How to Get Your Girl To Game

There was an interesting article on Kotaku over the weekend about Girls and Games. At the Penny Arcade Expo in Seattle over the weekend, a group of girl gamers gave a Q&A Forum about getting more women to play video games.

Some of the ideas are informative, and some of them just reinforce particular stereotypes about women (they don’t know what to do with a lot of buttons… they like Barbie’s Horse Adventures…).  But for those of you guys out there who feel that games are important enough to you that you want to share the hobby with your girlfriend/wife, I’d like to offer some tips of my own.

MrKniceGuy did a whole lot of things right when he wanted to get me to game with him. (I have to wonder if he regrets creating a monster that games more than he does though…)

1. First, be patient. Sometimes a girl wants to game, and sometimes she doesn’t. Maybe she never will. Don’t push it.

2. If it is important to you, say so. MKG made it perfectly clear that playing games was part of “Quality Time” with him. So even if he was playing a single-player game like Oblivion, if I was there watching and involved in the story it was good for our relationship. (You should always talk relationship terms with your girl, girls are all about keeping solid connections.)

3. If she thinks a game looks fun/cute/interesting, buy it for her. The idea of receiving it as a gift might get her to play it. But don’t buy her a game for Valentine’s Day unless you are really brave, or she has completed at least 10 JRPGs in her recent past.

4. Don’t be biased against gametypes. Cartoon games are not “gay.” Animal Crossing, Viva Pinata, even Kingdom Hearts are all really fun, well-created games, and all games that MKG used to get me into gaming. If he had been biased against them and said they were dumb, I probably would not be playing COD4 with him today. Instead, he bought them for me, played them with me, enjoyed them as much as he could, never complained, and used them to jump off into other games I might like. Try all types of games, not just first-person and tactical shooters. RPGs, racing games, sports games, fighters, puzzlers, platformers – they make so many different games because people have different tastes.

5. Look for games with story. In my experience as a woman, I like to feel emotionally connected to characters. If there is no story, or no character I can identify with, a game will fall flat for me. I think that RPGs, especially JRPGs (Japanese Role-Playing Games), are a great start for many women. (If you have a PS2, check out Kingdom Hearts, Final Fantasy X, Dark Cloud 2, and Okami.) And if she has never played a console game before in her life, get her to adopt a pet on Neopets and see where it goes from there.

6. Similar to #5, find games which create something. Do you ever wonder why so many women are into the Sims, or RPGs? We are not always huge fans of destroying things. We are nest-builders. We like making things pretty and comfortable (although if you play COD4 with me, I’ll make you comfortably dead). There is nothing wrong with that – you guys like clean laundry, right?  Dark Cloud 2 still sticks in my mind as one of the coolest of the JRPGs, because you find pieces to restore several villages, leading to a beautiful garden at the end. It still sticks in my mind as an amazing experience to watch and be a part of. Okami is similar as a restoration game. And Viva Pinata, with the gardening and caretaking aspect is a hit with several women I know (myself included).

7. Give her time to game, and encourage her to do it. If you are always getting on your girl to be doing this or that chore for her, she’s never going to sit down with you. There are always a billion things a woman could be doing, and most women are generally multi-tasking at all times (while writing this, I’ve done two loads of laundry, changed a diaper, took the dog outside, fed my fish, let my little gamer girl sit with me and vacuumed cracker crumbs out of the living room). Thankfully, MKG is knice about letting me set aside some time every day to game, and he doesn’t begrudge me for it. He never accuses me of being lazy, even when I do take a day to do nothing. (Thanks MKG, you’re a real sweetheart!)

8. Don’t start with competitive online play. If you’ve been spending all your time ranking up to Brigadier on Halo 3, don’t hand your girl a controller and tell her to come play Team Doubles with you. Just don’t. Please! For the love of God!!!

9. Do start with a coop game, and let her get used to controls. Even if she only kills one grunt in an entire Halo 3 campaign, the walkthrough will help her get used to the controls, the environments, and the rules of gaming. You will be her friend, not her enemy. And again, I reiterate #1. Be patient. Let her stare at the wall for five minutes and giggle until she figures out dual analogs. Don’t be surprised when she starts stealing your kills halfway through the game.

10. Don’t make video games her enemy. This is a good point from the PAX panel. If you are spending all of your extra time gaming, and not spending time with your girl, she will not want to “enable” you in your gaming habit. MKG and I went through this with GTA3 – I barely saw him for weeks, and I didn’t want to play a game for a very long time after that. If you show your girl that gaming is just a hobby you enjoy and not an addiction, she might want to enjoy it with you too.

I hope this has been helpful to some of you guys out there who want to get your girls to game with you. I know there are a lot of guys who consider girls an invasion of their game space, but to all those guys out there who respect all gamers, regardless of gender, I salute you. And thanks MKG, for wasting so much of your precious game time writing those silly letters to your villagers in Animal Crossing and pulling all those ridiculous weeds. I think the time was a good investment, don’t you?

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