Sunday, August 8, 2010


My husband plays MMORPGs*. Passionately. When I started dating him in 2005, he was coming off of a year of hermitage in which he played EverQuest, ate McDonalds, and avoided sunlight and human touch. In fact, he quit EverQuest when we got serious because he came to the realization that he could not sustain both relationships simultaneously (I had no part in this decision. I am a cool wife that is okay with her gaming husband). 

Since we've been married and have established an acceptable work-life-play balance, he has taken up Vanguard. (He says after EverQuest, WoW was a joke and intolerable. For whatever reason, he finds Vanguard acceptable.) I, honestly, don't know the difference. I am equally unversed in his other nerdery - D&D; his Stars, both Wars and Trek; DragonballZ...
I simply do not understand his passion for these things, because.. you see...

We are different brands of nerd.

I am a science nerd. As a child, my greatest desires were glasses, braces, and a microscope, and I got them all. I read. A lot. My childhood was filled with logic puzzle books, quadratic equations, headgear, band camp, and being obsessively organized. Although a lot of this was fostered by my parents and I can be as bitter as I want about it now (could have really used some social skills in high school. Thanks a lot), I was not unhappy. Crazy people don't know they're crazy! Obviously, not all science nerds were like this, but I was a walking, talking, socks-with-sandals stereotype. 

All that to say, my gamer husband is reciprocally inexperienced in my brands of nerdery. Despite his current fleshy nerd exterior, he was a late bloomer and lived the life of a meathead football jock through high school. We would have hated each other in high school. It was not until college, when a friend of his opened a comic book store, that he gave in to his secret nerd desires and he has never turned back.

Thankfully, we're both readers, which I think is the only overlap between our nerd subsets. I don't think I could have married someone who didn't read voraciously. However, this lack of overlap is not because I haven't tried. Because my nerd craving is mostly satisfied at work during the day and his pursuits are more "leisurely", it's inevitable that I'm exposed to his nerdery more than he is mine. As I type, he's playing Vanguard beside me, as he does most evenings after the kiddo's in bed and we've had some quality time. I know about raids and guilds and halfling bards, but I'm still a little fuzzy on the point of aggro. I even tried to play an RPG once... I think I was a superhero of some sort? And I was running through the ruined streets of a city trying to kill monsters? Mostly, what I remember is the eleventy billion things around the edge of my screen that I was supposed to keep up with. It is equally incomprehensible to me how he keeps up with all of those things as it is how he can enjoy DragonballZ. I DON'T GET IT.

And I'm not sure I can be trained to get it, at this point. What kind of people are attracted to playing MMORPGs, and what kind of people stick around? Obviously, there are millions of people who invest a lot of time and thought into these games (both the makers and players); what do they have in common and what am I lacking? I literally felt mentally incapable of keeping up with all the blinking panels and meters around my screen. Practice would certainly improve my skills, but I doubt I could ever get through a session without feeling terribly overwhelmed and inefficient, which would overshadow any enjoyment I would derive from playing. Maybe this is just a fault of my particular personality, as I tend to get overstimulated easily, but I wonder if it's a trait I'm missing as opposed to an inhibitory trait I possess.

Of course, there's the stereotype of the lonely, overweight 40-something white male sitting in his mother's basement drinking Bawls as he lives out his fantasies of grandeur and masculine prowess through his character. But there are plenty of people I know that play who do not fit this stereotype, my husband being one of them (for the most part). And even so, I'm not really wondering what it is that attracts people, I'm wondering if there's some kind of neural prerequisite for feeling capable of playing these games. Are our kids growing up better at paying attention to many things simultaneously? Are we becoming more visual? Are our attention spans becoming shorter and more superficial? Am I just retarded because I don't have the multi-tasking skills of a 14-year-old boy? Don't answer that last one.

*That's Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games, you n00b.

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