JBG Rewind – Should Men Put Video Games Away As “Childish Things” For Their Wives / Girlfriends?

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I wrote this piece back in 2014. Four years later, I still do not think that this is healthy situation, no matter the hobby. – Bryan

This tale is as old as 1989.

Boy meets girl. Girl dislikes boys hobby. Boy gives up hobby for girl. Girl gives up nothing. Swap the genders; swap the roles. Rinse. Wash. Dry.

I have known countless guys who have given up their favorite hobby due to a spouse or girlfriend disapproving– I am sure that this is true for the female species as well. Once upon a time, these guys enjoyed playing video games. They used them to drop stress levels, rest, and relax. For some reason though, chemistry, the alignment of the stars, who knows, they end up coupling with someone who disapproves/looks down upon their hobby. So they have to quit, have to walk away from something they love, to be in love.

I just don’t get it. If you are in a loving relationship, your spouse or girlfriend should accept you for who you are. They shouldn’t be out to change fundamental parts that make up you. Sure, your bad habit of tossing clothes on the floor may need to be corrected, because let’s face it, your mom always cleaned up after you. Too personal? Sorry.

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Video games are often seen as a less mature hobby than following a team of guys in tight fitting clothing. Huh? How is it that working on cars, following a sports team, or going hunting are somehow more respectable and less “little boy”? A hobby is a hobby. Video games are no worse than stamp collecting. Except that unlike a stamp collection, video games deal with:

  • Complex realities
  • Connecting players through interdependent activities
  • Challenging players with complex decision making

My wife has been accepting of my hobby from the get go. She encourages me to sit down and play games. She realizes that I often use video games to de-stress. As long as I am not playing World of Warcraft (the marriage killer), I’m golden. This does not mean that I play games every day of the week. Gaming for me, married, with a kid, looks more like a couple of hours a week. Some nights, my wife even joins me. I’ve always appreciated that about her. She loves me for who I am.

I am tired of those around me feeling guilt, having to change, just to conform to the person they love. If you are in a loving healthy relationship, your significant other will understand the healthy hobbies you chose to pursue.

Note: My friend Scott reminds me that the picture I painted above is painted by an individual who is loving, mature, and self-controlled–most of the time. Video games, as with any hobby, can be distorted and abused in the hands of an undisciplined individual. In order not to feed into the video game stigma your wife/girlfriend might view the hobby through, Scott suggests setting some ground rules:

  1. Be mindful of your wife/girlfriend, even though the game demands attention.
  2. Always be ready to pause. Pretty much everything is more important than your next in-game checkpoint, so put the controller down if you need to.
  3. Tell her how long you intend to play – and stick to the plan.

No matter the hobby, communication and respect are foundational to building healthy relationships. I want to encourage you to let go of any video game guilt you might carry, set some healthy ground rules, and game on.

I also wrote a follow up piece to this from the female perspective. 

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Unwritten Rules: The Ability to Pause

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Our dishwasher went out about a month ago. That same weekend, my weed eater engine decided to freeze-up, and I discovered that I owed the government money. Needless to say, I found myself feeling overwhelmed by brokenness tossed with a side of bureaucracy.

In pulling out the dishwasher to measure for a replacement, I discovered that the washer was directly plugged into the house’s electrical system. A direct electrical connection, I Googled, was a normal way of wiring dishwashers twenty years ago. Who knew? But in our modern day, the dish cleaning device is supposed to be plugged in to an electrical outlet. Something goes wrong with the dishwasher, no need to panic. All one has to do is unplug the washer and move on versus making a frantic trip to the breaker panel.

I mentioned my dishwasher dilemma in small group this past Sunday. One of the guys told me that he could help. So this past week, Brian came over and helped me wire a new electrical outlet so that I could plug the new dishwasher in. In the course of the evening, after we had finished installing the outlet, I grabbed the Nintendo Switch to show him.

As we were talking, I said something I realized I needed to write down here and share. This is one of those unwritten rules I have:

As a husband/father, who plays video games, I have to be able to immediately pause or quit a game at a moments notice.

This unwritten rule means that the games and the systems I play them on must fit the criteria of being able to pause, save, and quit on demand. I have learned:

  • To avoid gaming genres built on needing excessive amounts of time to advance/play (the MMO genre).
  • To embrace gaming systems that feature a sleep or suspend feature/button.
  • To play games that feature short core gameplay loops (the main activities that structure a game, that a player repeats over and over). These types of games allow me to feel like I have progressed/accomplished something with my gaming time.

The ability to pause at a moments notice, allows me to feel less frustrated, when I need to suddenly divert my attention to what is going on around me. Communicating, hopefully, to my family that they are important (because they are!) and worth me being present and available for.

Thinking Aloud

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My church’s youth room is decorated with black and grey tones. Even the ceiling tiles have been painted black. The overall effect reminds me of a dark cave; a dark worship cave.

As I was waiting for my wife to get out of a summer camp meeting, I talked to a few of the guys hanging out in the youth room. I was immediately asked, “Do you play Fortnite?”

Wyatt, sitting next to me, suddenly perked up, “What’s Fortnite?”

I talked with this kid, we’ll call him Alex, about the game. He gave me a history lesson on the rise of battle royale games, how most of them stemmed from a game called ARMA.

I was reminded just how nerdy gaming culture can be when Alex dove into a PC versus console debate.

“I’m a part of the PC master race.”

I’m sure you are, Alex, I’m sure you are.

My youth room encounter got me thinking about this site, my thoughts towards ministry within the gaming culture, etc. I am reminded that gaming culture spans a large swath of demographics. That when I think of gaming culture, I think of those who are closer to my age, not someone like Alex.

Reminded me that I started this blog to encourage others in the gaming space. That JohnnyBGamer has always been about promoting a balance between life and gaming. My original tagline, for the site, was: “Because there is more to life than just gaming.” I created that tagline in the midst of a season of watching friends being consumed by what they were consuming, video games. I hated that, I hated the control gaming had upon them, had upon me.

At this point in life, I am at a place where gaming doesn’t have as strong as a pull as it once did. But in talking to Alex and his friend last night, I’m reminded that there are others still in the midst of that struggle. A struggle where kids I know, kids around me, are out of control in their gaming. Makes me wonder…

How can I help parents:

  • Curate the types of video games their family consumes
  • Promote healthy media consumption habits for their children

How can I help gamers:

  • Ask questions about the games they are playing
  • Learn healthy online habits for interacting within gaming culture
  • Be aware, overall, that there is more to life than just gaming

I am not sure where God is leading me right now. But these are thoughts I’m processing through in this season after stepping down from Theology Gaming. Whether I step out and do something “big”, become more purposeful with this blog, or just take the gaming lessons I’ve learned, along the way, and use them to help my son navigate the gaming space.

From Across the Net – “Video games studied in new theological framework”

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Via the Baptist Press:

So what’s the point? Millsap is not saying that mashing buttons is a path to a deeper understanding of God or defeating the next game’s challenge is a discipleship tool. The idea is just that it’s worth considering the stories and scenarios that gamers encounter from a theological perspective.

“But because so many video games now go in a narrative direction and tell a story, it makes sense that we would want to consider them from that perspective. I need to ask myself important questions, and think about whether I believe what it’s saying is true. If a video game is intending to tell a serious narrative and I don’t approach it seriously, thoughtfully and from a Christian perspective, then I’m not doing it justice.”

You can read more here

Grow Up Faster, Kid

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Tab and I were at the bookstore recently and I came across Iron Man: The Gauntlet by Eoin Colfer. Knowing Colfer’s reputation from his Artemis Fowl series, I picked up the Iron Man book to read to Wyatt before bed. Being a good dad, in that moment, I decided to read a bit of the book before reading it aloud to the boy. I am happy I did.

Within the first chapter, teenage Tony Stark is accused of being “one of those boys”. Howard Stark’s secretary is angry at Tony for something he might have/have not done with her daughter. Tony acts surprised. All I could think of, as I was reading this, was having to explain to my 8 year old what “one of those boys” meant. I get that this is 100% par for the course for the character of Tony Stark. But I wish that Colfer could have played teen Stark more like he is in the cartoon Iron Man: Armored Adventures. Which is to say a Tony Stark that is driven, sometimes moody, but always resourceful; a Tony who is not on the girl crazy bus, yet.

For years now, I’ve noticed that children’s media (cartoons, TV shows, books, etc.) seems aimed at rushing kids to grow up. Presenting them with topics and life issues kids won’t encounter until well into the middle school years.

As someone who was homeschooled fourth grade through high school, I know that there is no hurry to grow up. Kids can be innocent, their imaginations left to thrive, by proper parental engagement in curating media choices.

My goal is not to shelter Wyatt. I want to help him work through life issues as they are presented to him. My goal is to be wary, watchful, and help make sure no outside media influences are forcing him to grow up faster than he is ready to grow up. I want my kid to remain a kid, on his own terms.

Age classifications and ratings boards cannot do the job of a parent. Just because another entity designates a piece of media as age appropriate doesn’t mean that it is.

As parents, we need to stay vigilant, realizing that we might need to hold off on introducing such things as Iron Man: The Gauntlet until our child is ready for it. Even if that day of being ready is weeks, months, or even years away.

What are you kids consuming, media-wise, that is causing them to grow up faster than they should?