Scott Hanselman

Relationship Hacks: Playing video games and having hobbies while avoiding resentment

January 08, 2019 Comment on this post [11] Posted in Musings
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Super Nintendo Controller from PexelsI'm going to try to finished my Relationship Hacks book in 2019. I've been sitting on it too long. I'm going to try to use blog posts to spur myself into action.

A number of people asked me what projects, what code, what open source I did over the long holiday. ZERO. I did squat. I played video games, in fact. A bunch of them. I felt a little guilty then I got over it.

The Fun of Finishing - Exploring old games with Xbox Backwards Compatibility

I'm not a big gamer but I like a good story. I do single player with a plot. I consider a well-written video game to be up there with a good book or a great movie. I like a narrative and a beginning and end. Since it was the holidays, it did require some thought to play games.

When you're in a mixed relationship (a geek/techie and a non-techie) you need to be respectful of your partner's expectations. The idea of burning 4-6 hours playing games likely doesn't match up with your partner's idea of a good time. That's where communication comes in. We've found this simple system useful. It's non-gendered and should work for all types of relationships.

My spouse and I sat down at the beginning of our holiday vacation and asked each other "What do you hope to get out of this time?" Setting expectations up front avoids quiet resentment building later. She had a list of to-dos and projects, I wanted to veg.

Sitting around all day (staycation) is valid, as is using the time to take care of business (TCB). We set expectations up front to avoid conflict. We effectively scheduled my veg time so it was planned and accepted and it was *ok and guilt-free*

We've all seen the trope of the gamer hyper-focused on their video game while the resentful partner looks on. My spouse and I want to avoid that - so we do. If she knows I want to immerse myself in a game, a simple heads up goes a LONG way. We sit together, she reads, I play.

It's important to not sneak these times up on your partner. "I was planning on playing all night" can butt up against "I was hoping we'd spend time together." Boom, conflict and quiet resentment can start. Instead, a modicum of planning. A simple headsup and balance helps.

I ended up playing about 2-3 days a week, from around 8-9pm to 2am (so a REAL significant amount of time) while we hung out on the other 4-5 days. My time was after the kids were down. My wife was happy to see me get to play (and finish!) games I'd had for years.

Also, the recognition from my spouse that while she doesn't personal value my gaming time - she values that *I* value it. Avoid belittling or diminishing your partner's hobby. If you do, you'll find yourself pushing (or being pushed) away.

One day perhaps I'll get her hooked on a great game and one day I'll enjoy a Hallmark movie. Or not. ;) But for now, we enjoy knowing and respecting that we each enjoy (and sometimes share) our hobbies. End of thread.

If you enjoy my wife's thinking, check her out on my podcast The Return of Mo. My wife and I also did a full podcast with audio over our Cancer Year 

Hope you find this helpful.

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About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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January 08, 2019 3:54
Great advice! A simple conversation about expectations around anything can save a lot of arguments and heartache!
January 08, 2019 13:17
Great advice Scott, I found couch co-op works best for the non-geeks in my family. I'd heartily recommend "Overcooked", it's a blast.
January 08, 2019 13:59
Setting expectations is a great way to avoid conflict. I also found inviting friends over with kids lets you have acceptable group gaming sessions. This is also a great excuse to buy more switch games.

see you in London
January 08, 2019 20:08
Thanks for the advice! I'll admit to watching the occasional Hallmark movie to smooth things over.
January 08, 2019 21:28
Pretty impressive that you can still stay up until 2am and be productive the next day, Scott. Those days are long gone for me.
January 08, 2019 22:23
Great advice. I love these relationship hacks and I look forward for the finished book.
January 09, 2019 19:37
From someone that is in a similar relationship, I will try these wise advises.

Also, I'm highly curious to know what games did you play during holiday!
January 10, 2019 9:04
Haven't touched code outside of work for several years and appreciate the piece of mind and free time.

A reward away from the monomania disease of tech programming in 10 hour days spent coding at work and then 4 hours of coding 'fun' open source side projects outside of work.

It's better with the web because just when a framework gets traction of 1 year or more, it is on the way out with another web framework taking over. So no need to learn the current hyped web framework unless i am using it in my day job.

January 10, 2019 19:47
This is the main reason that I resisted the urge to buy a Nintendo Switch and Zelda - I'd either be annoying my wife, or feeling annoyed that I'm not getting very far with the game.
(I have other hobbies to occupy my time, too)

If I ever return to commuting by train (which I honestly hope that I don't, because it sucks) then the big 'N' will be getting my money, as I'll have a couple of hours of indisputable playing time each day.

As ever, Scott, sound advice from you.
January 12, 2019 10:15
Great advice Scott, I found couch co-op works best for the non-geeks in my family. I'd heartily recommend "Overcooked", it's a blast.
January 14, 2019 18:37
I think the question everyone is asking is What games do you Play Scott?

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.