Just Because They’re Video Game Characters Doesn’t Mean They’re Not YOURS
I know this video is old news, but earlier this week, a discussion with Deyndor on Twitter about domestic violence reminded me of it. Ignore the really, um, silly, article containing the video. For those who didn’t watch the video (I’ll confess I didn’t have the heart to watch it either), it’s a girl deleting her boyfriend’s WoW characters. Anyone who enjoys dramatic threads in the customer service forum knows this kind of thing happens all the time and isn’t overly shocking.
What weirds me out is how the perception people have of this.
“Oh, she must not have known how much characters can mean to a person.”
“It’s true, World of Warcraft can be very addicting.”
“It’s not a big deal, characters can be restored.”
Maybe the story needs to be told in a different way:
This girl went uninvited into her boyfriend’s personal space and broke his stuff in an effort to control him.
Sure, it’s not as spectacular or as sickening as pushing a pregnant woman down the stairs, but it’s still a form of violence. It’s disrespecting your partner’s personal space, it’s trying to control someone and it’s putting yourself in a position of power over them. A romantic relationship isn’t a parent-child relationship. Neither person has authority to “confiscate” anything from the other.
Maybe the abuse in that video’s relationship will stay at the deleting WoW characters level, maybe it’ll escalate, who knows? I sure as heck wouldn’t stick around to find out.
Would I be upset if a boyfriend deleted my WoW characters?
I’d be devastated. Not over of the missing pixels on my screen (after all, those can be restored easily), but over losing the trust I had in that person. Over realizing that this person has no regard for me or my personal space. Over discovering that someone I cared about would want me to be distressed.
I’ve dumped boys over less. I’d rather curl up with the vibrator every night for the rest of my life than have to put up with that kind of bullshit. (Vibrators are much lower maintenance anyway.)
On Having a Partner that Plays Too Much
I’m not disregarding the frustration that comes from disagreeing on “how much is too much” when it comes to gaming. Even though I’m a gamer too, I’ve seen been in the “ITS NOT FAIR THAT I HAVE TO WORK MY ARSE OFF AND ALL YOU DO IS SIT AROUND AND PLAY VIDEO GAMES” camp many, many times. (I’m sure I’ve been in the opposite camp as well, but guys don’t complain about that stuff much.)
The thing is, when we’re not talking about video game addiction (I’ll get into that later), it’s up to both partners to find an acceptable solution. Trying to control the other person doesn’t work, or, at least, it doesn’t work in a very satisfying way.
There are plenty of ways to go about it. I had a guildie who was fine with raiding only one night a week. Another reserved Friday and Saturday evenings for elaborate date nights. Another had a wife who actually encouraged his gaming so she could get dibs on to the TV remote control. And Honorshammer once wrote a beautiful post about being a gamer in a healthy, happy relationship. (Even if the religious context doesn’t strike a chord with you, what he says is still applicable to non-Christians.)
Just like any other aspect of a relationship, communication is key. And if you can’t come to an agreement, you’re either not compatible, or one of you isn’t in the right state of mind for a serious relationship. You probably notice it other aspects of your relationship too (whether you admit it or not) and character deletion isn’t going to change that.
When Addiction Comes to Play
There are entire books written on gaming addiction, and I’m no addiction specialist, so this is going to be short and superficial.
Any type of addiction is a sad occurrence. It’s devastating for the addicted person and it’s devastating the friends and families losing the person they love. Unfortunately, though, it’s up to the addicted person to realize they’re out of control and to take the measures needed to rebuilt their lives. Sometimes it takes losing everything. Oh, from the outside we can let our friend know where they can find us when they’re better and be supportive and encouraging when they’ve decided to get a grip back on their lives. But ultimately, it’s their lives and they’re the ones who have what it takes stop the downward spiral. We can’t try to drag them back up, or cling to them as they pull us down with them.
Again, character deletion isn’t going to fix anything. Unless you’re in a position of authority (hint: in a relationship, you’re not), taking the object of addiction away from an addicted person accomplishes nothing but turning them against you. (And when you are in a position of authority, you still turn them against you.)
It’s Not About the Game
The bottom line is, invading a partner’s space, betraying their trust and trying to control them without their consent is wrong and not conducive to a happy relationship. True, video game characters don’t cost anything, aren’t essential to your day to day life and are easily restored. So what? They’re still your belongings and if having your stuff destroyed is your idea of a happy relationship, well… I got nothing.
On the flipside of the coin, as a gamer, if you’re not interested in investing yourself in a relationship and putting your partner’s needs first, then don’t. Society tries to drive into our heads that two-manning life ALL THE TIME is the only acceptable way to live, but that’s a load of crap. There’s nothing wrong with being single if you feel like being single. And there’s everything wrong with making commitments you’re not interested in keeping.Internet Anthropology