Duane Hoffmann / msnbc.com
If you hope to convert your game-averse sweetie, don't force her to play the games that you like. Oh, and don't ignore her when you play.
By Games editor
msnbc.com
updated 9/4/2008 9:08:42 AM ET 2008-09-04T13:08:42

If you want to turn your lady friend into a gaming fan, here’s some advice from Xbox Live community manager Christa Phillips: Don’t be a jerk.

Sounds obvious enough, but the statement earned knowing laughs and enthusiastic applause from the standing-room-only crowd gathered for the “How to Get Your Girlfriend Into Gaming” panel at the Penny Arcade gaming convention in Seattle recently.

Seems some of you game-playing gents like to throw the controller, use four-letter words and ignore company when you’re immersed in a video game. And that’s just no way to convince your sweetie to forego date night for a little co-op “Castle Crashers.”  “The game becomes the enemy, like sports,” said Phillips.

The five girl-gamer panelists had other advice for the audience of 100-plus: Don’t impose your favorite game on your gal pal. “Girlfriends may not be into ‘Halo,’ but they might like something else, so don’t force ‘Halo’ on them and expect them to love gaming,” said Cori Roberts, editor of Gameinatrix.com.

Davin Loh, a freelance writer from Chicago, has been down that road. His girlfriend played “Halo” for five minutes and got dizzy. He came to the panel to get tips on how to get her into games other than “Rock Band” and “Elite Beat Agents.”

(It’s worth noting that said girlfriend, Aleen Lee, trucked across the country to attend PAX — and the panel — with her beau.) She countered that she’s not opposed to gaming at all — she’s just busy with her job as an attorney.  “When I do have free time, I don’t want to be blowing things up,” she said.

There’s definitely more to games than blowing things up, said panel participants. Your wife may not want to score headshots in “Gears of War,” but she might dig playing “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.” Licensed properties such as “Harry Potter” or “Spider-Man” may earn an eye-roll from the hard-core gaming crowd, but “name recognition can hook people,” said panelist Jane Pinckard, editor of GameGirlAdvance.

Here’s another idea: Play co-op. Many games have a cooperative mode, where you and a buddy can tackle missions as a duo. Or if that’s still too intimidating, have your girlfriend sit with you and watch while you game. Heck, you can even ask her to be your wingman, said Phillips.

“Ask her to help you spot snipers,” she said. “Chicks like flattery. If she feels like she’s helping, then you’re making it a positive experience.”

So, what are some other good games for noobs? Internet casual games — which are popular with the female set — are a great entrée into the video-game world. Some are just online versions of offline games, such as poker and Sudoku, and still others are variations of well-known themes, such as match games and hidden-object puzzles.

And, of course, everyone gave props to Nintendo for making gaming more inclusive. Heck, Carrie Underwood has a pink DS, right? And the Wii made being a gamer as easy as operating a TV remote.

But plenty of audience members — who lined up to ask advice as though the panel were a live-action “Loveline” session — wanted to know how to turn their Wii-fan woman into a harder-core gamer. And another common lament: My girl games, but won’t identify herself as a gamer. How do I get her to cop to it?

Good luck, said the panelists. Until recently, the vast majority of gamers were young boys, and games were considered toys. There’s still a stigma attached to gaming — and that’s not going to change overnight.

But Nicole Tanner, moderator of the panel and PR director at game company Foundation 9, said the gamer label isn’t important. “Playing the game is what counts, not identifying as a gamer.”

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