Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Game Widow going Out of Print

After one year on the shelves, Game Widow will be pulled from major bookstores this winter - both online and off. It will still be available on the GameWidow.org website, however.

Thanks to everyone who helped me with research, writing, publishing and publicizing. It's helped quite a few people who have never played video games - and never want to play video games - to understand and get along better with family members who are fans. And more than fans.

It's definitely been a worthwhile experience to share the basics...

Friday, June 12, 2009

Book Critics Book Review of Game Widow, by Wendy Kays

Article Author: Matt Paprocki
Published March 10, 2009

Gamers have every right to fear over a book titled The Game Widow. After countless sensationalized media reports blasting the industry, Wendy Kays’ tale of being left alone while her husband played video games seems almost too much to take…

… yet it’s actually not what you think.

Kays isn’t slamming the industry, stating it will turn people into ravenous killers, create child rapists, or put people into an early grave. No, that’s what uneducated major news organizations are for. The focus in Widow is to help people (*gasp*) understand the industry, and why the games are so involving.

Kays does a fantastic job of laying out the basics, including taking non-players through the halls of a fake massively multi-player online game called “Forever World.” Her examples use clear English, not gaming language that would be lost on mainstream readers. She details a relationship between a couple who play the game, and how it affects their lives, for better or worse.

Various other topics, such as game addiction, video game sales, and how to handle a spouse who plays too much are covered extensively. Despite being a brisk 117 pages (not including all of the back-end items), this is a valuable piece for those looking to take some control over a gaming habit that’s controlling lives.

Surprisingly, even though Kays has no credentials as a psychologist or any type of therapist, her advice tends to make more sense than many of those featured on TV when gaming becomes a hot topic. Say, writing on a calendar to track how much time a person is playing to let them see how it’s affecting everything. Kays even deals with how to live with a gamer who won’t stop playing, not to mention clear explanations of why they won’t quit to spend time elsewhere.

With a plethora of books on the market aimed at scaring people on the outside, Game Widow is a pleasant change of pace. While it’s not on for the gaming crowd, it’s one for the gaming crowd to hand off to someone who doesn’t play to let them in on what it is that draws gamers back for repeat sessions. Clear, well written, and easy to grasp, Game Widow is easy to recommend.

Matt Paprocki is the former reviews editor for Digital Press. The deep game collection, which spans nearly 30 systems and 2,000 games, lines his walls for research purposes. Matt strives to bring credibility to video game journalism.

Visit Matt Paprocki's author pageMatt Paprocki's Blog

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Free Game Widow Book Download

Looking for a quick, cheap read? For the entire month of May 2009, the whole content of Game Widow will be free on gamewidow.org. Think of it as a one-author stimulus package for families with video game relationship stress + economy stress. Have you been curious, but not sure if Game Widow has anything in it you don’t already know – or anything helpful to offer? Have a free read to check it out. Is your gamer turning to video games more than usual to escape, to change moods, to kill time while waiting for employers to call (with good or bad news)? Change your own mood by turning to a free book. Have you been concerned that this is just an angry wife rant book? Now you can sneak a look what your spouse’s friends are reading – without being seen – for free.

One month only, so check it out now. Time does fly!

(Wendy Kays is the author of Game Widow...also inexpensively available in a handheld paper version with spiffy binding at your favorite online and offline booksellers.)

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Women are from Facebook, Men are from WoW

With millions of people online socializing, you’d think everyone connected to the Internet is cool with a significant other spending hours online for entertainment. We do it ourselves, so we should be clear on what those hours are all about. No big deal.

But we're not clear, and we're not cool. Why?

Just because you’re fluent in the language and culture of Facebook or Twitter doesn’t mean you’re fluent in the same aspects of online games. The virtual worlds of video games are very different than the social networking worlds. Whether you’re male or female, it’s important to understand that just because we all live in the same world and have access to the same Internet doesn’t mean we are all doing the same sort of things online for entertainment. Or doing them for the same reasons.

Gamers tend to excuse their long hours soaked into a digital world by saying it’s just a hobby like any other hobby – knitting, watching tv, or chatting on a social web site. However, this is hugely inaccurate. The Grand Canyon-sized gulf between the culture, language and immersiveness of video games and the same aspects of other activities leaves outsiders at a complete loss when looking at the back of a gamer’s head.

The “addictive quality” of Facebook keeps a typical user on the site for almost three hours a month. The average user of World of Warcraft is likely to spends more than three hours logged in on a single night. People who abuse MMOs invest as much as 80+ hours a week “playing.”

What’s the difference between Facebook and World of Warcraft? Just about the same difference as that yawing gulf between the expectations of a man vs. a woman in a romantic relationship.

Knitting and Facebook are hobbies – video games are a fully functioning alternate life. If I could get as much emotionally from knitting as I can from playing an online video game, I’d be the Afghan Queen of the Pacific Northwest. It’s time to stop sitting on two sides of a fence arguing, and face some honest assessment of why games are so much better than real life. Just like unresolved conflict in a marriage, refusing to confront the real issues will not make them wither and die from neglect. Convincing an unhappy spouse to play video games is not resolution to relationship problems. Somewhere down the road, the gulf will have to be filled – if not now, when it’s small, later, when it covers a continent.

(Wendy Kays is the author of GameWidow, a primer for non-gamers on the basic whys and wherefores of key video game issues.)

Saturday, January 17, 2009

A Dream of Character Over Stereotype

In his famous speech, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."

I wonder what he would think today of our society - not just offline, but online. Many people flee judgement based on their physical appearance by retreating into massively multiplayer online games, where ironically, judgement based on physical appearance is still paramount. How can you escape being a [fill in the blank] online? You, the player, can choose a cartoon that looks nothing like you, called an avatar. You get to choose the stereotypes by which your avatar, and yourself as the controller of the avatar, will be judged. It is merely an illusion of escape. A choice of which prejudices you prefer over others.

No matter what black or white, blue or green represent - coolness or repugnance, toughness or illness, high fashion or out of fashion - we are a judgemental society. Still. Naturally, you'd expect all avatars to be pretty. However, many gamers choose hideous beasts. Why? Even a hideous beast has symbolic and social meaning.

But even when stripped of the interesting avatar choices and gaming stereotypes, and you can truly judge an individual gamer by the choices he or she makes. A gamer's character is truly the sum of his or her daily habits. Perhaps one day, the sum of a gamer's character will be seen in the effects of gaming on family, friends and society instead of in black and white, two side only, good and evil debates about the games themselves.

It's only a dream, but hey - slow progress brought us the election of a man for his character instead of his skin, just as Dr. King hoped would one day happen. (If one can ever truly know the character of a policitian?) Perhaps slow progress will also eventually bring us out of the technology worship that blinds us to the long-term consequences of entertainment bullies. I don't know if Dr. King's four children play video games, or his grandchildren, but I'd prefer to dream that they do something more appropriate to their forefather's legacy in their spare time. Can you imagine if we all did something more inspirational with our spare time than play Solitare or Halo?

(Wendy Kays is the author of Game Widow, elevating the conversation about video games between gamers and non-gamers from "he said, she said" to the larger issues at hand.)

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Go Selfish With Your New Year's Resolutions

All the game widows - and game widowers - I know are making New Year's Resolutions. For the most part, they are the same goals everyone else makes. Get more exercise, spend more time with family and friends, etc. However, unlike most people I know, most of the success of their goal relies on a change in Someone Else.

This Someone Else is the significant other who has no intention of cutting back on time spent playing video games this year.

So my game widow friends are doomed to failure. Why? Because you can't make goals for other people and expect them to be met. You can only make an impact on truly personal goals. Selfish goals, that have nothing to do with changing anyone but the goal-maker, and require action (or inaction, if quitting something is at stake) only by the person wanting change.

If you think about it, most gamers have no incentive to change. First, they don't see anything wrong with having another person waiting on them hand and foot. I'd truly love to be in that dilemma myself, honestly. Second, even if they want to pull back on gaming to enjoy other important parts of their life, when the goal is dictated from on high by someone really fed up and angry...well...the kneejerk reaction is to take the opposite point of view and fight for the right to be a total slob.

Most gamers want balance. They understand that gaming is a double-edged sword. Most of the benefits of play are also drawbacks when games are abused. However, changing needs to be their priority - not yours.

So this year, make some truly selfish goals. Change things the half of the relationship you DO have control over. Some suggestions: Stop being angry. Stop waiting on your gamer like a slave. And stop waiting on your gamer, period. In more detail: Gamers don't notice your anger while gaming, and use it as an excuse to escape back into the game. Stop punishing yourself, and them, and be shocked at how much happier you are. Don't do any personal chores for an adult gamer (laundry, toiletry shopping, etc.) that affect only them, and don't wait or expect them to help you. And don't wait on the couch for the magical "when the game is over" moment. Leave. Get a life. Have your own friends, career, pursuits and life that doesn't come to a halt just because your SO's head is stuck in Neverland.

Happy New Year, and...Be Happier This Year!

(Wendy Kays is the author of "Game Widow," a short guide to all the burning questions non-gamers have about why gamers are doing this to us.)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Perfect Gift vs. The Perfect Holiday

A few years ago, a family member sent Jennifer and her husband, Bob, a check for Christmas. Bob asked Jennifer if he could buy a game console with the money. Jennifer reluctantly agreed. Bob immediately left the house to buy the console, invited a friend to come over and play, and they spent the rest of Christmas Day sitting on the coffee table playing. Jennifer, sitting on the couch, took a picture of the backs of their heads to remember the holiday. She still has it.

As millions of people across the globe prepare for a season of gift giving and family, many are unwittingly planning the failure of their own peace on earth. How? By buying the perfect gift for the obsessive gamer in their life – another video game. Experienced parents and spouses of gamers know that the worst days of game widowhood (i.e. being ignored by a gamer) are those when a gamer gets a new game.

For both gamers and non-gamers, the temptation to give video games as gifts is almost overwhelming. After all, they are received with great joy and enthusiasm, they are great babysitters, and they’re cheap in dollars per hour compared to other forms of entertainment. However, this cheap peace can come with a high emotional price tag. With the positives of video games, there are also well-recognized negatives: the tantrums, the fights over whose turn it is, the gamer’s emotional angst during play and hangover after playing…and the simple fact that a gamer gaming is not spending time with a non-gaming family.

Five suggestions for people considering games as gifts:

First, if you have a problem gamer in the family, don’t give him or her a video game gift. No hardware, no software, no virtual property, nothing. It just doesn’t make sense to give a gift, any gift, which will only cause more trouble.

Second, if you want a non-gaming holiday, set expectations for that, with your gamer, ahead of time.

Third, have your gamer help decide the non-game guests and activities for that day.

Fourth, if despite your best efforts your gamer does retreat into a video game, don’t yell, nag, or beg. But don’t wait on him or her with food and apologies, either.

Fifth and finally, enjoy holiday activities and friends…without the gamer. Don’t be an emotional hostage. It’s natural to be disappointed that things didn’t turn out as hoped, but you need to remember that adults get to make their own decisions, and face the consequences of those decisions. All you can control is your half of the relationship.