Perfect Ten: How to speak with your family members about playing MMOs

Never gonna get it, never gonna get it.

The nice part about growing up with serious social awkwardness as “the weird one” in my family is that really, every strange fixation I had was more or less already covered by all of my other issues. When you have a hard time being around other human beings for more than half an hour at a stretch and you feel more comfortable with books than with people, no one is really going to ask questions about why your nose is buried in a D&D manual about playing a dragon. You’re technically out and socializing; that makes this a good day. Tell us about the brain monster with bird legs.

But I assume the vast majority of our readers are capable of holding a normal conversation without feeling the need to share facts about Earth-3 from DC Comics, and at some point in the next couple of years you will have to interact with your family members again. And if they start asking questions about your MMO hobbies… well, you don’t want to lie to grandma about this stuff, but you also feel as if there are some questions you are not quite equipped to answer. Hopefully, this will equip you to do so.

1. “What do you do in those games?”

To reiterate, the point here is that you do not want to lie to grandma. But you also don’t want to tell grandma the truth about what you do in these games. Even if you’re just the most bog-standard non-roleplaying The Elder Scrolls Online player, the actual answer involves invading people’s homes and stabbing them to death.

Instead, just say that you go on adventures and explore new places. Technically, almost anything could be considered an adventure, and the homes you’re invading are new places to you, after all. And if your game of choice is more akin to Second Life… well, let’s just say that “exploring new places” sounds like a nicer euphemism.

Sure, why not.

2. “Is that like World of Warcraft?”

Just say yes.

Look, I know you’re going to be quick to point out that your game is either nothing like World of Warcraft or has substantial differences, like player housing or useful crafting or character customization or whatever. And you’re not wrong. But let’s be real here. Grandma learned what World of Warcraft is, and frankly, that means she’s already paying more attention than she really needs to. She’s a keeper. Just smile and nod and hope you don’t wind up with a wrapped copy of the next expansion under the Christmas tree while you try to figure out how to exchange it for store credit.

3. “Wouldn’t your cousin like those kinds of games?”

The cousin in discussion is always a 13-year-old named Tyler who plays Fortnite in the same way that a drunken rock band plays a hotel room after the performance. But here, you must be subtle. If you just imply that he won’t be into the game, someone is going to encourage him to get it or even buy it for him to join his cousin, and the real answer is that you don’t want Tyler in the same game as you are for the same reason that chicken farmers don’t want to set up shop inside a fox sanctuary.

Instead, just say that Tyler doesn’t have the right kind of game console for you to play together. This one is more ironclad because it requires the asker knowing what consoles you’re both playing on, and that’s hard to do when they learned that there was a console made by Nintendo and that was all they needed. You can throw in a mention of “pro series” if you want, but that may be gilding the lily.

And if I press it enough time, sometimes there's a story!

4. “Aren’t those things expensive?”

Yes. These things are ridiculously expensive. You should not have spent so much money on this game. But you don’t want to say that, so instead you can answer – truthfully – that you can play a big chunk of the game for free! Never mind that in reality you have left “free” so far behind you that it’s no longer in the same time zone.

5. “What sort of character do you play?”

Oof. Again, grandma means well here, but the problem is that basically every MMO character falls into one of three categories:

  • Your idealized mate or self, but with a sword
  • A joke or weird meme reference that seemed funny for about a week, then stupid forever after, and you kind of want to change it but in moments of self-awareness you’re forced to acknowledge that your new character would just be a more updated reference
  • Something truly weird based on a knowledge of the lore that would be impressive if you didn’t have to routinely look up things like your state capital.

So just focus on what your character does. If you use a weapon in some way, you’re a warrior. If you cast a spell, you’re a wizard. (Note: Force powers, psychic abilities, and anything which is not hitting stuff with a weapon is “casting a spell” for these purposes.) If you mostly craft stuff, try to change the subject.


6. “Don’t some people take them too seriously?”

Yes. It’s you. You’re “some people.” But instead of saying that, just shrug. Super-casual, like it’s no big deal, and also there’s no way to talk about how you’re more interested in rebuilding a make-believe elf city than in your job without sounding wrong.

7. “I’ve heard that some weird things go on with people who play those games…”

So this one you should probably just lie and say “no.” Yes, I know, I said we don’t want to lie, but let’s run down the metric. If you’re playing Second Life, grandma’s response to finding out the sheer level of depravity there will either be to recoil from you in shock and horror… or share facts with you that you have never, ever wished to know about your grandma. There is wisdom that is woe.

8. “How much time do you spend playing?”

If the actual answer is “not that much time,” say that. Possibly with another super casual shrug along the way, just to let people know that it ain’t no thang. You are a normal adult who enjoys normal adult hobbies. (Don’t say that part out loud.)

If the actual answer is “well, how many hours are there between March and now,” you should… probably still just say “not that much time.” After all, if you look at things the right way, you’re not playing that much. For example, you could note that when you consider the time spent sleeping or at work, it’s not that much remaining time in the day. Or you could note that in geological terms, you really aren’t playing all that much. Just… keep those ones to yourself.


9. “Do you think I would like them?”

No. Definitely not.

It is very possible that this is inaccurate, of course, but one thing I note from experience is that you do not want your extended family playing an MMO with you. The result will inevitably be dragging family drama into a game, and if you thought it was annoying to deal with personal drama in a raid guild, it’s a thousand times worse if your aunt is logging in to tell you that you should stop doing this dungeon so you can tell your uncle why he’s wrong.

Although I’ve heard rumors some people have functional families, so maybe this would work for you. I can’t tell you how you live.

10. “Well, as long as you’re having fun, right?”

I don’t know if there really is a right response to this one, but apparently telling my grandmother that I’m pretty sure I’d know what fun looked like if I saw it was not the right one, since she offered to fund me getting a normal hobby like building model trains. Trying to change the discussion to collecting LEGOs did not help matters.

Everyone likes a good list, and we are no different! Perfect Ten takes an MMO topic and divvies it up into 10 delicious, entertaining, and often informative segments for your snacking pleasure. Got a good idea for a list? Email us at or with the subject line “Perfect Ten.”
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