Gamers—no matter how integrated into mainstream culture gaming is becoming—are still thought of as lonely, weird, socially awkward individuals who struggle with the opposite sex. Not all gamers fit within those stereotypes, just like not all home run titans take steroids, but, as with that particular example, there are always some who snuggle up comfortably within the cliche.
Spotting a prime gap in the market, Tom Thurlow launched two matchmaking websites for gamers who interact better through technology than IRL: dateagamer.com and shagagamer.com, the second of which allows gamers (and, presumably, anyone who wants to fuck a stranger) to get together for casual, no-strings sex. You'd imagine the reaction would be positive—finally, somewhere for harrowingly awkward gamers to flirt with each other—but, when one of the UK's biggest gaming websites, CVG, got wind, they weren't too happy about it. According to CVG, the videos on Shag a Gamer that offer advice on how to act when users meet women for the first time were "only slightly less painful than kidney stones."
As a gamer myself, I get what CVG is saying: it's not exactly a great idea to release a video that presumes every gamer in the world is a lonely virgin, but were the people at CVG just taking the videos too seriously? I got in touch with Tom Thurlow to hear him out.
VICE: Hey Tom. So, what made you start these websites?
Tom Thurlow: I've been obsessed with video games since I was 12 years old. I used to religiously save my paper-route money each week so I could buy a first generation Xbox and games for it. I'm still a massive geek, but now that I'm a 22-year-old, I realized I should probably start dating. I wanted to find a girlfriend who also loved video games, searched the web for a site that could help me out, but couldn't find one, so started a couple myself earlier this year.
Did you assume that other gamers would need help meeting and sleeping with people?
No, not at all. Online dating isn't taboo anymore—everyone does it—so there's no reason why gamers shouldn't either, you know? A lot of male gamers I know do struggle to find a girlfriend or even talk to girls, though, so I'm proud that my sites can lend a hand. That isn't to say that all gamers are like that at all, but for the ones who are, I'm only happy to help.
Did the fact that gaming is becoming more mainstream have anything to do with you starting the sites?
You're right that it's becoming more mainstream, but I don't know if that had anything to do with me starting the sites. Gaming is a real passion for me, as it is for many other people, so why not help to bring them together?
Did it annoy you that the promotional videos were taken off YouTube?
I was a little taken aback by actions from a section of the gaming community, yeah. It comes with the territory, but being called a "flame-wreathed-devil" for uploading an innocent, light-hearted video is a bit of a stretch. They also complied with all of YouTube's terms and conditions, but I understand if enough people flag the videos, they have to do their job and remove them.
What would you say to the critics of the site?
I'd advise critics not to take it so seriously, for one. I get that any site targeting a specific community—especially one as close-knit as gaming—is going to attract criticism, but all I was doing was responding to a gap and a demand in the market and trying to help people with similar interests find each other and maybe find love. I don't see anything too wrong with that.
Do you think your sites might thrust people with latent gamer fetishes out into the open?
Definitely. I know a lot of guys who find gamer girls very hot. I have a female friend who told me that every time she signs into Xbox Live, she'll always get one guy who gets a bit OTT about the idea of playing games with a girl. On the other side of things, the sites have a surprisingly large amount of female users, so I guess girls are flocking to them because gamers have good personalities. They're intelligent, compassionate, and more likely to show respect in a relationship than a self-assured jock who's slept with half the netball team.
Is that casual gamers or intense, hardcore gamers you're talking about?
Both. I think casual and hardcore gamers will all benefit from my sites. The whole point is to match like-minded singles, whether they like playing cards once a week or video games two hours a day. As long as they have something in common, I'd hope that my sites will help bring them together.
Are you aware of any succes stories so far? Proposals or pregnancies... anything?
Yeah, Date a Gamer has some really exciting relationships brewing at the moment. Rumor has it that there might even be a proposal in the cards. I appreciate that not everyone wants to publicize their personal lives, but I'd love to share their news with the world. I've offered to pay for their honeymoon if they let us come to the wedding, so I'm holding out for that at the moment.
Follow Henry on Twitter: @Henry_Langston
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