You’re all dressed up and ready to go for a Friday night date. But then your guy drops the ultimate bomb on you: he’s promised his guild mates he will help them defeat a pivotal boss in an online MMORPG. “Don’t you see?!” He yells dramatically. “Ragnaros, the fire lord of Blackrock Mountain, must be defeated before the stroke of midnight!” Irritated, and more than a little confused, you call off date-night in a huff and storm out the door. But is your partner’s gaming hobby really a relationship deal-breaker?

I do not want to excuse those players use really do use games as a way of alienating themselves from their friends or loved ones. This is not the type of behaviour I condone. And I do not mean to suggest that only women are affected by their partner’s excessive gaming—this equation certainly does work both ways. But when it comes to most mainstream media, gaming does come off as sort of a female problem. Women’s magazines like Cosmopolitan frequently discuss gaming in a pejorative way. They also give tips on how to get your guy off the couch to engage in more activities as a couple. But these types of articles are not necessarily helpful, and they ignore a fundamental question which I can’t help asking— why can’t gaming be a fun activity for couples too?

One of the greatest perks of the new-gen systems like the Wii is that they have opened up gaming to a whole new audience of people. Individuals who have never played a game before are now coming into games for the first time. This applies to both guys and girls, young and old. And consoles are also much cheaper than they were even five years ago. This makes gaming an even more ideal option for couples looking for a fun alternative to traditional date night.

One of my favourite sites (admittedly, for my favourite MMORPG) hosts a section which I think is worth looking at:  http://wow.joystiq.com/tag/family-gaming/. And while this collection of articles primarily discusses gaming for families with children, I think that many of the tips at WoW Insider would be helpful for couples as well.

In the meantime, I have compiled my own list of “perks” which come with couples gaming:

1)      It’s accessible. You can literally play video games anywhere, provided you have a console, television and some games. This means that you can have a great date night without leaving the comfort of your own home.

2)      It’s cheap. Trust me when I say this– it really is cheaper than going out. But that doesn’t mean you can’t make it more fancy. Mix drinks, prepare snacks inspired by a favourite vacation spot, have some music playing in the background. These are all great touches which will make your night a memorable experience.

3)      It gives your brain a work-out. Multi-tasking is a big part of gaming, especially if you are playing an MMORG. Many games also regularly require you to solve puzzles and riddles, and it’s always really satisfying when you complete a particularly hard challenge.

4)      It helps you work on your communication skills. You and your partner will probably need to strategize together, and this means that your communication skills will get a work-out.

There are many ways to ensure your gaming experience is enjoyable, but my biggest tip by far is to make it fun. Dress up like you would for any other date night, and have your guy/girl bring over a bottle of wine. Before they arrive, head to the dollar store and pick out some quirky prizes. At the end of the night, you can reward Most Improved or Best Sport prizes as a fun way of wrapping up the date.

Gaming is a completely flexible experience—it can be as casual or as formal as you wish to make it. But it doesn’t have to be a deal-breaker in your relationship. Make your next date about gaming and share your experience with your friends. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.

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