Saturday, January 16, 2010

Would you be willing to date someone who...

 I was recently looking at someone's profile on and comparing my answers to certain questions to hers, when I came across this one:

"Would you be willing to date someone who plays video games almost every day, for at least 2 hours?"

The question had 4 possible answers:

"Yes, I'd be playing with them"
"Yes, but I would not play that much"
"Yes, but I don't like video games"

I hadn't yet answered this question and therefore could not see her response, so I did answer it, going with "Yes, I'd be playing with them" as my response and listing that this and the other two "Yes" answers were responses I considered acceptable for a match to have. Having done this I was able to see this woman's response, it was "No." This ruffled my feathers a bit and I decided that this was not someone who I wanted to get back in touch with. Actually it wasn't just this answer, but the fact that she had some very conservative responses to questions for which I have very liberal responses and her answers to several relationship related questions made it somewhat clear that this was the kind of person who would end up breaking my heart, most likely by cheating on me with someone she found more interesting in the moment.

Still, the question "Would you be willing to date someone who plays video games almost every day, for at least 2 hours?"  was the real last straw, especially since I know what the stereotypes are of people who openly admit to being gamers and as a game developer this perturbs me even more so as gaming is not only my hobby but my livelihood. I know too that my being a game developer (a profession that immediately confirms that "yes, I do play games" and that many infer means "it's all I do all day") has narrowed the dating pool for me. This is not something I view as a positive. I've already narrowed the dating pool for myself by choice, in that I'm a picky son of a bitch who's looking for women who are attractive but not in the mainstream media/fashion model/magazine cover sense of the word, are smarter than him, and love music, film, or (gasp) games. That being the case, any further narrowing of the field, especially due to the closed-mindedness of people who flat out assume that those who admit to playing games are not worth the trouble, quite justifiably pisses me off. And since I'm a self-righteous bastard I felt the need to comment on the question on, the full text of which, is reprinted below:

"Would you be willing to date someone who plays video games almost every day, for at least 2 hours?"

As a professional video game developer I take offense to this question, not so much because it exists, but because of the spirit in which it is asked and often answered. First let me dismiss the #1 myth about my career. Video game developers do not spend all day at work playing games. Depending on the specific area of game development one is in, an average day is spent programming, making art, writing, or designing and implementing game play ideas that others will find fun. Video game development is a field very similar to film making or being a professional musician. All require technical and artistic knowledge and a high level of dedication to one's craft. And yet I've never seen the question posed "Would you be willing to date someone who watches movies almost every day, for at least 2 hours?" or "Would you be willing to date someone who listens to music almost every day, for at least 2 hours?" You wouldn't see that question asked very often and if you did, most people really wouldn't ascribe much meaning or importance to it in relation to their dating life.

Film makers don't spend all day watching other people's movies, although it is important for them to take time to do so, often in their free time. Musicians don't spend all day listening to other people's music, although it is important for them to take time to do so, often in their free time. Video game developers routinely work 8-12 hour days 6-7 days a week at certain points during a project which often takes multiple years of development from start to finish. A single video games is made by dozens and often hundreds of people, not the lone, maverick developer often portrayed by popular media. Video game developers come from all walks of life, all races, creeds, genders, and sexual orientations. Some game developers are comfortable wearing t-shirts and jeans to work, others dress up. In general we're a laid back group. The image of the slovenly, slacker game developer is exaggerated, although (as in every walk of life) such individuals do exist and they are often as ill-received among game developers as they are among society in general. There are game developers who are nerds, game developers who are jocks, game developers who are husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, political activists, and charity organizers. Video game developers rarely play their own game while at work except to test, a process that is less like playing games and more like a director watching dailies or a musician repeating one section of a piece over and over to analyze it's strengths and weaknesses.We're normal people just like you and yes, video game developers do often play games in their free time. One cannot hope to hone their art or craft without experiencing what else is out there. Stagnation is the only other alternative. And yet often we and those who are merely enthusiasts and not developers, are looked down upon as if we suffer from some kind of disease. The idea of video games as something unhealthy and the image of the few who (as with any medium whether music, film, television, etc.) partake too much, seems to permeate our hobby, infecting all perception of who we are. This question "Would you be willing to date someone who..." is not attempting to ascertain relevant facts about an individual in order to be weighed against other concerns. Rather it is an attempt to pigeon-hole and stereotype those who answer positively. And I realize that this is just an internet dating site however, as an example it is indicative of a larger perception in the general public. I wouldn't date someone who dedicated all they're free time to playing games either, but I feel the same way about anyone who partakes of any one activity so over-indulgently. Once again, the question is not the problem, but the idea behind it. The blind stereo-typing of those who enjoy this activity and the fact that this stereotype stands in stark contrast to other similar forms of media entertainment that are viewed almost universally more favorably in the public eye.

I like video games, I play video games, I make video games. Often I will spend a couple hours a night playing games. Sometimes I'll spend more. Sometimes I go days without playing a game at all. I spend more time in a given week listening to music than I do playing games, but no one would ever think to choose that as a negative trait. I know people who watch movies every day of the week and no one would think the less of them either. I know people who read more daily than this question purports is beyond the acceptable level allowed for a person to be playing video games. I know people who play sports for a larger accumulated amount of time, go dancing, go drinking, watch TV and all of those things are treated acceptably. You wouldn't even think to ask the question "Would you be willing to date someone..." for any of those activities and in many cases you would be more willing to date that person. So under what category does this question, in relation to video games, fit in this context?

Let's take a look at it in a different light. "Would you be willing to date someone who smokes crack almost every day?" or "Would you be willing to date someone who looks at pornography almost every day, for at least 2 hours a day?" That's the spirit in which this question is being asked about video games. This question treats not only one of my hobbies, but my livelihood as a deplorable addiction, as something unseemly to be ashamed of and in doing so is promoting hypocrisy in the same way that someone who trumpets equal rights might also frown upon gay marriage. I don't have a disease, I don't make and sell drugs. I make and play video games, a form of entertainment that is no more harmful than rock and roll, television, blockbuster movies, rap music, George Carlin, the lambada, the poetry of Jim Carrol and Allen Ginsberg, or the works of William Shakespeare.

But it's not the question that is the problem. The question has a right to exist and people have a right to answer truthfully. I would ask however that before answering, one take a moment to consider what I've said here. Answering "No" to this question does nothing but illustrate your own shallow perception of what is acceptable. Answering "No" proves your own sheep-like adherence to the stereotypes being rammed down your throat by the mass media. Would you be willing to date someone who plays video games almost every day, for at least 2 hours a day? There's more of us than you think, those who make games and those who don't and our numbers are growing every day. You can continue to blindly assume that anyone who spends that amount of time on this specific hobby, is a perfect poster person for every gamer stereotype ever conceived, or you can open your eyes and accept that maybe not everything is so black and white. The world is a much more interesting place than that.

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