Illustration by Carly Jean Andrews

For the Annoyed Partners of Gamers, Laziness Isn’t the Issue

It’s not that you’re on the couch all day; it’s that she can’t get a word in edgewise

Proof that we think of gamers as time-wasting über-dorks came when Pokémon Go hit and was immediately hailed as the first game to finally get sluggish gamers off their lazy asses. Further proof that the sting of being called lazy for playing video games still burns: A recent Reddit thread asking users to comment on what double standard irritates them the most. That produced a recurring theme — the irritation of being called lazy for playing video games, especially by (allegedly hypocritical) people who are sitting next to you and refreshing Facebook or binge-watching Netflix.

“Hey Reddit: Which double standard irritates you the most?” RxPharmChem asked the crowd recently. “My wife is cool with me watching TV for an hour or two, but not playing video games for the same amount of time,” Chazwozel shot back. “Parent: ‘You’re wasting so much time playing those stupid video games,’ followed by the parent watching TV from the moment they get home till they go to bed,” bangersnmash13 chimed in.

“Everyone says something trite about wasting time on playing video games,” Carbon_Dirt notes. “‘You could be exploring outside, catching up with your friends, learning a new language, playing guitar!’ But if you turn around and ask the last time they pursued any of those goals, you’ll probably get a stammer or awkward silence.”

It’s true: As far as value judgments go, what’s the difference between devoting your free time to pinning images of your favorite pottery on Pinterest versus dropping six hours on Diablo? Nothing! And studies show that gaming does have bona fide cognitive benefits when it comes to memory and decision-making. We doubt the same could be shown of Twitter.

But it’s pretty obvious why it might be more irritating to live with and love a gamer than someone who whiles away the hours with Hulu, and laziness isn’t the issue. Video games are by design, incredibly immersive and absorbing. It’s easy to pause Netflix or look up from your Kindle to maintain a conversation, but gamers may resent or simply ignore any interruption lest they miss a key move.

Proof of that was in an example of a gamer living with someone who worked hard to accommodate exactly that immersion. “My girl curls up next to me on the couch and reads a book, Facebooks, watches Netflix on her phone, etc.,” Echo-Phi writes. “If I am playing an RPG she makes sure I am not trying to read anything before talking to me about whatever…. Occasionally I will watch an episode of… Downtown Abbey or whatever the name of the garbage is. Give it a shot.”

But not everyone can accommodate such an intense pastime, and other commenters explained why it isn’t as simple as just putting up with a gamer’s need for silence, even when you have no problem with the hobby itself. “Ha, my wife said the same thing but specifically about Overwatch,” another commenter responded to a thread about gamers being difficult to interrupt. “But what she said was that it was inconvenient to her for me to play Overwatch while the baby was awake because it’s not something I can pause if I need to get up and help her, which is totally fair. TV, or even non-multiplayer games I can pause whenever I’m needed to pitch in. So now I only play Overwatch when the baby is asleep.”

Plus, games make a lot of noise, and while headphones are one obvious solution, it’s not always the easy one, others noted. “Not just the noise of the games,” Sat-AM replies. “I’m usually fine with the sounds of the games themselves, and play them with my bf regularly, but the second he swaps to something remotely competitive rage mode gets turned on and I can’t stand to be in the same room with him. We try to play games together (albeit different games on different computers) to spend time together, so by that point I’d rather we watch a movie than be in a situation where it was supposed to be time together pushing me out.”

Others find the screen itself nauseating. “I have this problem with my husband, I can’t watch him play, it makes me incredibly sick,” pmwoofers says. “I try with each new game, but I haven’t found one that he plays that I can stand. It even being on in the same room bothers me. Granted, that makes sense since our giant TV basically looks like an entire wall moving from the corner of my eye… So he plays while I sleep or are working in another room, and we watch normal TV while he plays handheld games. I don’t care that he plays, I just want to be able to sit in the same room without feeling nauseated.”

It also is a total time suck for some people, at least in terms of losing track of time that isn’t broken up the way, say, a Netflix binge reminds you when you’ve been watching a long time. “I feel like gaming in particular (at least in my experience) is a huge time sucker without you even realizing it,” personalhell2984 said. “If I go to play a game I enjoy I can easily spend all day on it. And then it’s dinner time and it’s like whut happened. I don’t think I could ever sit and watch TV that long.”

Personalhell2894 went on to eventually sum up the precise difference between gaming obsessively and your garden-variety internet obsession: “They’re two separate things,” they wrote. “[Video games are] kind of like someone being on the phone all the time with someone else… but in the same room?”

Taken together, these anecdotes remind us that it probably is time we stopped calling gamers lazy time-wasters, but instead just called them… exceptionally preoccupied with something else to the point of frequent obliviousness and the suffering of those nearby. Whatever we call it, the solution may still be simple — gamers living with an innocent other should play when that person is asleep or away, or find someone who either wants to play video games with them, or actually enjoys watching them save the world, digitally speaking, for hours on end, without interrupting. That, however, is easier said than done.

“It could be reasonable if she wants to watch with you, but doesn’t really like watching the gameplay,” lessonbefore noted sagely. “I happen to enjoy watching people play video games, but plenty of people find it boring.”