This is our truth, tell us yours
I read someone at the weekend decrying the lack of non fighting games, and suggesting this is why so many women wander away from gaming. It struck me as the kind of reductive reasoning that leads to Women are from Venus men are from a small planet revolving around Alpha Centauri, and I didn’t give it much more thought. Until I read this wonderful, honest and very perceptive post by Carter that is. In it he discusses the idea of learning from mistakes, and how important it is to look at yourself honestly in order to make that learning real and worthwhile.
I instantly thought of Portal. Portal is exactly the sort of game some would argue appeals to females. Although in using the term female I always picture this. Portal is a series of puzzles, with wonderful word play, running gags, and the worst bring your daughter to work day ever. It won every award going. It is also pointless to play more than once, I defy anyone to finish it then decide to go back to it. The modifications may add new rooms, but do not fundamentally change the game. Novel and engaging for about 4 hours, it is a one time play of a game. Now I can see your eyes glazing over as you wonder what a game review has to do with relationships, but bear with me.
We are taught as kids, and often into adulthood that relationships should be like a game of Portal. Something we play once, with only one way of getting it right, and one acceptable outcome. The problem is that first person shooters are more fun. Even something as generic as COD is different every time you play. We may be told, and believe that one is more worthy, but each time you log onto a game like COD or Fallout it is different. The world wants us to all be portal fans, following the same line, to the same place, but, if you go into any club or bar, sign up to any online site, its clear lots of us are happy with the variety and rush of difference and newness.
The problem with the portal model of relationships is that the only option you have is to repeat what you did last time, perhaps more quickly or with fewer mistakes, but no substantial difference. Carter referred to this as the relationship merry go round. It’s easy to believe that somehow if you are queer, or poly, you can spot when you have got on the merry go round. Sometimes I sense in the use of the term vanilla that some people seem to think they have evolved beyond mistakes and relationship pitfalls. This is of course complete hogwash.
When I was younger, much younger, I was in what would be called a poly relationship with my partner’s best friend. We had never heard the term poly, we just liked each other, liked fucking each other and did it as often as we could. The one thing we didnt do was talk, oh we had rules, sensible ones, but we never actually talked about how we felt. It disintegrated pretty messily in a morass of hurt feelings and confusion.
We didn’t talk because we still thought we were playing portal when actually we had wandered off onto a whole new game. No one had told us this game even existed though, and young and foolish we didnt try to work out what its rules were.
Over the years what I learnt that what I liked the most about threesomes was what I like about Gears of War, brief exhilarating encounters that are about as meaningful as a Helen Lewis tweet about the makeup of the cabinet. I had to unlearn some stuff to realise that. Once I did unlearn that though I was able to see that it is once we understand there are no rules that we can write the rules which work for us.
I am, somehow, in two relationships which bring me joy and pleasure. When I wandered into a chat room I was not even looking for a Dom, I had been told there were rules on how you did that, a complex series of tests and communications worthy of Portal itself. The one thing you most certainly did not do is take your clothes of and giggle on cam as someone made jokes and encouraged you to be filthy. Since that day people on the outside have struggled with the fact we are not on that relationship escalator Stavvers mentions. I drifted away from BDSM because it is full of people who have simply replaced Barbara Cartland with E.L James, swapped white wedding dresses for leather kilts. That seems to me as pointless as replaying Portal once you have solved each puzzle, and I would much rather spend my time making new memories rather than rehashing old ones.