I’ve been meaning to write up a summary of my experiences as the Gamer Wife for a while now. But between one thing and the next, I’ve never quite had the time or the energy.
And the reason is fairly simple. I get push back whenever I talk about these things. I also get support, dissent, well-thought out opinions and suggestions. But I do get a lot of mansplaining, as it were. I also generated a bunch of hurt feelings from people close to me. All of these things, both the good and the bad, just are.
I started this series with a pretty simple introduction, trying to show how women are often reduced to objects of desire or possession that shows how great the guy in the relationship must be to have “obtained” her. If she’s pretty, that’s a plus. If she’s skilled, also good. If she games? You lucky devil you. But the woman is still an attachment to the man.
I felt that some background on how I entered my current gaming group and met my spouse might help illuminate how the Gamer Wife is different from a Gamer Girl1. How the social shifting ground let me both fit in better and acclimatize to the group. To be accepted is a big thing. To be forced into a given pattern in order to be accepted is quite another.
A lot of the responses I received here was of the “But this happens to everyone” variety. And yes, it can. But it seems to impact women a lot more than men, in my experience and opinion. Women seem to suffer the social ramifications more while being expected to allow men the same free-reign in most things as if they were single and unattached.
Then, having addressed social issues, I tried to address directly the impacts on my gaming table. And I was treated differently. I was still seen as the responsibility of my spouse. He had to take care of me. He had to create my fun. I had to get him to game. I had to help keep his game organized. I was required to like the same games and have the same, or a complimentary playstyle to him. I was marginalized because it was assumed, inherently, that my interests in gaming were purely at his behest.
Which, of course, segues into the most popular post in the series and the reason I started this whole thing in the first place. Favoritism. Or, more commonly, the perception thereof.
See, the rumor of wives and girlfriends getting all the special crap in games persists. It’s probably the result of a small number of cases, some even presented in the various comment threads the post spawned, but I still hold that these are vastly the minority of events. That most spouses can game together and still be fair to all players. That this perception of favoritism is more harmful to the game experience than much of the other behaviour. And I was complicit in it too. I believed the rumors and the lies. That anything my spouse gave me in game was a special favor. But him giving the same thing to other people was just normal gaming.
Drama always happens. People argue. People fight. People disagree and feel like any and all forums are appropriate to drag out a debate. But a fight between friends is dealt with in a completely different way than spouses fight. But it’s often blamed on the woman for bringing it up. She’s the emotional one. She’s the person getting visibly upset. A lot of that has to do with gendered expectations. But it’s also why women are expected to be the one at the gaming table to intervene when there is drama between others.
But after I had addressed these issues, I went on to look at how flirting affected my groups. See, this is a big fear, in-so-far as I can tell. Women bring with them sexual temptation and a suggestion of potential sex in the offering. Just by being present in a space dominated by guys. So when you have naturally flirty people, like me, it can get very awkward, very fast. Sometimes it’s that a guy misinterprets platonic flirting with serious flirting. I’ve found that the gaming crowd, in general, is very bad about assuming that any kind of sexual display, be it flirting, clothing or, sometimes, just being a woman, is invitation to approach the woman and take action based on her “signals”.
And again, this gets blamed on the women more often than not. She’s overreacting to the guy who hugs her in a way she doesn’t like. She’s the one flirting, she should accept the consequences. It doesn’t matter what you say to some of these people. They will not blame the guy for bad behaviour.
Finally, I addressed credit and recognition. This was a hard post for me to write because it hurts looking at the number of times and things I’ve done have been credited to my spouse. Which, again, ties back to the first post I made on the issue. I’m an accessory. My accomplishments reflect on how good he has it.
And that’s really the end of this series.
- Yes, I hate this phrase. It’s so often used dismissively by others these days, even if once I would have identified as one without batting an eye. ↩