It’s the Controller’s Fault
The question has been asked. Why do men play video games so much? The women who asked were in the middle of describing how obsessed their men were with the games. They were somewhat complaining that their men would rather play the games over spending time with them. In the end, they just wanted to know, why these games were so important. But they aren’t asking the right question. At least I don’t think they are asking the question that they really want to ask.
First, let me answer the original question through my own experiences with video games. I grew up when home video games started gaining popularity. I can remember going to my Aunt and Uncle’s house and playing on their Atari system. I can remember my grandparents buying a Texas Instruments computer with a football game. I can remember my brother begging for the very first Nintendo Entertainment System complete with the Super Mario Brothers/Duck Hunt combo cartridge. It was the first video game system my parents allowed in our house. Finally, we were a part of the technology generation.
Throughout the years I have either had or lived in a house where a video game system has been prevalent. In one case, I had a roommate who collected them. We had all the Nintendo Systems, Sega Systems, Atari, Commodore 64, and the latest and greatest, the PlayStation 1. Each of us had our favorite games, but I can remember playing Crash Bandicoot and Resident Evil for hours upon end. Personally, I have owned a PlayStation 2, an X-Box, and a Wii. Plus I have often used my phone, my iPad, and my Computer to play different games. All of this to say, I know why men play the video games. But that still isn’t the question these women, and I would say most women; want to know the answer too.
But, I’ll answer the question, since it has been asked. There are three main reasons why men play video games. They may not believe or even realize these are the reasons, but in my experience, these are the reasons, so hold on to your hats and lets make our way through these three levels so we can try and win the treasure.
First, men play video games as a means of escape from the reality of their daily routines.
The life of a military man is complicated. They have to be gone for long periods of time, away from their families, away from the comforts of home, away from everything that is familiar. Video games provide an escape into a fictitious world that we can engage with. Movies, TV and books can give us that escape too, but there’s no interaction. With video games, we provide the characters with a certain amount of personality. We control a certain amount of their decisions. Ultimately, we determine their fate in a way we can’t when we have jobs or lives that require a certain level of obedience. This can provide us with a great rush, because we know it isn’t real, but it becomes an alternate reality that is more in our own control.
Second, men play video games because we are competitive, goal oriented, and must be challenged.
The one thing I didn’t mention above when I was describing my video game experience is that I SUCK at them. I am horrible. I mean awful. I don’t play two player games ever, because I have no chance to win. I don’t play fighter games because I am more likely to be target practice than I am to be killing anything. Nope, I stick to games that are more my speed. Lego Star Wars is one of my favorites. I crushed all of the Crash Bandicoot Games. Probably the hardest series of games I ever got into was the Resident Evil games. They were a lot of shooting, but they also had puzzles that I thought was fun.
The thing about these games, and the more difficult ones, is that there is always an end goal. You want to win the war, or stop the latest zombie apocalypse, or capture the opponent’s flag. There is always a clear-cut objective, and once men start playing the game that objective must be met. You cannot leave an objective unchallenged. You have to find a way to win.
Of course, this leads to the video game venting you see from time to time. Broken controllers are the most common casualties to video game venting. My roommate once threw a controller through a wall just because the football player got tackled in the open field. (Something about a spin move that the controller didn’t execute.) Televisions, game systems and spilled drinks are also common during this time. With each passing failed attempt at getting past that next level the damage becomes more likely and more threatening. If he is close to the end of the game and just can’t get through it, watch out. Ladies, tis better to leave the house and come back to destruction, then be a part of that destruction as it happens. Men have to be challenged, and they must complete those challenges. We must achieve the goal.
Third, and the hardest one to admit, men become addicted to video games.
Video game addiction has been proposed as an addition to the list of mental disorders, but was recently rejected for inclusion. That doesn’t mean it isn’t a real thing. Some men have been playing video games for so long that they would have an extremely difficult time getting out from under them. WebMD says that more and more experts are defining this syndrome, which leads me to believe that it something we have to, at the very least, examine.
I have been addicted before, not to video games, but to cigarettes. I wonder if there is a correlation. Cigarettes gave me an escape, a way to get out of my life for a couple minutes. Cigarettes gave me a rush, raised my heart rate and made me more alert, at least for the first few minutes. Cigarettes controlled my day. I looked forward to the time when I could get away from my desk and have another one. I believe there are some similarities. Video games have the potential to control a man’s emotions, his reactions and his daily activities. Just ask the women who are asking why they play so much. That still isn’t the real question.
So what is the real question these women were asking? What is the question I believe most women are asking when they are trying to determine why their man is sitting staring at a screen for hours on end just so they can win a fake war against the evil alien race of galactic sea slugs? That’s easy. It isn’t why is he playing. It’s how do I make him stop?
I am going to assume that for most of you the issue is not one of complete stoppage. You don’t expect nor really care if he gives up playing the latest Mario Brothers game cold turkey. For most of you, the issue is one of getting more of his quality time than the damsel in distress does. You want him to know the secret code that gives him access to your heart better than he knows the secret code that gives him access to the hidden levels on Planet Ziphon (is there a Planet Ziphon?). You want him to caress your buttons more than he caresses the buttons on the controller.
But how, how can you make this happen? Hmmmm! I could say all of the usual things. I could say that you and he should have serious discussion about what you expect from him when he comes home from work, and how you would appreciate him limiting the amount of time he plays. I could say that you could give him an ultimatum with time limits (good luck with that.) I could say that maybe the best thing would be to sell the game system on eBay and use the money for a date night. While each of these could be valid, I am not going to tell you any of these. What I am going to say is this, become the video game.
If your goal is for your significant other to spend more time with you, then challenge him to do so. Give him hints and clues about how you would like that to happen. Leave him a map of where you are going to be, and then tell him that you expect him to rescue you. Put together your own story with the expectation that he will be challenged and committed. If your man is goal oriented, he will have every desire to figure out this game as much as he does the one of the screen.
I am not saying it is going to be a cakewalk. Video games rarely are. But most have levels for a reason, and each level is a little more difficult than the one before. Start out with something easy, something obvious, something you know your man can’t resist. Each man is different, so I don’t know what your man can’t resist, but I am pretty sure you can figure that out. Let me just make up some scenarios and see if I am close.
Level 1: Husband is playing games when you walk out in you sexiest Lingerie and wave your finger for him to follow you.
Level 2: Leave a note on top of the controller telling your husband to look through the house for a special treat before playing. (you can come up with the treat)
Level 3: Tell your S/O that tonight you will be having a conversation about (insert topic here.) When he guesses the secret word involved in that conversation you will reward him with the controller.
Level 4: Give him a dessert recipe and tell him that you would like for him to make this together and that he can eat it off of you later if he makes it right.
Level 5: Scavenger Hunt. You can do this around town or just around the house. Give him a map or a list of items that he is going to need for that evenings activity.
Are some of these cheesy? Probably, but I am shooting from the hip here. Only you know what types of things will provide enough stimultion to get your man interested in leaving the game behind. There is going to have to be a discussion at some point about him understanding that you are more important than the game, but it doesn’t have to be a finger pointing blame game. It can be a fun game that challenges him and creates goals for him to achieve.
Let me end with this, I think the proper way to say why men play video games is this. The competition, the goals and the challenges make them feel strong. It gives them the opportunity to be in control. Video games don’t talk back, or blame them for their mistakes it just gives them the opportunity to try and try again to make it right. How do you get them to stop? Be the same way. Give them the opportunity to learn from their mistakes and to make it right. Give them the chance to be the hero in your life even more than they already are. Reward them for meeting the goals you have for your life together. Let them see that the video game could never replace the rush and thrill that you can give them. Whether you do that by making your life a game or by just loving on him completely doesn’t matter.
Author Jane McGonigal once wrote, “A game is an opportunity to focus our energy, with relentless optimism, at something we’re good at (or getting better at) and enjoy.” Shouldn’t our relationships be the same way? I know that when I look at my wife, I want to be able to focus my energy on her and I. I want to remain optimistic that we are better together than we could ever be apart. And I want to continually improve and grow our love and life in the enjoyment we have together. In fact, there’s only one thing I hope to never see in my relationship that I have seen in a video game, and those are the words, GAME OVER.