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Sex + Relationships

You, Him & the Xbox: Tips for Dating a Gamer

We all know the type of guy: the gamer. He can play for hours crouched in a dark dorm room, staring fixatedly at the television screen while his fingers madly punch at the console controls. But what do you do when this guy is your boyfriend? Dating a gamer can be challenging. Let’s be real: the last thing we want as girls is to share our boyfriend with his Xbox. So how do you balance your relationship with his games?  

Gamer guys tend to get a bad rap–they can be seen as competitive, geeky, anti-social, even a little out of touch with the real world. But don’t let that scare you off–gamers can make the best boyfriends, as I came to realize. You just have to know how to push their right buttons.

I remember the first time I visited my first boyfriend, Alex, at his house in 2004. It was a junior high crush, and I spent at least three to four hours watching him play the video game Final Fantasy X. Not the best first date.

But, as our relationship progressed, and we were getting to know each other better, I knew what I was getting myself in to–I was dating a gamer. So I guess I couldn’t say I was surprised that I found myself sharing him with his PlayStation 2, and, as the years went on, his PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Nintendo Wii. I was starting to feel as though I was in a love triangle—a love triangle between him, myself and the latest installment of Halo.

When we entered high school as freshmen, I got bored with his button-mashing. As much as I liked him, I didn’t want to spend my weekend nights and summer vacations hunting down zombies in Resident Evil or raising elfish armies in World of Warcraft. I wanted to go shopping at the mall, hang out with our friends and do other typical high school stuff.

I found myself sitting on his living room couch, chin in hand, saying, “Alex, come on, I’m getting bored. Let’s go out tonight.”

Sometimes, he invited me to play with him, and, for the most part, I wormed my way out of it, saying “Ohh, I’m not very good. I wouldn’t be much fun to play with…,” or, “But I don’t know how to play…”

It was one rainy day with nowhere to go, hanging out at his house, when he handed me a second PlayStation™ controller and said, “Hey, play this game with me. It’ll be fun. I’ll show you.”

Without excuses, I took the controller awkwardly in my hands, and, together, we button-mashed our way through a car race in Need for Speed: Most Wanted. I’ll admit: it was a lot of fun, and, eventually, playing a game was a great way to sit back and relax together. Who would have thought role playing or car racing in a virtual world could be so fun?

Alex is definitely not the same 14-year-old gaming geek I had a middle school crush on so many years ago, but we’ve been dating ever since. It’s been goodbye, World of Warcraft, and hello, Real World, as lately we’ve devoted our weekend summer afternoons to movie dates and trips to the beach. But, we’re still together seven years later, and I still love my gamer geek.

In the dating world, we collegiettes™ tend to overlook that shy, geeky guy in the corner at a party. But gamers can make the best boyfriends. It can be tough to balance out your relationship with your gamer guy’s hobby. Here are some tried-and-true tips for collegiettes™ dating gamers!

1. Get to know your gamer!

Congrats, you’ve nabbed yourself a gamer! Now that you’re dating one, you should know that your gamer is going to spend minutes, even hours, on end button-mashing, puzzle-solving, and online chatting with his friends via live games.

Julie Spira, dating and relationship expert at CyberDatingExpert.com, describes video games as “a place where men go to escape from the pressures of the real world—including job or romantic relationships.”

This is not to mean that your guy is playing video games to avoid you. When you think about it, your guy playing video games isn’t much different from any other guy going out for a beer with his friends or catching that night’s ball game. It’s just that your gamer guy chooses a virtual game of ball instead of a real, live game of ball to pass his time. It’s his means to de-stress.

Respect his hobby as his downtime. In other words, don’t try and change him into something he’s not. You would never tolerate him telling you not to go shoe shopping or catch up on missed episodes of Grey’s Anatomy, so it’s unfair to expect him to tolerate the same. As long as your gamer guy is treating you well, his games are no threat to your relationship.

2. Establish time for you to date and for him to game!

On the flip side, it’s perfectly understandable to expect your gamer boyfriend to be attentive and loving. Are your feelings not being met because your boyfriend is playing too much? Striking the balance between your time together and his time playing games can be the biggest issue in dating a gamer. Talk to him about it! Estimate how many hours in a given week he devotes to gaming versus how much time you spend together. “Know how much time he’d like to allocate to video games, and then spending an equal amount of time on your personal needs,” Spira says. “While he’s busy trying to win the competitive gaming battle, go get a manicure or pedicure, read your favorite book, or schedule a girls’ night out at the movies.”

“I deal with my boyfriend’s video game-playing habit by taking a book along with me whenever I go over to his house,” says Ally Karsyn, a contributing writer for Her Campus and the girlfriend of a gamer. “Sometimes it’s a planned thing, and I tell him before I come over that I’m taking a book so he can play video games. Other times, it’s not planned, but then I still have my book as backup entertainment for me. The times that it is a planned ‘date’—he gets to do something he wants to do, I get to do something I want to do, and we get to spend time together.”

If your gamer guy makes you feel like you come second to his games, let him know it! He may not even realize that you are feeling neglected. Spira adds, “It’s good to have separate interests and hobbies from your romantic partner, but no woman wants to be lower on the totem pole than her beau’s favorite video game.”
3. Be careful of gaming addiction!

Keep your eyes open to watch for red flags. There is a point at which this seemingly harmless hobby of video gaming can turn into an ugly addiction, a.k.a. gaming during all hours of the day and long into the night. Is his gaming repeatedly a bone of contention in your relationship? Is his gaming pointedly infringing on his life in the real world, making him late for classes and work shifts? Is he going on raids with his online friends, some of whom he doesn’t actually know in real life, over taking you out on a date? In other words, if he eats, sleeps, breathes and otherwise lives for gaming, he might be an addict, says Spira.

Spira says some warning signs that your boyfriend is addicted to video gaming might be him repeatedly canceling his plans with you because he just made it to the next level and has to continue playing, obsessive talking about his favorite video game, appearing distracted and not listening to you, and/or when the competitiveness of his gaming makes him feel more like a man then spending intimate time with you.

Video game addiction is serious, on par with gambling or substance abuse. If your gamer guy is on the brink of addiction, there are some steps you can take to intervene. First, try to give him a wake-up call by telling him he could be addicted. Try to get him to take you out to the movies or a concert, anything to make him see that a relationship with you is worth kicking the habit. Sometimes, it’s up to you to be the one to tell him it’s time to put the controller down and give the zombie hunting a rest.

If you try talking to your boyfriend multiple times without seeing any changes in his behavior, and/or if he shows no respect for what you are telling him, then you probably need to break up with him. Breakups are (usually) never easy, but you deserve to be with someone who puts you above a game. Explain to him that you have tried to help him and have given him chances, but you see no point in moving forward if he is not willing to help himself. You need to look out for yourself, too, and you will be better off without him if he keeps putting his addiction first.

“At the end of the day, if you feel your needs aren’t being met as a couple, perhaps it’s time to move on and date someone who puts you at the top of his game,” Spira says.

4. Play with him!

Try sitting down and playing a game or two with your gamer guy! Learn more about the games that your gamer guy is so obsessed with. Better yet, get him to teach you how to play.

“The ideal situation when dating a gamer is for you to pick up gaming as a hobby of your own so you can both enjoy the time your guy spends gaming,” says Annie Wang, CTO and co-founder of Her Campus. “Many video games are multiplayer and/or involve teams, so take advantage of the opportunity to be on a team, and bond over your victories and losses together!”

Rent a new video game that you can learn to play together. This will give you some quality time together, and you might even learn to love gaming yourself! Even if it turns out you don’t like gaming, he will appreciate the fact that you try to take part in his favorite hobby.

“As for those of you who are worried about the learning curve, think of it instead as a cute (and hilarious) way for your boyfriend to teach you something new,” Annie says. “My top pick for gaming with your boyfriend: Super Smash Bros. Brawl (for Wii).”

Video gaming is not necessarily a bad thing—it makes for a great hobby and a fairly cheap alternative to a night out on the town, but it can be addictive. Whether he loves Halo, Call of Duty or World of Warcraft, the key to dating a gamer is learning how to strike the right balance between his gaming and your relationship together. So, happy dating and happy gaming!

Ally Karsyn, contributing writer for Her Campus
Julie Spira, dating and relationship expert at CyberDatingExpert.com
Annie Wang, CTO and Her Campus co-founder 

Alexandra is a graduate from the University of New Hampshire and the current Assistant Digital Editor at Martha Stewart Living. As a journalism student, she worked as the Director of UNH’s Student Press Organization (SPO) and on staff for four student publications on her campus. In the summer of 2010, she studied abroad at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge University, in England, where she drank afternoon tea and rode the Tube (but sadly no, she did not meet Prince Harry). Since beginning her career, her written work has appeared in USA Today College, Huffington Post, Northshore, and MarthaStewart.com, among others. When not in the office, she can be found perusing travel magazines to plan her next trip, walking her two dogs (both named Rocky), or practicing ballet. Chat with her on Twitter @allie_churchill.