Who was there: The panelists consisted of Chris Brown and his wife Kelly from the Married Gamers website, Elizabeth Parmeter from GamingAngels, Dan Amrich from Activision, Christa Charter of Trixie Enterprises, and guest Zachary Snell.
What they talked about: Video games have been a source of contention in the media, but it becomes even more of a headache when the debate is brought into the home. Couples who are both gamers may have an understanding for one another's habits, but like any hobby that eats away at free time, there comes a point when boundaries must be laid.
Brown kicked off the panel by discussing how it is possible to use gaming to nourish a relationship, using himself as an example. Four years ago he and his wife Kelly were about ready to break up, but during that difficult time they knew that they had one thing in common: video games. In order to reopen the doors of communication, they used venues such as a podcast to spend time with one another and discuss subjects that they were both passionate about. Through gaming, the couple was able to create opportunities to fall in love again, and both are committed to living out their lives together. Anniversaries are now spent playing Rock Band together, and Chris acknowledges that his wife beats him at Mortal Kombat.
Communication is the key to any relationship, and Kelly pointed out that many people look at video games as a destructive thing, not a way to communicate with one another.
For Parmeter, when she first met her husband she didn't even like him. Eventually realizing that they both had gaming in common, their relationship grew from there and wound up blossoming into a marriage. Parmeter and her husband play very different games, so they are not always playing together, but they take the time to talk about their experiences.
Charter is in a long-distance marriage. She lives on the West Coast with her three children while her husband is stationed on the East Coast. Their relationship is mostly online, so they use games such as The Sims Social to stay in touch and play together.
"Our sims are soul mates," Charter said. "They have a lot more sex than we do in real life."
When the original PlayStation launched in North America back on September 9, 1995, Dan Amrich was busy getting married (and has remained married since). On their honeymoon, Amrich and his wife would play some Virtua Cop before heading out for the day. As time went on, Amrich said that his taste in games changed and that he prefers to play cooperatively with his wife.
Zachary Snell has been with his partner for seven years, and according to him, that's the equivalent of about 483 gay years. His partner doesn't play video games, and Snell spends a lot of time with Starcraft II, but he acknowledged that it's all about communication and problem solving, and he finds ways to use gaming for a reason to spend time with his partner.
Throughout the panel, Brown touched on topics such as how to make a relationship work when there's only one console in the household. This can lead to fighting and negotiations, and Parmeter pointed out that she shared a World of Warcraft account with her spouse for four years.
"I really want to play with you, but don't want to pay," she said, and went on to stress that communication is important, especially when asking to play for eight hours a day. She said that it gave them time apart, and that when they do get together they can talk about World of Warcraft.
Amrich noted that his wife has always had her own PC, but his best cooperative memories include playing Civilization II on the same PC where he would drive and she would direct him on how to take over the world. He talked about how she made the migration to World of Warcraft from City of Heroes but he still wanted to play City of Heroes. It wasn't until he realized that he felt lucky that she was even interested in games that he decided to make the switch and enjoyed being the one chaperoned by his wife.
In Charter's case, where her relationship is 90 percent online, she said that it was crucial to have that constant contact. She is not afraid to make it known when she isn't getting the responses that she needs.
The panel moved on to everyone's favorite topic: chores, a common source of marital woes. Each of the panelists outlined that there needs to be a clear understanding of when the chores are to be done. Along the same lines, it is important to spend quality time with a significant other without the distraction of consoles and gaming.
Amrich is so used to playing games cooperatively with his wife that he admitted that he would feel guilty if he were to play a single-player game without her.
Snell is the type of gamer who unwinds after a long day by firing up Fallout: New Vegas while his partner busies himself with something else. He talked about the benefits of gaming when meeting the niece and nephew of his partner because children always look up to anyone who is good at video games.
Charter also agreed that gaming is a way to bring together the family because her children from a previous marriage have found things in common with their new step-father.
During the Q&A portion of the panel, the most common question was how to get a significant other (usually a girlfriend) to play games with them. The panelists encouraged gamers to find a game that their non-gamer might like instead of having them jump straight into a first-person shooter. At the end of the day, it is about respecting a partner's hobby.
Takeaway: Communication is the most important part of a relationship, and boundaries need to be laid out if there might be any conflict in terms of how much a person plays. Gaming can be a great way to spend time with your significant other as well as a venue to spend time apart.