Thursday, October 05, 2006

Video Game Widows

I was in my home office playing The Godfather on my Xbox 360 last night, and as my wife came in to kiss me goodnight, it dawned on me that she’s of a rare breed. A unique breed, actually, a brand of woman never seen before and likely never to be found again.

See, she is part of the only generation of women who grew up in a world of videogames…but never played them. While us guys were the target audience for things like Pong and Galaga and Doom and Madden, those girls of a similar age bracket—born in the late '60s-early '70s—were doing the things that girls always did. And whatever those were, they weren’t playing games.*

Sure, there was a novelty to early Atari and Colecovision games that anyone who liked bright and flashy images on TV could dig, but beyond that, there was nothing besides Ms. Pac-Man for the ladies to play. And so, by and large, they didn’t. But we did. Now, decades later, we’re still playing. And they’re still not.

I’ve tried explaining to my wife why I like playing games, that it provides a vicarious escape into a world that was previously unavailable to me, and the capacity to do things I never would be able to otherwise. It’s wish fulfillment. (And, I’m good at them. Been training for 30 some-odd years. And people want to keep doing that which they’re good at.) She just didn’t get it.

My wife has it good, relatively speaking. While I’m a player, I’m not an obsessive player. I’ve learned to temper my addiction. She indulges me every once in a while, especially when I’ve laid off the controller for a bit. So she didn’t mind so much that I tallied up 5 hours of Godfather over the weekend. But I know women who just write off their husbands when they get into the World of Warcraft zone, disappearing into those massively multiplayer online role playing games for days, weeks, sometimes months. (There was even an episode of that A&E show Intervention about a guy who was so obsessive that his remaining friends and family ganged up on him to send him somewhere to de-rez.)

And the thing of it is that their mothers’ have no experience with anything like it. There have, I suppose, always been men who lived with their nose buried in books, but women understood the allure of literature. (And even if they didn’t share the love, they knew that other people did. Normal people.)

And sports have long been evening/weekend distraction for the y-chromosome set. But,I suppose there are two ways to deal with sports: either try and get into them (and I’m lucky that my wife is the daughter of a football coach, and enjoys the Giants game every Sunday) or outlast them. If you wait long enough, whatever sport your man is into will end. Unless its NASCAR, which apparently goes almost year-round. But, if you’ve married someone who loves NASCAR, then you’ve dug your own grave there, sister.

Our daughters will grow up in this world, will be playing games from toddler-hood. Maybe not Halo or Burnout Revenge, but those game companies have started making educational games…and their objective is not so much to teach ABCs, but rather PS3s. As with all things, early adoption is key, and our little girls aren’t going to think there’s a damed thing wrong with setting up shop in front of the tube, with the nextest next-gen system up and humming.

So that leaves these women, our women, as a sort of socio-evolutionary webbed foot. A blip on the flow-chart. Soon to be extinct. Be nice to them. Understand that they don’t understand.

* Yes, I know that there are plenty of women in this particular age bracket who do play, but I truly feel that they are exceptions to the rule. Or, if you like, pioneers.

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