How I Learned to Appreciate Computer Games

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It’s been quite the process to go from the know-it-all, spiritually superior girlfriend with a nominally Catholic, theologically illiterate, failure of an immature Christian man to an embarrassed, humbled, clueless wife with the faithful, Christian, decent husband.

We haven’t changed much. I just realized my superiority was all pride and bluster, and his “failures” and “immaturity” were just me being embarrassed that he didn’t live up to the perfect complementarian divinity student I’d imagined I’d always marry. But he is incredible, and his faith is incredible, and when I allow him to be himself, instead of holding him to my fundamentalist standards of holiness and maturity, our relationship is incredible too.

One of the biggest turning points with us had to do with computer games.

My husband doesn’t play first-person shooter games (thank God). He doesn’t have an Xbox. He just really loves this online, multiplayer computer game called League of Legends. It’s his hobby. He knows the lore, the characters, and the fine points of playing. He puts in a good amount of time mastering a character or skill. He follows the international championships, and he is currently hot and bothered about his fantasy team. (Yes, there is a fantasy league for an already fantasy computer game.)

This used to bother me. One, because I thought all video games involving death and fighting were evil and would more than likely produce serial killers — even a game like League, where the characters are cartoons, there is no gore, they regenerate every thirty seconds after death, and the draw of the game is strategy rather than glorying in the graphic death of your opponent.

Two, I thought only immature people cared about such frivolous things as video games. Any time a college male tried to explain the deeper purpose of video games to me, my eyes glazed over and my eyes wanted to roll so hard.

Three, it can get addictive. Games at three in the morning. Homework abandoned in favor of a five-game streak. Not being able to pause the game at will to help in an emergency — like everyday when I had my routine existential breakdown.

So I did what every responsible, godly, mature girlfriend does — I ridiculed him for it.

I argued against his love of this game from all different angles — particularly attacking his character and his maturity and his common sense. That’s always a great way to change somebody’s mind.

Instead of changing his mind, he began begging me to play with him.

Eventually, begrudgingly, I caved, watching my morality and my maturity crumble around me as a prepared to battle on Summoner’s Rift.

It actually wasn’t the worst thing ever. It was rather fun.

Instantly, I became a girlfriend hero. “You play computer games with Erich? That’s so cute! I wish my girlfriend would do that!”

Ah, yes. Look at me, the model girlfriend.

But the fights still continued into marriage. Some of them were legitimate. Sometimes he did spend too much time on League (not that I spent too much time on Facebook…). Sometimes he did procrastinate on important things in lieu of his favorite pastime (not that I was guilty in this area…).

Perhaps the biggest strain of all, though, was that I cared nothing about computer games in general or League in particular. Lego Star Wars and Mario Cart are the only games I’ve liked. But he talked so much about it. He talked to me as if I knew what he was talking about. He talked to me as if I cared.

I didn’t.

He would go on and on about League, and I would sit and nod and pretend to listen, all the while thinking of something else — normally, about how it was possible for two people to speak English and yet completely not grasp what the other person is saying.

I didn’t have a glamorous breakthrough, except that I hated pretending to listen. I hated not caring. I hated fighting him on this. I hated wishing this part of him would go away. I hated feeling embarrassed about something that brought him joy.

And so I found myself talking about League. At first, I just tried to pay attention when he talked. Then I started asking clarifying questions, like, “What does KS mean?” Then I started asking him questions about how his game was going or how his fantasy team was doing. And then I found myself as his #1 counselor regarding all things League. I was giving my opinion on things, ribbing him for not following my advice, expressing sympathy when he got frustrated with the stupid people in the bronze league, and kissing him happily when things went his way.

This makes so much of a difference in our marriage. 

Not only not judging, but actively participating in something he cares about, even when it’s decidedly not my cup of tea. Surprise, surprise, I find us liking each other more, understanding each other more, and connecting better. He seems far more interested in my hobbies and thoughts too.

GO US!

(Why does it always take me so long to realize these things?)

Of course, I feel a bit self-conscious about his love of League. My friends who aren’t into video games think it’s a bit strange. He had the League world championship up on the big screen when the movers dropped off our couch, and for a second, I wanted to apologize and poke fun at him to show that am a mature, well-adjusted adult who cares nothing about frivolous games.

(Erich has just informed me that the movers exclaimed, “Oh, you have the LCS up! How’s it going? Who are you watching?” Good thing I kept my mouth shut.)

But pooh pooh to the haters.

You know what? Go ahead and judge. Go ahead and laugh. Go ahead and leave links to articles about the sad state of youth these days. We live in an odd world where people pay millions to watch people kick a ball around. We connect with each other via social media and get addicted in the process. We all have weird passions for series on Netflix and awkward hobbies like writing bad fantasy novels and too many opinions on things that don’t matter much to the fate of the world.

And so I say, embrace those crazy, allegedly immature hobbies — especially for the sake of those you love.

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13 thoughts on “How I Learned to Appreciate Computer Games

  1. Rebekah

    I can relate to this. Sometimes, even when you have a inclination to like the other person’s interest or hobby, it can still be difficult to embrace it.

    Daniel and I have so many of the same interests. We love poetry and cooking and baking and literature and history and politics and theology, and we talk about these things frequently and at length. When we were dating, we also talked about math a lot.

    I took Calculus I as a sophomore and struggled. At first, I was embarrassed that I was so inadequate at math, thinking that Daniel wouldn’t want to date someone who wasn’t very good at it. I was relieved that he didn’t mind at all, and he said all he cared about was that I was eager to learn and interested in it. Also, he was always ready to help with free tutoring. ;)

    But as Daniel has moved far and away from Calculus I himself, especially as he has progressed into the rarified realm of graduate school math, I struggle to have even basic comprehension of what he is studying. I am frustrated by my lack of ability to understand and so don’t really enjoy talking about it. He LOVES talking about math, and so I want to get better in this area! I used to pride myself on the fact that Daniel and I were good at not only sharing our interests but cultivating an interest in what matters to the other person, so it is humbling to admit this!

    Your article was encouraging because it reminded me of the reasons why it is important to connect with your spouse through his interests. I KNOW this, but hearing someone else’s story is helpful.

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    • Bailey Steger

      Oh my! My brain isn’t at all wired to understand math, especially not at the level Daniel does, so you have my sympathies! I’m sure you’ll both be able to come up with a way to communicate about it. You are both thoughtful and good communicators. And I think, honestly, just recognizing that it’s important and trying to connect with our spouse’s interests is so important can communicate a lot, even when we have no idea what the conversation is about. At least I hope so. :)

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  2. misshued

    I’m glad you opened your mind to it. I cannot stand most shooter games, but I grew up playing games, and I will let my child play them too (within reason). If chosen well, they have merit. I remember my partner (before he was mine) telling me about his date who dismissed his love for video games and anime as being childish even though most things in both categories are aimed specifically at adults.

    That being said, I think you’ve written an important lesson for everyone: don’t judge, try to understand. Too many people do neither.

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    • Bailey Steger

      Anime is another thing my husband enjoyed, and I actually enjoy as well. I’m still not at all “into” video games, but I enjoy talking about them with Erich. I think it’s perfectly all right to appreciate and enjoy video games, even as a kid, within reason, as you said.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Mandy PS

    This is actually why it was so important for me to marry a geek. My husband describes himself as a 9 on a geek scale of 1-10, but then he met me and was like “well, if I’m a 9 she’s an 11.” I love geeky things. I get really excited about things that don’t matter at all. I have very strong opinions about Marvel comics and could give you a detailed biography of any character in the cinematic universe colored by highlights of comic book understanding. Star Wars and my childhood are inextricably linked. I don’t play video games, but I love video game RPGs like Legends of Zelda, Kingdom Hearts, and Chrono Trigger.

    These things are important to me and I love to talk about them. And if someone ridiculous me about them with the inevitable “How can you care about something some trivial when there are so many important things?” I usually either (a) put them in the box of unsafe people who will never truly be my friend or (b) launch into a long lecture on the importance of storytelling, culture, and why in fact these things do matter.

    So my husband is a geek, but we’re not geeks about the same thing. He loves computer games, and doesn’t particularly care about Marvel comics. But he loves to listen to me talk about it. Why? Cuz he loves that I’m passionate about things. And he understands how these things link to important topics. My love of Hawkeye is directly related to my desire to foster and adopt. My admiration of Captain America is my strong desire for social justice. My obsession with Loki is my understanding of my own childhood and dealing with being in a family of secrets, favorites, and hurt.

    When my husband and I got married and moved in together, I remember packing away my Captain America and Loki poster and my husband stopped me. He was like “What are you doing?” And I was like “I didn’t think you’d want these huge posters up in our house.” And he was like “But they’re important to you.” So yes, Captain America and Loki hang in the hallway of our upstairs. Because they are important to me.

    All this to say, so much that seems frivolous is not. So keep trying to understand. It’s so important to me that my husband listens to me even about the silly details of this or that. And try to understand what it means to your husband. What part of his childhood or life it represents, what need it’s meeting that nothing else does, and what inspires. If he’s anything like me, he’ll appreciate it. (And it sounds like you’re off to a good start! So keep up the good work. :) )

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  4. Hannah B.

    Bailey. Stop being my extraverted twin.

    My husband Caleb is a gamer, and even though we were engaged for a year, I had no idea. (Nobody really talked about it–his family was embarrassed by it and actually admitted later that they kinda tried to cover it up!) In the beginning, I thought what most of my church did–that games were juvenile and turned brains to mush. 😂
    Now I call myself a gamer by proxy. I don’t really play myself, but I love to watch him play and we have been deeply impacted together by many of game stories and characters. He showed me that video games are like any other art medium–they can be trash, and many are, but they can just as easily be beautiful, soul-rending, and heart-changing as books, music, movies, or anything else.

    P.S. Anybody who thinks Anime is childish either hasn’t actually watched any, or has no feelings. 😛

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    • Bailey Steger

      Erich isn’t that philosophical, so I have yet to see how video games are life-changing, but I’ll take your word for it. Just like any art, you have to know the medium before you can appropriately critique it. I don’t know video games that well at all.

      I like the title “gamer by proxy.”

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  5. heather

    I tend to be the one with the geeky interests that my husband ridiculed. Over time I’ve sneakily gotten him hooked into quite a few things he always claimed were immature and stupid before. Now if he starts to run his mouth about some interest of mine I can sweetly say, “Remember when you used to say that about..(insert thing he loves here)?”

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  6. Abigail

    I love this post! I have fond memories of the CD-Rom games I played on a 90’s computer as a child, but I have never appreciated video games or elaborate computer games. Now I have a friend who really likes them, and my younger brother loves Star Wars iPad games and talks about them in great detail. It’s been hard to learn how to encourage the interest and the person without feeling insincere or just avoiding the topic. Thanks for sharing your experiences with this and being humble enough to admit where you’ve failed and how you’ve grown.

    One thing that has helped me learn how to be more understanding of others is making up fictional characters with interests very different from mine. Then, without the friction of an actual relationship, I’ve been able to think, “What would make someone get really excited about (fill in the blank)? What is special or beneficial about that activity/interest that I don’t see?” I’m pretty sure the only reason I got an A in my college math class this fall is because one of my favorite story characters loves math. I’m still not naturally gifted in that subject, but learning from his appreciation helped me value math as the language of the universe and a precise, dependable system in which things are black and white. I worked much harder than I would have otherwise this fall, because I actually cared about the math, not just about getting decent grades. When I was talking about this with my dad, he said (non-mockingly), “Well, I’m glad your imaginary friend has been a good influence on you!”

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