Dating can be a tough business, and no one knows this better than everyone’s favourite pixelated plumber, Mario.
If you, like our brave Nintendo hero, are having trouble finding your geeky prince or princess, have you considered that maybe you’re looking in the wrong place?
Enter Reload Bar and Games. This week, the geek-friendly establishment hosted the first ever video game speed dating event in Canberra.
As the night began, guests trickled in one by one looking nervous but excited. Host Hai Pei quickly put the group at ease, welcoming newcomers to the bar and explaining how the evening would work and what to expect. Unlike normal speed dating where the men stay seated and the women progress, everyone would be swapping stations each round so that they would get to play each different game with a different partner.
Every date would begin with six minutes of gaming followed by six minutes of talking. Guests would then rate their dates on their scorecards, and mutual matches would be emailed out the following day.
18 lucky guys and girls aged between 22 and 32 participated in the event, which involved nine different game stations. Titles ranged from co-operatives like Octodad and Guitar Hero to competitive varieties like Mario Kart and arcade-style street fighter.
There was even a double dating station for Call of Duty, where each couple played co-operatively to out-gun the other.
As guests found their first stations and began their mini-dates, it became immediately obvious that the video games were a great way to remove some of the inevitable awkwardness that comes with meeting new people. As the night wore on (and more drinks were consumed) the laughter got louder and the Call of Duty station encouraged good-natured heckling between couples.
All of this was punctuated several times by the thunderous crash of giant Jenga (the only non-digital game station). During the talking component, most everyone looked relaxed and genuinely interested in talking to their dates. Couples did not solely talk about video games, with one guest nominating Game of Thrones as the most popular topic of conversation.
“The interaction you got from the co-operative games was a good way to break the ice. Call of Duty was my favourite station because of the teamwork required, which I definitely preferred to playing in versus mode,” noted another guest.
While most of the attendees were interested in at least some aspects of nerd culture, many didn’t identify as particularly hardcore gamers. At least a couple of the group were total novices, and were there simply to try something new and broaden their horizons. This wasn’t a problem, however, as all game stations provided instructions and couples seemed to have fun teaching each other, or indeed working out how to play the games together.
“It was lot of fun, a really good night,” one of the novice attendees said.
“The games were a really fun way to start each date. It gave you something to talk about rather than just repeating the same conversation ten times over, which often happens at regular speed dating.”
One of the female gamers commented, “The calibre of the men far exceeded my expectations. They weren’t just immature boys obsessed with gaming. They had lives and careers and other interests too, so that was a pleasant surprise.”
And fortunately, no one took the games so seriously that it ruined their date.
“Playing in versus mode was harder for me, because I felt bad getting too competitive with my date!” explained one of the more experienced gamers.
By the end everyone seemed relaxed and happy to chat with both the guys and the girls. Most people hung back after the formal dates were finished to mingle a little longer and debrief.
One of the bar’s owners, Ravi, said that the night went really smoothy.
“A few people needed help with starting the games off, but aside from that there were no problems. Next time we’ll look to expand the variety of games and take on more couples.”
Demand is already strong for the next “Geek Chic” speed dating event to be held in a few months’ time, so if you’re looking to fill up your heart container, keep an eye on Reload’s Facebook page for details.
In the mean time, please enjoy this mashup of classic 80s teen movies and The Legend of Zelda, wherein Link complains morosely, “I gave her my heart, she gave me a jar.”