Men are from Earth, women are from Earth: deal with it. If no one understands you or you have trouble talking to girls, the problem is probably you rather than them. You must learn to communicate with the rest of the species.
Harsh? This is a primary point: men and women tend to communicate in different ways. Come explore the implications of this and other issues with IRL’s lousy chat system in our continuing series of articles on dating for the introverted heterosexual male.
The overall point today is that you must speak so that other human beings will understand what you want them to understand. This is not a male or gamer-specific issue: we expect people to understand far more than they do. There are many reasons for this, but ultimately the responsibility for communication here lies on you, because you are the one who wants something. If you already had women petitioning to join your harem, you would not be looking for advice. Let’s hit some obvious points first.
Gamer jargon is not normal speech. We are slowly infecting the rest of the population, but most people will not get gaming lingo. If your co-worker dumped an angry customer on you as he went on break, do not say that he trained aggro to zone. Neither your boss nor your girlfriend will understand you, nor will they appreciate being called “noobs” when they do not get it. They do not know what noobs are either, but your tone gives you away.
In some ways, that can be good. You have a secret language. If you want to laugh with your gamer friends about “gf aggro,” you can get away with it as long as no one explains the joke to her. If she ever finds out, you are in trouble retroactively for every time she can remember your saying it.
A great many people are starting nearly at zero with online vocab. “ppl r n00bz wrt l33tsp34k” If you leave her a note, feel free to use complete words and sentences. If you say “lol” aloud instead of laughing… heck, I might have to slap you unless you are keeping a healthy sense of irony there.
A special note here is that, in general, longer is more polite. She may get “grats,” but at least go with the more common “congrats.” Bothering to use all those syllables in “congratulations” means you care. “sry” does not cut it for a condolences card. Speaking clearly, spelling correctly, hitting all the syllables, and including polite words like “please” will show that you are devoting at least minimal attention to this.
Younger people have an advantage here. When everyone has the internet, chat, and text messaging, most people will be used to standard abbreviations. My co-workers do not know “thx” and “np,” but that fetching lass in your class probably does. The more online she is, the more she is like our people.
If she is not part of internet culture, she will not get your jokes. She will not find them funny once you explain them. You are part of a subculture, and while you are expected to understand references from the popular culture, the rest of the population is not expected to get yours. Sorry.
She does not know who Leeroy Jenkins is. We can use “going Leeroy” as a verbal phrase, but it is nonsense to her. You explain, and she asks, “Why is it funny that someone got everyone killed?” You show her the video, and she says, “Oh…kay.”
But hey, at least she knows what you are talking about now. When you met her, she had never seen a lolcat. She had not even seen ceiling cat. She was but a babe in the woods, alternately confused and annoyed with you and your friends.
All those internet memes? Gone, even as far back as “All Your Base.” It is difficult to realize how much of your speech is based on shared experiences to which you refer with a few words. Congratulations, you have someone new with whom you can construct shared experiences and vocabulary. Until then, you sound like a freak.
You have two major options here: convert or convert her. You can speak like the rest of the meatspace people, or you can start introducing her to the internet. If you do, do so gradually. Remember, most of our online humor is kitschy crap where we laugh at/along with things that suck. She may not share your joy in absurdity and suffering.
This may also be a good test of the relationship. If you keep showing her your favorite things and she reacts badly to all of them, your breakup could be inevitable. If she takes to it and starts showing you things, that is a great sign.
Note: if she starts showing you things, do not use the phrase, “Welcome to five years ago.” She is learning and exploring, and if you act like an elitist jerk because you have been online longer, you teach her that this internet thing is a trap you use to laugh at her. Bad. Try something more like, “Yeah, I love that one, too.” Celebrate her joining you, without making her feel like she was behind. Pray that she is so kind when she updates your wardrobe.
It gets worse: even if she could understand, she would not want to hear about your paladin. No one wants to hear about your paladin. How much extra do you need to pay psychologists and prostitutes for them to listen to your gaming stories?
Those of us who play the game are only so interested. If we are talking shop, debating the finer points of rogue talent tree options, that is a good time. If this is a one-sided speech about how awesome your warlock is, we all get bored rather quickly. Now imagine someone going into that detail about cricket, croquet, or insert-hobby-here. Please, tell me more about the special way your favorite bowler approaches the pitch.
I don’t think I need to drive this point home, because you know how your musings on the finer points of Star Trek reel in the babes. Coming out as a gamer can be a gradual process, one fraught with fear of rejection and the need to build trust.
You may need to avoid phrases like, “I have a raid Friday night.” If you are spending forty hours per week online, you may not have much of a week left to talk about. You could gently broach the subject with euphemisms like “using the computer” and “spending time online.” Hey, she spends time online all the time, chatting with her friends and using MySpace. Then you can ease into “playing on the computer,” but there is a cliff soon after.
Some people recommend pretending to be part of a cult, terrorist cell, or deviant sexual group until you can explain to her what you really do with your free time. That way, she will be relieved when you say it is just Everquest. I cannot recommend this, as there is no relief when it turns out that some cults are more socially acceptable than MMORPGs, and certainly most alternative sexualities are. On the other hand, you might guess the one kink she has secretly been hiding for years, and that is good to know up front.
Finally, we come to what is perhaps the most important point. Men and women communicate differently, as do nerds and the general populace. You can think of this like chat filters.
You can filter text at either end: sending or receipt. Both systems are functionally identical, although you may have problems if you try to filter on both ends, like running text through Babelfish and back. It makes more sense to pick one direction and stick with it.
Women filter outgoing text. Men filter incoming text. You may see the immediate problem.
Girls are socialized to be nice. Speak nicely, be polite, wait and stab your friends in the back when they leave the room. Avoid conflict, because conflict means you are not friends anymore. Keep the facade of harmony at all costs. You filter what you say to keep harshness out of it. To complement this, girls learn to look for hidden meaning, trying to add the hidden harshness back into statements.
Boys are socialized to be rough and tumble. Suck it up, hit him back, and show affection by making fun of your friends. Boys throw rocks at girls to show they like them. If you fight with your friends, to the point of bleeding, you will still be friends the next day. Be as harsh as you like, and be tough enough to bear others’ harshness. Boys intentionally say things in the worst possible way and learn to pad all incoming statements back to what they really mean.
Ah, Western culture, you wacky devil. Let’s put some boys and girls in the same room and see what happens!
Women speak, and men hear nothing but fluff; she softened the statement as she was saying it, and he softened it as he heard it. Meanwhile, you say something to her, and she thinks you are a dangerous psychopath. Seriously, you will laughingly tell your friends to die in a fire, but she thinks you are breaking up with her.
Let’s try a less severe example. Your friend Bill is a little overweight. Therefore, you call him Fatty McFatfat on Teamspeak all the time. If you say, “Lardo, you really need to cut back on the donuts,” you mean that he is your friend and you are glad that you are close enough to engage in comfortable jocularity. You sharpen the statement as it goes out, he pads it as it arrives. Friendly. His girlfriend says, “Maybe you should cut back on the donuts,” and he hears how she thinks his tummy is cute. Hey, it was a nicer phrasing than the profession of friendship. Bill does not realize that she was padding her original thought, “I only eat salad and spend an hour a day exercising, so get your butt out of that chair or I am going to keep cheating on you with my pilates instructor.”
Shall we try that one in reverse? Bill, having read along with us, pads his statement as much as he can. “Honey, not to imply anything, and I love you very much, but I think it might be good if you occasionally” — she is already crying. Nice move, Bill, you fat jerk.
Where did Bill mess up? Bill recognized his maleness, but he forgot his nerdiness. Nerds have an extra set of filters, due to childhood trauma. Back when you were getting kicked around the playground and abused by your classmates, your teachers and parents told you, “They don’t really mean it.” Meanwhile, they told your classmates to play nice.
You learned to pad all incoming statements. And hey, if you learned that so long ago, everyone else must have, right? Meanwhile, they were learning a basic modicum of tact, padding outgoing statements. It is called being polite or getting along.
As a male nerd, you are double-padding all incoming statements while priding yourself on speaking bluntly. Your non-nerd girlfriend is double-padding all outgoing statements while expecting everyone else to do the same.
No, really, I cannot help you here. 6000 years of recorded history and no one has found a workaround. Sorry.
I am going to recommend two options, one of which makes things easier, the other of which never seems to work for anyone else.
First, read Part 3. Find yourself a somewhat nerdy girl. We have gone over how much you must give up to communicate with someone who is not one of our people. By the time you are comfortable talking about … whatever it is that normal people talk about, you will be insane or bored out of your skull. At some point, you will want to play your games, and either she is okay with that (and probably would have been from early on) or not (and it was never meant to be).
I am not saying to hit the bar with your konami code T-shirt, just that you will not be happy in a relationship that makes you give up yourself. You can ease her into the gamer’s world, but if she hates it there, she hates you and everyone like you. She is not hot enough to make that worthwhile.
And if you cannot hide it, flaunt it. If your minimum acceptable threshold is that she is a casual MMO player, and you are neurologically incapable of dealing with anyone who reads People, put it out front so you can get rejected before you get attached. Expect a lot of rejection because your potential dating pool is small. Be comfortable with that, because it is your least uncomfortable option.
Second, establish a norm of honesty. Avoid exaggerations like “die in a fire,” and ask her to take what you say at face value. Tell her that she will need to express herself without hidden meanings, because you are going back to your game if she says nothing is wrong. (You know something is wrong, but guessing will just get you in more trouble, so might as well keep farming primals.)
It will take a long time for her to believe that you really do not have hidden meanings. Maybe that is because you do — stop that, just come out and say it. Frankly, as I said, this does not seem to work for anyone but me. I got the sane one. Sorry.
The other key on that? You still need to pad. You have spent your entire life as a boy and a nerd. Start adding that unnecessary fluff to everything you say, because I promise you it really is necessary. You can back off once you learn how these normal humans speak, but until then just think of it as a tutorial.
Wow, did we have a lot of stereotypes there or what? All of the above statements should be taken as general statements based on statistical means from the general population. (Except where they are entirely pop-psychology crap.) Individuals differ, so you cannot predict exactly how any given person communicates based on some general trend. Even where two people are about equal, idiosyncratic differences could make one interact perfectly with you while the other is conflicting.
Join us next time to see how you can use that last insight to your advantage in Part 5: “Builds and Bartle Scores.”