Someone once told me my desk at work looked like it belonged to a teenage boy. He's right. It's strewn with video game memorabilia. They form a warm blanket of comfort when I'm sitting at my cubicle because video games are a big part of my life.
Naturally, it follows that video games would play a huge role in my love life as well. But in the real world, dating is daunting. Sometimes, I'd find a potential partner. But trying to spark up a relationship after the cliché small talk was a one-way ticket to awkward silence, shrivelling up, and retreating into a dark corner.
I needed to make a change, so one time I blurted out: "So do you like video games?"
When I was in high school, a boy said to me that he would date me if I got rid of my moustache. It was a cruel joke and he said it loudly in a crowded playground. It wasn't the worst thing that was ever said to me at school, but I never forgot that feeling of embarrassment which creeps up on me in potentially romantic scenarios. It leaves me flustered and stiff.
I'm fine interacting with guys on a regular basis, but as soon as there's a hint of romance I just short circuit. I worked in a Chinese restaurant and every time I took an order from the cute guy who worked at the video store next door I'd go red, stutter and often gave him the incorrect change. He must have thought I was missing a few screws in my head.
And dating in the wild isn't much easier. I'd meet new people at social gatherings, do the whole "What brings you here? What do you do? Where are you from" verbal dance before my brain starts going into meltdown.
Do I ask what they had for dinner? Do they know that I’m a weirdo? Maybe I should ask if they have any pets. Oh crap. I sense the awkward silence coming. ABORT. ABORT!
This is when I would shrivel up, make up an excuse, and slip away into a dark corner to reboot.
I knew I needed to make a change so one time, in a rare moment of bravery, I blurted out to a guy I was chatting with "So do you like video games?"
"Yes!" he responded with a big grin.
It instantly gave me a sense of levity. I came alive and we ended up talking for ages about what games we were playing. Impassioned words flowed out of my mouth as I gesticulated enthusiastically. Nothing ended up happening between us but at least I found a way to beat my anxiety — and made a new friend along the way.
Since then, video games have been the best ice breaker for me. It's a topic I am passionate about and it inadvertently became a litmus test for potential relationships. I gravitate more towards those who do share the same interests as me and gaming is right up on the list.
You can absolutely be in a relationship with someone who doesn’t share your hobbies. But it makes life easier if they do. I dated a guy once who dragged me away from games to go out; he couldn’t understand why I’d spend hours staring at a computer screen.
I never want to go through that again.
Once online dating exploded, it was easier for me to connect with new people and there were more opportunities to go on dates. More often than not, I’ll pick the games arcade as a place to meet for a date. If I got to know the person better, I’d invite them over for video games, usually Tekken or Street Fighter.
There are a few reasons for this:
- It's fun.
- It kills first-date nerves because it gives you something to do.
- You can learn a lot about somebody by watching them play video games. Very important.
Video games can bring out the best and the worst in people. I once took a date to the arcades and things were going well until we sat down to play Street Fighter. I was having a blast and beat him in the game. I looked over and he was sporting the sourest expression.
"Let's get out of here," he said in a solemn tone. We never saw each other again after that night.
I've had guys rage, venting their frustrations on arcade equipment. I've had guys who’ve lost interest in the game and would focus their attention on getting physical, perhaps mistaking the night for a 'Xbox and Chill' session.
I've dodged a few relationship bullets thanks to video games.
I've also met some wonderful people through gaming who either became close friends or romantic partners. I still look back fondly at the years I spent playing World of Warcraft with one of my boyfriends, bonding as we trekked through Azeroth.
I'm currently in a relationship with a guy who watches my back in Towerfall, names discoveries after me in No Man's Sky and has saved my sorry arse multiple times in Overwatch. I treasure these memories and am grateful that I have somebody to share my love of video games with.
Let me make one thing clear: being in a relationship isn't everything. Being single is definitely not a tragic ailment that should be cured swiftly. But for many of us, it would be nice to find a kindred spirit. A partner in crime. A player 2 in the game of life.
I've been told numerous times that playing video games will get you nowhere — that it's a waste of time and I'm better off investing my time on doing something productive with my life. I still remember my mother telling me that I'll never find a husband if I don't stop playing video games because no man likes a butch woman.
I respectfully disagree with these views. Video games have helped me in so many aspects of my life in more ways than I could imagine.
It may help you find somebody who wants to press start to join your game.
This story originally appeared in August 2016. It has been retimed to help highlight the wonderful contributions women have made to Kotaku Australia over the years, our way of acknowledging International Women's Day.