“In fact, I’ve never seen her this excited for me to go play D&D.”

In my keynote to PAX East last year, I said that gaming is the foundation of, and the mortar that holds together, the strongest and longest lasting friendships in my life. I've been playing with the same guys since high school, and even though we all live in different states (and some of us live in different countries), a few times a year we all gather at someone's house (usually our friend Cal's house) for a day of gaming, eating, drinking, and more drinking.

Over the years, girlfriends and boyfriends have come and gone, members have been added to our group, and our family has grown. We've introduced our gamer-adjacent partners to the hobby that we love so much, using infection vectors like Wits & WagersPandemicFrank's Zoo, and Shadows Over Camelot. We've had children (Yay! Future gamers!), divorces (Boo! Now it's awkward!), and a D&D campaign that lasted for a decade. Without gaming, we'd still see each other, but I know we wouldn't see each other nearly as often as we do.

About a month ago, we got together for our annual holiday gathering. Cal told me that he wanted to run a D&D one-shot, and that he wanted me to set the date, so I wouldn't be able to back out for some series of reasons that were defined as "bullshit."

I pulled out my phone, and looked at my calendar. "How about January 29?"

Cal called our friend Steve over to the kitchen. Steve lives in Northern California, and getting down to Cal's for game day is about as complicated as flying to LAX from SFO.

"Wil says he can play on the 29th. Can you come down?"

Steve didn't hesitate. "I can do that." He looked at me, pointedly. "…but can you?"

"I just said I could. That's why Cal called you over."

They looked at each other. We've been planning a one-shot for a few years, and it always falls apart because of me, and some series of reasons that are always defined a "bullshit." They looked back at me. Nothing needed to be said.

"I promise that I will play on the 29th," I said. I typed it into my calendar. "See? I'm typing it into my calendar right now. That makes it official."

Cal set his wine glass on the counter, and pointed at me. "Okay, we'll play on the 29th, but if you don't show up, I am coming to your house, and I will punch you in the dick."

Steve said, "I will also fly down from San Francisco and I will also punch you in the dick."

I said, "Well, I don't want to get punched in the dick, and I really want to play D&D with my friends, so I don't think it will be a problem."

We made celebratory noises, and opened another bottle of wine to mark the occasion.

While I was in Portland last week, Anne called me. "Are you still playing D&D with Cal and everyone on Saturday?"

"I don't want to get punched in the dick," I said.

"… um."

"Yes. Yes, I'm playing D&D on Saturday. Why?"

"All the wives are getting together for an anti-D&D-girly-spa day while you guys play, and then everyone is getting together for dinner after. I wanted to make sure you were playing before I told them I'd go."

"Woah! That's awesome," I said. Then, I had a million dollar idea. "Someone should open up some kind of non-gamer spa or something right next to a game shop, so nerds can drop their Muggle partners off while they play."


"Yeah, if you don't know what a Muggle is, you're a Muggle. That's just science, Anne."

In the silence that followed, I could feel The Look coming through the phone at me.

"Anyway. Yes, I'm playing, and yes, you should go, because that will be awesome for both of us." 

"Mmmmkay," she said.

Our undying love was declared, and we hung up the phone.

Over the next couple of days, Anne texted me frequently about the spa day, and how much she was looking forward to getting together with her friends while I played with my friends. This morning I e-mailed Cal with some questions about the game. In his reply, he told me to make sure Anne was connected with the girls for their spa thing.

"Oh, she knows all about it," I wrote back. "In fact, I've never seen her this excited for me to go play D&D."

When I told PAX that gaming was so important to my friends and me, I didn't even consider that all of our wives, who only know each other because of us, have formed their own friendships that are independent of their nerdy husbands. So, in a way, gaming didn't just bring my group of friend together (and keep us together), it brought our wives together, too. The next time some idiot says that gaming and gamers are antisocial, I think I'll mention this … and then punch them in the dick.

80 thoughts on ““In fact, I’ve never seen her this excited for me to go play D&D.””

  1. :):):)
    We started a DnD Campaign and then our friends moved a thousand miles away… So we got skype, they have the grid thingie and we have our sheets and we play every few weeks across the internet.
    I love the future.

  2. I’m playing DnD on the 28th! Actually, pathfinder, but whatever.
    That muggle line is a good one though. I’m going to have to quote you. I’m going to do it right now on tweeeter.

  3. Irony: This arrangement of yours would not work for me because I am female, and spa days give me hives. I do, however know my way around a set of polyhedral dice and have several well-thumbed manuals on which exceptional gaming experiences can and will be based. It may not be a matter of chance that my oldest and dearest gaming friends happen to be gaming couples.

  4. In house, gaming is a family affair. I was gaming before my I met my husband and he before me. We passed on the love of gaming to our kids and in turn to some of their friends. We then infected a some couples we know and watched romances bloom between gamers. We have gaming parties usually involving alcohol and some sort of embarrassing Wii game. All in good fun. We are called immature by many but we have a relationship and bond with our kids that many cannot boast about having. I’d rather have a set of dice or controller in my hand that getting my nails done any day. I do need a man that can make me a sandwich though…

  5. RPGs are pretty much the only reason I’m still in touch with the friends I made in my teens and twenties. Most of us had to transition to play-by-email because we all live in different states now, but the ties still bind. Gaming is one of the most social activities ever!

  6. Hrm. Guess we’re the oddballs here. The spouses gather ’round the table tops and consoles while the other halves (otherwise known as “the elves that make the internet work”) do that computer programmery thing they do.

  7. If I don’t play, I get punched in the dick. If I do play I get my dick in a vise. Either way, my dick has not been very fond of gaming. However, my dick is pretty excited about this spa-day thing. Thanks for the heads-up.

  8. Have you ever managed to get Anne to play D&D with you? Gaming with spouses is fun (especially when, like me, you’re sleeping with the DM *wink wink nudge nudge*) but also has its challenges, like when you’re having a bad day and said DM gets on your case about how long its taking to do teh maths, but overall its super fun. There’s this book I got for Christmas, called “Confessions of a Part-Time Sorceress” all about getting girls to play D&D. It has all sorts of good ideas. Wow, that got rambly real quick.

  9. I’ve been indoctrinated by my husband. Not that I’m against spa days…but I’m more inclined to get my geek on with the guys. We get together every other Saturday or so, sometimes more, and play for an afternoon. Good times. Hubby has a separate group he plays with during the week that I abstain from (do have to have our space, after all). It’s like a Venn diagram of my geek time, his geek time, and our collective geek time.

  10. “Yeah, if you don’t know what a Muggle is, you’re a Muggle. ”
    Heh, I often say of someone I know, “The fact that he doesn’t KNOW he has an 8 WIS is further proof that he has an 8 WIS.”

  11. Ahhh The Look – how many times have I felt it’s cutting sting :) anyway Wheaton thanks to you (points finger shaking with apoplectic rage) and those accursed Aquisitions Inc. podcasts I’m now the owner of my very own DnD Red Box and my poor children are soon to hear it’s siren call (pssst the first one’s free ….) /sob pity my poor offspr ……. oooooo look the dice order has arrived …..

  12. About Pandemic….have you ever played with the expansion set with the purple disease? Have you ever been able to win it? I’m beginning to think that it is un-winable. It’s kind of annoying. Give me Agricola or Colosseum any day!

  13. Oh yeah, we play that expansion all the time. The joke is that we play it because "Pandemic isn't hard enough already."
    I've never had as much fun winning a game as I've had losing Pandemic. If you like it, check out Forbidden Island, which is Matt's other cooperative game.

  14. Gamers antisocial ? Possibly unpopular or counter-social depending on the situation but certainly never antisocial.
    You should see the looks I get when I suggest to my family of muggles that I am looking for a group to game with.

  15. You’re right, it is a fun game to loose but MAN it’s tense! We always think we have come up with the perfect plan and we are constantly foiled. I’m not sure my blood pressure can handle many more of those games…except maybe Forbidden Island. I love a good new game.

  16. Social and personal and gaming definitely intertwine tightly for us! I was going to say that my dearest friends are my gamer-friends — but I realized the only friends we have that *aren’t* gamers are the parents of my kids’ best buddies (and they’re comic geeks so we may convert them eventually).
    My husband and I were both gamers before we met, and we conducted our courtship, in part, over the dramatic throes near the end of a twelve-year campaign with my college friends. (Entertainingly for all of us, in the campaign aftermath, my husband’s character ended up marrying another [male] player’s female character — I gave him permission to use a few lines from love letters he’d written to me in his roleplaying emails.) We’ve played many games with our kids in a Pack’n’Play near the GM screen, and are now talking about adjusting our daughter’s gym schedule to free up our Saturdays so we can start in a new campaign.
    The divorce between our GM and one of our players (and the subsequent long-distance move) was deeply painful for all of us — for all of the usual reasons, and because it meant leaving behind a game world that was a fundamental part of us for over a decade.
    I have a great Ashleigh Brilliant postcard that hangs above my gaming stuff, which sums it up nicely: “Some of the things that will live longest in my memory never really happened.”

  17. I love this post! My husband and I are both gamers, but there are definitely “man campaigns” that I have merely a passing interest in. Now I have an idea for all us wives who aren’t as excited about say, an Epic level Masters of the Universe campaign.

  18. I wouldn’t say we’re anti-social, but we don’t exactly “fit the mold” either. I see this as a good thing, as most gamers grow up to be far more interesting people than the “norms.” Never the less, I think the stigma of being labeled “Anti-social” comes from 2 places. 1.) We weren’t doing the social things EVERYONE ELSE was doing, and 2.) there was a time where it was hard to find our brethren with which we could BE social with. Technology and especially the Internet have made gaming more popular than ever and there are LAN Centers, Card Shops, and on our worst day we could hop on an MMO or X-Box Live and find fellow gamers….well maybe they’re not always the kind of gamers we wanna hang out with, but you get the idea.
    Still, D&D has introduced me to some of the most creative and the most fun people I’ve ever met. It gives me a chance to “act” again, a hobby I let my career push to the wayside, and it fills a void in my otherwise boring 9-5 life.
    I absolutely know where you’re coming from Wil, I’ve met countless people through the various people I have gamed with. I’ve introduced people into our group who went on to form their own social circles. I’ve seen relationships develop and bloom…..and then subsequently screw the party, but even though their relationship blinded them to the fact that there was a #$@*ING DRAGON in front of us and they forgot to cast the necessary buffs we needed to survive the encounter, causing us to lose an entire party of level 20 characters we had been leveling for a GODDAMN YEAR…..you can call them a lot of things (we did…on end) but you can’t call them antisocial.

  19. As a spouse of a long-time D&D player, I am saddened to discover I have been doing this WRONG for the last eleven years! You mean instead of making sure there are tons of snacks and cooking a meal (or two) for all the players on gaming day/night I should have been spending the day at the Spa? I think you need to join my dearly beloved’s herd of nerds so your wife and I can visit one of the local spas. Pick a date that works for you and I am sure they will all clear their calendars…btw – Jan 28 is already a go at our house if that works for you!

  20. We’ve had our regular weekly(ish) game for 15 years, now. Our girlfriemds-now-wives call it “Spousal Abandonment Night”, and use it as an excuse to get together, partake in various vices, and enjoy each other’s company, all under the pretext of a “gamer widows support group.”

  21. Hi Wil,
    It’s 6 weeks until ECCC and I see you have not confirmed an appearance yet. Are you planning to be at the Con? I am travelling all the way from Australia to attend and was really looking forward to having an opportunity to meet you.

  22. “Yeah, if you don’t know what a Muggle is, you’re a Muggle. That’s just science, Anne.”
    In the silence that followed, I could feel The Look coming through the phone at me.

    I got a really good laugh out of this part. Thanks. :)

  23. We owned a game store for a few years, mostly because my husband is a huge gamer. One of our regulars used to come by with his wife and we’d chat while he played 40K. She is now my dearest friend and without gaming, we’d likely never have met. Besides, who better to understand why your husband paints little toy soldiers and then pretends to beat up other toy soldiers on a table covered with a piece of green felt and some plastic trees than another Gamer Wife?

  24. I’m shocked no one else has brought up the obvious corollary to this post! Two words: Gaming Spa.
    I’m sure no one else has ever had the experience of playing for 8 hours straight and then standing up to a world of back pain. Why not solve that by battling through a dungeon in order to reach the fabled “massage room”? And no, I don’t mean that to sound as sketchy as it does.

  25. I agree completely. It doesn’t matter what you bond over, the point is that you bond.
    In my case, I’ve been making new friends over Doctor Who. Five of us form a Geek Night on Fridays that’s been going on for… *checks calendar* …over four years now. (We watch a variety of things, but it started with Who.) Two more come on Thursday nights now, with a third possibly joining soon.
    (And? We are all women.)

  26. Alas, my husband isn’t into sports either. He’s a geek, just not a gamer geek, so in Ye Olde Days an internet cafe would probably have worked, but now? Hmmmm… will have to give it some thought!

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