Q: “My boyfriend loves video games. A lot. I don’t really understand how he can spend so much time glued to his controller. He spends hours and hours playing them, and it’s sometimes difficult to even get him to leave the house. When I ask him what he likes about them, he’s not even really able to tell me. While I can understand liking something without being able to explain why, but I’m worried that the amount he plays might be unhealthy for him.”
A: I enjoy playing videogames. Not as much as a lot of guys out there, and I don’t play as often as I would like to, but I do dig sitting down and playing for an hour here or there. ESPECIALLY IF I’M WITH MY BROS CRUSHING BEERS AND EATING CHICKEN WINGS.
At their core, video games are an escape from the real world — something that can serve a purpose in anyone’s life no matter what position or age. I’m a constantly-worried person, and I remember playing video games to get out of my own head back when I was a child, and if I think about playing now, it still provides that same means of escape. Depending on the game and your level of involvement, video games can be mindless, which is great for escape, or they can be completely involving. Which is also fantastic for escape. When you’ve got your entire being focused on something, the rest of the worries are put on hold. And sometimes you desperately need to step away from your problems, if only for an hour or so.
Video games are also inherently forged on competition. Competitive nature likely never goes away, but as you grow older it’s more difficult to find ways to release your need for competition. Unless you’re in a highly-competitive job (which is sometimes not even a good, cathartic kind of competition), or belong to a YMCA where you and a bunch of your dude friends can go play pickup basketball during lunch every day, you have to take competition where you can get it. Video games are the perfect outlet for this. You can sit down, turn on a machine and then play against people you know, people from all over the world or both.
If you win whatever competition you engage in, it’s probably going to improve your mood at least a little bit. If you don’t, it might piss you off for a few moments, but unless you’re a deeply affected or slightly unstable (or, I suppose, immature in some cases) individual, you’re going to be able to get over it. Because it doesn’t mean all that much to lose a video game. When you’re an adult with oftentimes-overwhelming responsibilities and you lose a game that really has no consequences, you can generally shrug it off without too much trouble. In short, video games are a high reward with virtually no risk.
And, to be honest, speaking from my personal experience, dudes like video games because they are completely in charge (usually) of what happens to them, and if everything goes the way they hoped it would, they are considered the hero. Everyone wants to be a hero, on some scale, big or small, whether they’ll admit it to you or not. In a world where so much is out of your control and you feel like you’re often engaged in thankless acts, it’s really nice to feel heroic, to get that victory, no matter how small it is in the grand scheme of things.
But, bottom line, video games are fun. Guys like having fun. If gaming is one of your boyfriend’s preferred methods for fun, you shouldn’t hold that against him. He has reasons for it that he may not want to articulate to you because he hasn’t examined them that deeply or he doesn’t want you to think he’s some kind of emotional weirdo who is using video games to improve his life.
However, he should be able to balance his life, especially when you’re a part of it. Usually, heterosexual male gamers love women just as much as non-gamers. It’s important to remind him that he needs to pay attention to you, that it isn’t very fun at all for you to sit next to him while he plays games and you look on, not really caring much about what is going on or the outcome.
If it’s bothering you, wait until the next break in his game and have a conversation about your concerns without demeaning his likes and interests.