lucky.

I've pretty much always dated fellow nerds and geeks and its really difficult to imagine myself with a non-gamer. Its happened but it hasn't lasted too long and its been rare.

Your City of Heroes pics make me long for the days I used to play it into the wee hours of the night with my ex-wife. I miss it and her. Luckily we're still very good friends.

Happy Valentine's Day

*I dedicate this post to Lady Touche' and The Midnite Hour, Freedom Server.