Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Nerd, meet Girlfriend (Part 1)

Or boyfriend, as the case may be. There is a fairly large faction of girl gamers out there, and they can potentially benefit from this too.

This is not a guide on how to get a significant other. I have a lot to say on the issue of mate selection, but honestly it is disagreeable to most people. This is instead a guide on how to share gaming with the focus of your affections in a way that is most suited to their needs.

This is divided into two parts. The first part is how to get a SO to enjoy playing games with you. The second is on how to get a SO who is already a gamer to play a particular game of which you enjoy. I couldn't do this any other way. There's a lot to say on the subject and not much of it is similar.

The first thing you have to realize when trying to get your love interest to play games with you is that the goal should be to show them how enjoyable games can be. Anything less noble than that is pretty sure to fail. By that, I mean that you should not try to get your girlfriend to play EVE with you if she is a non-gamer. Most 'hardcore' gaming genres are simply too daunting for a novice gamer. If you are hardcore into BlazBlue but your boyfriend isn't, no amount of explaining the joys you have playing competitively with your friends is going to help.

(I might know some of this from experience, so trust me)

The first thing you need to do is find something relatively easy to play (not too difficult of a control scheme, not too much mental trickery) and that strikes his or her interest. If possible, try for a co-op game.

A good, if unlikely example, is Gears of War 2. It is fairly easy to play and has a lot of easy fun. It is highly violent and gory though, so if your significant other is not into that (a surprising number of girls don't mind it) you may have to pick a different game.

Super Mario Galaxy has an interesting co-op mode, but it doesn't really do the job in the long term. It is better for girlfriends (who don't mind doing things if they think they are helping) than it is for boyfriends.

Although it's competitive, Smash can be a good game for this if you are not very good at the game. If you know what a short hop is, do not use Smash's competitive modes. Cooperative modes, like Brawl's Subspace Emissary (yeah, I know SSE is not very fun, but your boyfriend doesn't know that and he will enjoy beating up robots) are okay. Be careful though if you go from cooperative to competitive modes - and in all cases with Smash, make sure to turn items on (disabling some, especially BS stuff is okay) and have some CPU bots to beat up on. Your girlfriend won't know the difference if 1-hit kill items are turned off, but the added randomness really helps make things more fun.

Supposedly, Fable 2 is pretty awesome. It's even neater because both of you can play on your own time, and Fable is really good at letting people enjoy doing absolutely nothing (by that, I mean doing odd jobs, buying property, doing repeatable side quests, and managing your 8 or 9 different families). For maximum effect, make sure that you don't use too many overpowered magic skills (so they can do something) and play the game on their save file. Just don't be surprised if your girlfriend has a spouse in every town along with nicknames the next time you play. Don't get jealous of Pooky. She can't please your girlfriend the way you can. I hope.

Probably the most obvious example is MMORPGs. Couples have been making duo characters since the EQ1 and UO days. If both people get into it and make alts in case they want to solo or play when their SO isn't around, it can be a very workable arrangement. I highly recommend games that are solo or duo friendly. World of Warcraft is a good example, EVE is not. Aion is a good example, FFXI is not. Do some research (you're the gamer, right?) and find a game that will work out for the both of you. Of all of these, I'd have to suggest Dragonica Online for its ease of play, fun mechanics, and obvious benefits to a 2-person party (and even more benefits for a couple!)

I highly do not recommend anything competitive. Soul Calibur and Smash are pretty much the only competitive games you can use, but even then it's a bad idea. You do not want to get into a situation where you are winning all the time and your boyfriend is getting owned. That is not fun, and it will sour their opinion to games pretty rapidly.

Cooperative games work so well because they mirror a relationship. Even playing ODST with your girlfriend can be fun for her, because she can shoot guys and save your bacon (okay, they weren't dangerous to you, but don't let her know that). Doing things as a team helps cement the fact that you work well together and do great things together, greater than what either of you could do on your own.

While you're playing though, you need to provide positive feedback. 100% of the time, you need to let them know how they helped, how they saved your butt from being owned by 3000 of those dudes coming in behind you with that sweet grenade and so on. If you fail, never blame them. Blame yourself, or even the game if you have to. For instance, when playing Gears with a buddy of mine, we got to a part where we had to play much better than normal, because a mistake in positioning would get one of us killed by mortar fire. Occasionally I would screw up, and I'd blame myself for being in the wrong spot. Sometimes he would screw up, and I'd blame the game for putting in those BS mortars. You can mock your buddies for screwing up in a game, but never do it to your boyfriend.

Especially don't do it to a boyfriend. This is where gender matters a little. Men have much more fragile egos than women. Girls naturally like to help people succeed, so if you get upset and blame something on them, they are actually much more likely to try and do better next time than a guy will. Guys will get frustrated because they like to be good at things, and challenging them about it even if it's constructive, will make them feel kind of crappy. Girls get upset at that sort of thing too (again, I know this from experience) but they have a way higher tolerance factor than guys.

Coaching should be done with caution. Girls, again, are much easier to coach than guys. Boyfriends don't like to be told how to do things. While girls will generally lack the motor skills that boys develop just by growing up, a girl is more apt to accept advice and suggestions, such as "move the analog stick more lightly and your aim will move slower." Try to phrase coaching in as positive a light as possible. "Use this skill when they're stunned, because you'll have more time to cast it." For guys, uh... just be careful. Boyfriends hate being told what to do.

In a lot of cases, particularly with guys, you just won't be able to get them to sit down and have fun. The hard part is actually having them sit down and play.

Working strategies include:
*playing the game by yourself, and asking them if they want to join in.
*if you are female, giving vague sexual connotation to games ("I get so excited when...")
*offering trades may help, eg. you do this with me, I do this with you (don't do something you wouldn't actually do though) - just make sure the game is actually fun
*if they are female, a lot of things will work - if you suggest that they can help you have fun, most decent girlfriends will at least entertain the idea of playing with you

Another key component of a game is that it has to be fun for 1 hour. Sometimes you're not going to be able to do a long involved instance run. Whatever game you choose, you need to be able to put in just a little time and have fun doing it. Long time in the game will be the norm more often than not - your boyfriend is going to come over, watch you playing InFamous, and ask to play WoW with your druid, and you'll end up playing for hours. But make sure that if you only have a little time, that it's fun too. Nothing sucks more than having to drop out of an instance team and let the team down because of IRL stuff (protip: sending your boyfriend naughty whispers is a good way to end a gaming session early).

At the end of a play session, make sure that you let them know that you had fun. THIS IS VITAL. Never, ever, ever, ever, ever tell them that playing with them wasn't fun. EVER. If it wasn't, try a different game or turn down the difficulty setting, but for the love of god don't tell them it wasn't fun. This is another reason why you should not play competitive games. If you get together with your girlfriend and play TF2, you will most likely not do very well if your girlfriend is a non-gamer. Most likely you will die a lot and it will not be fun. Cooperative games let you beat the crap out of computer-controlled opponents, avoid griefing by random other people, and generally just have a fun time. As strange as it sounds to competitive gamers, a co-op campaign is more guaranteed fun than a multiplayer deathmatch.

One of the cool things about doing cooperative games is that many of them have competitive elements, and if your SO starts number crunching how much +attack power their next gear set will have, maybe they'll be more likely to learn how to do 32 hit Litchi relaunches.

(No, I am not sure if Litchi has a 32 hit tsubame relaunch, or if she hits for more. I know she hits you a lot of times and it is frustrating. ~.~)

So, in short:
1 - find a fun, easy to play cooperative game
2 - find some way to get them to sit down and play with you
3 - be encouraging in everything you say
4 - follow through - make sure they know you had fun
5 - ???
6 - Profit!

I have part 2 drafted up, more or less. This one is a little short, because I cut some content out of it.