TL:DR Version At Bottom
I will start out saying I was absolutely guilty of this at one point. It was almost my own evaluation of why, as someone who tries to be as open and accepting as possible, I would use a phrase that some find so blatantly sexist. I write this following on a chain of tweets that followed the same lineage.
This is how the general story goes, guy joins group that is a diverse gaming group of genders. Asks the group, “I wish I could get my GF/wife into gaming, what games would you recommend?”. At this point the obvious issue comes up that this person thinks there are games that appeal more to one gender than the other. I was, as I stated early, this exact guy at one point. I wondered what I should do to bring a game to my wife that would be a hit. I wanted her to have as much fun in a gaming group as I did.
The problem was, looking back at my own situation, the reason I didn’t feel like I was being a sexist with such a comment was because the question I meant to ask was not the question I asked. I also didn’t understand the question I needed to ask. The biggest problem, however, was that I was the only one that really could answer the question I should have been asking. Let me know if you’re lost, because we are just about to hit the 3rd level of dreaming.
My wife’s name is Jessie. When I started gaming I found the joy in it and wanted to bring it to her as well. I was the guy asking that same stupid question of how do I get her into the hobby. The problem though is the real question I was asking was not “How do I get my wife/GF into gaming?” but it was “How do I get Jessie into gaming?”. I could replace that name with anyones name and it’s the same question, and generally one that few other people could answer.
The problem I had, and the problem that anyone asking the same question has is that we are asking a very personal question about someone that most other people may not know. I could ask a group of gamers “How do I get Rick into gaming?” and the first response generally would be “Who the hell is Rick? How would I know what Rick likes?” That is where the inherent sexism comes in for anyone hearing this question, especially when you generalize the person you are talking about as your wife or GF. It is understood as you think that a game will appeal to an entire gender of people. This was the mistake I couldn’t see until I thought long and hard about this topic.
If you want to get your Wife/GF/BF/cousin/uncle/great grandpappy/etc. into gaming, you need to ask yourself, as someone who knows that person, what do they like, and what don’t they like that I know of. My wife and I had often played Uno, Phase 10, Farkle, and other fun little quick games so I started there and as I learned more about her gaming tastes I was able to bring in games that I thought would fit her likes, not as “my wife” but as Jessie. Eventually we even broke out into some Euro games with things like Constantonapolis, a first for both of us. Now we go together to game nights regularly during the month and even have our own D&D nights at our place.
The thing looking back that I’ve learned is there is no game that will ever appeal to a gender. That isn’t a thing that exists. I have also learned that when someone asks “How do I get my <insert something here> into gaming?” the best response is to try to lead them to the actual question they need to know, the one they need to ask themselves. The best response I have to try and lead there is “Well, what does <insert persons name here> like? No one game will fit everyone.” They may not be asking the right question, but they are asking a real question somewhere underneath it all.
The only other advice I have that I saw in that series of tweets was be prepared to give it up if the other person has no interest. In relationships, friends or more than friends, we always want to have that common hobby. Something fun you can do with your spouse, and build friends around. But you can never force that to happen and you have to be willing to find a common hobby elsewhere.
Why the hell would anyone else be able to tell you what game your wife or girlfriend would like? They don’t know that person like you do. There are no games that appeal to a specific gender. That doesn’t exist. It’s like asking a group of strangers “What game do you think Rick would like?”. Their response should be “Who the hell is Rick? Tell me about Rick and maybe we can get somewhere.” If you want to ask this question, ask about a specific person, and be ready to offer up things they like and don’t like. Also, be ready to let it go if they aren’t into games.
What do you think on this topic? Let me know in comments below, or feel free to yell at me on Twitter. I’m @PhantomNimbus.