Welcome again to the single, introverted, heterosexual males. We are still committed to applying your gaming experience to the romantic sphere. Remember: with a name like Kill Ten Rats, how can the dating advice be bad?
In this issue of our occasional series, let us consider the relevance of level differences. For those of you shaky on game lingo, “con” is short for “consideration,” the system by which you determine if something is an easy (blue, green, grey) target or if you are about to suffer horrible pain. The only deception we will be discussing is self-deception.
The first thing we should note is that there is no con system IRL. This is funny, because the systems are suppose to represent what you would learn from all those signals too subtle to express in-game, body language for example. In practice, you have gotten used to seeing an explicit level, a colored name, or some ++s and knowing instantly whether this is a suitable target.
As you may have noticed, people who are not on the monitor do not have colored names floating over their heads, no matter how much easier that would make meeting women. You do not get someone’s level or even her profession at first glance. Heck, my age estimates are plus or minus five years, and since I live in a college town, that can be the difference between “target age range” and “felony.”
Before we consider the rest of the world, though, take a look at yourself. Hit C to bring up your character sheet. Okay, if anything just happened IRL when you tried that, seek help now. For those of us who are mostly sane, we have only our self-perceptions to judge what our stats might be in the real world.
Show of hands: how many of you have statted out you and your friends at some point? Yeah, that means you’re a dork, but that’s okay, you’re among friends. One thing you note if you have that discussion with friends is that everyone wants a few extra points that you do not think they deserve. Strength might have an explicit measure based on how much you can lift, but Bill thinks he is more charismatic than average, Carl is not as smart as he thinks he is, and Lennie sparks a big discussion about whether manual dexterity (video games) is the same thing as what the game calls dexterity (dodging bullets, arrows, and punches).
The point is, everyone was a self-aggrandizing bias, including you, even if you have low self-esteem. You have seen everything that could possibly be good about yourself, and you probably think of yourself in the best light. You are probably estimating yourself a bit high in absolute terms, and because you do not know everything good about those around you, you are certainly giving yourself too much credit in relative terms.
You focus on what is important to you, which usually overlaps with what you are good at (whichever way causality goes there). Because other people have other priorities, your excellence at what matters to you means little to them. Remember, there are international knitting societies, magazines for goldfish fanciers, and people who are respected professionals in getting semen samples from pigs. Great fame and respect in your field may not get you much outside that sphere. This should teach you tolerance, but it should also teach you not to expect much tolerance.
The upshot is that people are not much impressed with how many level 60s you have, or that you have millions of Linden dollars worth of virtual real estate, or that you make potash more efficiently than anyone else in the game. People in-game are not that impressed that you have multiple level 60s. People outside the game who you thought cared? They were humoring you. Bringing up your new Paladin alt on the first date is not a winning strategy, nor is recounting how you got your epic gear.
Now that we have trashed your hobbies and accomplishments, let us consider your comparison group. Amongst your group of friends, you could very well be tops in several categories. Even after being realistic, you might be the smartest, the strongest, the best-looking, the best-read, whatever. Remember, though, that you are comparing yourself to your friends. Your gamer friends. Yes, you are much smarter than the guy who pulls before you rez the tank. Yes, you are in better shape than the guy whose guild title is Lord of Cheetos. But how far does that get you compared to the general population?
Factoring in all these things, how much of a catch do you think you are? Great, cut about 25% off that, and you probably have a realistic number. It is possible that you are the unique and perfect snowflake whose true worth is yet unknown, but more likely you have just been snowing yourself.
On the other side of things, you have an even more skewed view of women. Your comparison group for yourself is the men you see: other gamers, people at work, etc. Your comparison group for women is the ones you see (and notice): television, movies, games, etc.
Can we assume that only a few of you really think that humans look like they do in video games? If you are waiting for one of the Dead or Alive girls, just keep waiting. If you think that real anatomy floats and bounces like that, spare yourself the disappointment. The number of slim, athletic, infinitely flexible, large-breasted, scantily clad, sexually starved vixens is smaller than you have been led to believe.
If we can stray from games for a moment, you and I both know that television and movies are not representative of the general population, but you cannot help being influenced by them. Like self-aggrandizing bias, it is a psychological condition of the species that is hard to overcome. This is why advertising works even when we know they are trying to sell something: if you see something desirable often enough, you start to think it is normal and/or desire it.
“The girl next door”? The girl next door to you probably does not look like that. The only people who are not above average in Hollywood are specifically selected for that. “The fat girl” on that show is probably a size 8. The people who you do not consider attractive are not ugly; they are just “not your type.” Someone is running a fan site about him/her.
Over the course of your life, you have probably seen more women on a screen or monitor than in real life, and it is difficult to express how unusual a subset of the population those people are. Let’s try a simple example: write down who you think are the 1000 most attractive women. Order is not important, and good luck getting to 1000 without getting to “that girl I saw at Starbucks.” All set? Great, that list is less than 1% of the female population of Hollywood, which is less than 1% of 1% of the population. However far down you had to dredge to get 1000, you have not even skimmed the surface.
Those are just the real human beings. If they have not mis-conditioned you enough, you spend 30 hours a week frolicking with night elves and succubi. You live in an online world with an endless stream of perfectly formed purple-skinned bellydancers. Meanwhile, you are downloading pr0n in the background, and there is so much available that you can be selective about which sites devoted to six-foot-tall Chinese redheads you frequent. And hey, who needs makeup and perfect lighting when you can digitally retouch the scene or just make your own people from scratch?
Much more succinctly: lower your standards, because you do not realize just how high they are. What you are willing to “settle for” is probably well above average.
Remember too that you live in a world where the women have been similarly conditioned by Orlando Bloom and Brad Pitt, and gamer girls are used to having their own perfectly muscled eye candy running around in droves, too. In a world of six billion people, having average looks means there are more than a billion guys who are better looking than you; in a nation of 300 million, being in top 1% means that there are still more than a million more attractive men. So there is your competition.
Let us finish with some thoughts about what behavior you have been conditioned to expect. You may have noticed that women in real life do not arch their backs 80% of the time like they do in-game. You may also have noticed that women flirt with you far less often than popular entertainment has led you to expect. Indeed, there are news reports about rampant promiscuity and an epidemic of oral sex, but the tidal wave of sin seems to have missed your house.
In most forms of entertainment, if the hero’s attention falls upon a woman, there is a very good chance that she will be naked and/or dead within an hour. There are night elf strippers all over Ironforge, and if people get bored during downtime, clothing might fly while emotes run rampant. This is not the case for most of your dates. Let us summarize this point as “things do not happen as quickly as you might hope.” Pushing them to go faster can often backfire. There is a real life timer on how often you can make an attempt, and trying too soon can reset the timer. Sadly, few women come with patch notes explaining the length of the timer, the likelihood of success, or even how good the reward is for success. Remember what we said last time about your instincts.
There is good news here, though. In this modern, liberated age, we have come to recognize that women have all the same desires as men, frequently stronger ones. They are just far less likely to shout them from moving vehicles while honking the horn. This means that if you are in the right place at the right time, you too can be treated like a piece of meat.
This comes with two caveats. First, she has similar desires, but they may not be desires for you. If only one girl is nice to you all day, it probably means that she is being polite or being a good waitress, not that she is flirting with you. Second, boys are icky. You made that female character because you were tired of looking at a guy’s backside for hours every night. Face it, a woman without clothing is nude, the model for millenia worth of art, generally with her own charms and grace; a man without clothing is naked, somewhat ridiculous, generally a combination of hairy and scratching. Men’s magazines have half-naked women on the cover; women’s magazines have half-naked women on the cover. Equality of the sexes has not changed the fact that you are a harder sell than she is.
One last thing that does work from the movies is the hair and glasses thing. That is, take off the glasses, let the hair down from the bun, and she transforms from dowdy schoolmarm to smoldering temptress. Most men fail to realize how much women can change their appearance in five minutes; most women are optimistic about how much men can change with months of work. So maybe you are not such a hard sell after all.
So that is how the /con system varies between real life and game. You are probably not as high of level as you think, and the average woman looks nothing like the average woman you see on television. Next time, we will address spawn points, some places you can look that are not severely overcamped, before moving on to the IRL chat system.
Always remember, never act on anything you learned in a dating sim.