Wednesday, February 10, 2010

A Dating Case Study: Dave and Buster's

I’ve always thought that a date at Dave and Buster’s can be a very informative (not to mention fun) experience. For those who are have never been there before, Dave and Buster’s is a national chain of arcades the feature many different kinds of video games and other similar gaming activities (such as air hockey, basketball cabinets, and skeeball). In a sense, Dave and Buster’s is a Chuck-E-Cheese for adults, as odd of a concept as that is.

Many people have made the case (almost always from the female perspective) that dates at Dave and Buster’s and similar venues are entirely male-centered, since guys love video games. These bloggers remark that the girl basically suffers through the date while the guy makes an unsuccessful attempt to demonstrate the great fun to be had in this type of leisure “guy” activity. His failure to really engage his date’s interest becomes the focal point for girls’ objection to these types of dates.

Empirically, I have found this is not the case, for the most part. When I started dating, Dave and Buster’s was just an activity that was a worthwhile 2nd or 3rd date, since it changes the pace of the more conversation oriented 1st or 2nd date and gives you something to physically do. The various games available aren’t as physically involving as say, playing a game of 1-on-1 basketball together (which, aside from being a presumably rare occurrence in general, presents a number of potential shomer negiah issues, among other difficulties). However, the selection of games is definitely more engaging than playing checkers or Bananagrams.

Granted, there are certain video games that can arguably be said to be more male-centric, such as first person shooters (the games with the guns). However, I have found many dates (though not all) have had no real problem cooperatively playing as government agents responding to a terrorist threat (as in the Time Crisis series). I definitely steer clear of the more gory zombie-related titles (since I myself don’t enjoy them), but I am often pleasantly surprised how interested, and talented dates can be when playing these games.

That genre aside, the majority of the games are equally attractive to both genders. Who doesn’t enjoy a good game of that timeless classic Pac-Man? Another good example are racing games, whether standard versions or the more wacky (and in my opinion more fun) Mario Kart. I’m not particularly good at racing games in general, so participating in a fun bit of competition in a safe fashion (quite unlike street racing, or even go-carts) can draw out certain aspects of a person’s personality that he/she may otherwise be actively trying to keep in check, thereby providing a better glimpse of who they really are.

While dating, and certainly at the start of a shidduch, most everyone (hopefully) does their utmost to maintain their most professional, courteous, best-foot-forward presentation of him/herself. At some point in the relationship, the daters need to start “letting their hair down,” and get past the expertly organized façade that generates the awkward interactions we all experience during those first few outings. Some people try to artificially construct “tests,” such as the infamous red light car-key grab and bait (I have yet to determine the authenticity of this story).

I’m not such a fan of deliberately forcing such situations to get someone to reveal the artificially hidden, though true, aspects of their date’s temperament. Things go wrong on dates, regardless of how much planning is involved. Examples of my own personal experience include picking a Starbucks that ends up having no seats (either from over-patronage, or inconvenient store layout), Starbucks that lacked a functional bathroom (either from store layout, or plumbing malfunction) – both circumstances requiring somewhat lengthy treks, sometimes in unpleasant weather conditions, to find a suitable store. Another example is those awkward encounters accompanied by prolonged conversations with random interlopers who butt into your date-in-progress and won’t take the polite hint to leave.

In short, there are many different, randomly generated (or probably more accurately, Hashgacha Pratis arranged) little bumps along the road that give you an opportunity to see how your date reacts under non-ideal conditions.

Nevertheless, I think a little healthy competition can be helpful in breaking down the barriers purposely raised between the guy and girl. One specific area where this manifests itself is the general idea of the guy displaying a particular prowess he may have at one particular game (or in general). Should the guy, who may arguably be the better player or have more practice, freely compete in the game, or should he let his date win?

At first, I wrestled with this idea in my own mind, or discussed it with my male friends on the theoretical level. More recently, I’ve even begun bringing up the notion on actual dates. My friends typically didn’t have a clear answer, or thought it was nicer to not dominate every game and let the date win every now and then. Most dates, when presented with the question, have basically said that there is no real reason to “go easy” on them.

As a result, there are times where I’ve been beaten into the ground in certain games. I have very rarely won at Skeeball; I simply have no knack for it. On the one occasion that I went bowling on a date (which has its own truckload of awkward moments), I was soundly beaten twice! This was, and is, for me one my most embarrassing moments in dating thus far. Perhaps this stemmed from the fact that skeeball is a distant cousin to bowling, or maybe she was just that much better than I was, offense to my male ego notwithstanding.

Air hockey is also a good source of competition, and a game that my dates are usually very into. As such, air hockey matches can get pretty intense. Aside from the comparison of skill level, there are also surprising moments that can generate unexpected reactions – such as scoring a goal on yourself, thereby giving away a free point – or worse, unintentionally handing over the victory. True, the overall significance of who wins the match is rather minimal, but emotional outbursts in the positive (expressions of sportsmanship) or negative (being a sore loser) can come to the forefront. If someone can brush off a loss, or two, that shows (in my view) a microcosmic healthy perspective on life. The converse example, if someone becomes overtly angry and determined to “pay you back” over such a trivial defeat, can be very indicative of possessing an easily excitable temper or other negative trait.

Dance-Dance Revolution (DDR) is an interesting game in general, and particularly so on a date. The series originated in Japan (as most mainstream games do) and became a part of the social culture of Japanese youth. After introduction on our shores, the innovative new way of game-play was also a hit, and I very often see a dating couple playing DDR in arcades.

I freely admit that I’m not very good at DDR, but I always suggest it as a sort of inquiry into how adventurous my date is. The ridiculousness of stepping and hopping to the beat of some techno-y J-Pop (Japanese pop) song can certainly serve as a big ice-breaker for the developing relationship. Most girls, from my experience, won’t even consider playing the game. Certainly, the method of play can get a bit embarrassing, particularly if you can’t keep up with the directional arrows that tell you where to step when and how much (I find the split left-right / front-back combinations the most difficult).

Someone may also be wondering if this is a violation of mixed dancing of some sort. I’m not so sure, but am inclined to say no – there are two separate dance pads and no actual physical interaction, or even dancing with one another. You’re basically bouncing up and down side-by-side for several rounds of pop-induced silliness - though I have seen some players who take the game extremely seriously, which would seem to suck a the fun out of it for me (as impressive as it is to see the really good DDR fans go at it). In any event, DDR also provides a bit of a work-out, which always makes me wonder if I should warn girls ahead of time that they shouldn't wear heels (though I've never encountered the issue before). It might sound strange if I request that they wear their 'dancing shoes,' though.

Claw/crane machines provide a good outlet for the guy to show off his skills (should he have any), and if he’s successful, he can win a cute little stuffed animal for his date. I happen to be better at these games than most guys (based on an unscientific poll from a number of friends), so I often successfully snag one (or more) plushy critters for my date. Every date finds it pretty impressive when I win, though I do wonder what the girls who I’ve gone out with in the past have done with those mementos after the relationship ended…

Which brings me to my final point (and the inspiration for this entire post) – I have found that one crucial part of a Dave and Buster’s date to be a very accurate indicator regarding the future of a shidduch. A number of games, such as basketball, skeeball, and a few others will dispense prize tickets depending on how many points you score. If you and/or your date are talented, you end up acquiring a good number of tickets by the end of the night – which of course leads to the obligatory ticket count and visit to the prize room. I have always taken dates to the prize room (with its ridiculously priced toys and knickknacks) to try and get her something as a reminder/conclusion of the evening.

Here’s my key observation: Every date willingly accompanies me to check out all the goodies on display, after all, it’s fun to see all the fun (big stuffed animals) and strange (crock-pots?!) things they have. However, only girls that expect to go on at least two more dates (meaning the relationship has some substance) lets me use our collected tickets to get her a prize. No one can turn down the stuffed animals obtained from claw machines, but it seems like they feel guilty if they’re planning to dump me and don’t want to “waste” the ticket total on my little Dave and Buster’s card (it works like a debit card, basically). Almost every time, any girl that declines a redeeming the tickets for a prize will end the relationship after that date, or give it one shot and then reject me.

With my recent streak of short-lived shidduchim, I’ve amassed quite the number of tickets on my card which just sit unused in my wallet. Maybe the date that actually decides to redeem them for a prize (and by the time that happens, I could have enough to get something more than ordinary) will also be the one?


  1. That was a very interesting and informative post. I personally am not interested in games or arcades, but I suppose that if I find the person interesting enough, I would go along with it.

    I was only recently introduced to DDR, and I don't think I would feel comfortable doing it in front of a guy for modesty reasons. While, as you said, it is not technically mixed dancing, I would still be uncomfortable with it.

    My friends and I got together recently and took turns with it because we only had one dance pad between the few of us, and as we watched each other, we discussed whether it is okay to do it in front of guys. A few girls mentioned that they would feel uncomfortable with it, and I think that the general conclusion was that although it does not seem as if there is anything technically wrong with it, many of us felt that on some level, it was not the best thing to do. Of course, those were just personal feelings, and each girl decides for herself what she is comfortable with and what she's fine with doing.

  2. I would agree DDR is potentially on the slightly less appropriate side of things - but in reality when you're both playing at the same time there is no free moment to watch the other person at all. You're both looking straight ahead at the commands flying by on the screen in front of you.

    Having said that, it is certainly admirable to be aware of these issues. I'm definitely not out there trying to push boundaries or cause trouble. Rather, it's just as I said in the post - I'm trying see if my date is a bit more outgoing/adventurous.

    I would honestly rank bowling as being a lot more awkward in that sense since you're basically displaying your backside to your date for most of the evening. It's almost as though you're encouraging you date to engage in visual tresspassing.

  3. Although the girl's date might be too preoccupied with the arrows, there are other people around as well who can watch.

    I suppose that if all the girl is doing is following the commands on the screen, it is more or less okay, but there are plenty of girls who do dance on the spot between commands instead of just jumping. Meaning, there are some who hop and some who make it into a little impromptu dance.

    I agree about bowling though -- that is also something I would not feel entirely comfortable doing.

  4. Good point - the other people watching thing didn't register with me. The location of the DDR machine in the Times Square Dave and Busters is actually pretty secluded - it's basically tucked away into a corner and surrounded by walls on three sides. I've seen other people being watched before, but it's usually friends of the people playing standing right behind them.

    Regarding the random breaking out into dance - that is definitely something I wouldn't necessarily expect a date to do, presuming that I've gotten enough of an impression regarding her personality from references and previous dates. Someone who is that into DDR and does get a bit crazy would quite possibly be not quite as modest as I had thought, or possibly a DDR fanatic who couldn't control herself - and I have yet to meet any frum girls who are DDR obsessed.

  5. I would be annoyed if I thought a guy let me win at a game.

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  7. I definitely see the reluctance of girls to play DDR on a date, even if nobody was around but the two of them. Aside from actuallyh being watched while actually dancing, there is also the sweat/breathing hard issue (I assume that can happen, but I've never played it myself so I might be totally off base here), which is one of the arguments against mixed seating at weddings.

  8. I've honestly never heard of that being a reason against mixed seating at weddings. To prevent mingling/socializing, people staring at each other, etc - sure, but not because you're trying to hide the fact that both genders can get sweaty and increase their breathing rate from cardiovascular activity.

  9. I have never gone to a D&B. I'm not really into video games. I imagine the only thing I would enjoy are mini-basketball hoops and air hockey, besides for sitting and having drinks.

    I have had much fun using miniature golf as a date. You can take the game slow or fast, talk between holes (there's usually a bench), and if she seems like she likes you, you can always go to the driving range (next to many miniature golf venues).

    There's also biking, hiking, rollerblading, etc.

  10. And I agree with michal. It would be condescending to "allow" your date to win, even if you are not competitive. They can tell when you are trying to win and failing or letting them win.

  11. I disagree. People, men and women, in general don't like to lose every competition. That being said, if you have to throw the match, you better do it carefully and not embarrass your date.
    If you are woman and you are winning every competition, you should find a way to lose. It's not about female or male ego. And, it's not a Jewish or religious thing. It's about respect.

  12. I would not feel respected if I suspected a competition was thrown in my favor.

  13. The pool room in Dave and Busters is clean and often vacant.

    The claw machines in D&B are difficult. I'm pretty good and I've only won once. I'm impressed that you could win with any consistancy.

    The trivia game is fun and lets tou know a little about the interests of your date which can be stowed away to bring up in a later conversation.

    I've been destroyed by a date on Guitar Hero.

    The ball-drop has a system to it to win an insane amount of tickets.

    Whenever I have gone to D&B on a date, the girl has made sure to tell me to not go easy on her in air hockey.

    Deal or No Deal is an interesting debate topic. It's a fun game, but has the models on it. I usually play it, but I really do like standing with the date, watching someone else play it, and shout at them when it's decision time.

    It is very distracting if there is an important game on that night. I make sure to plan D&B dates if they are on no such night.

  14. Jughead's Hat - the light game which has 4 colors and requires you to stop the rotating light in between your little goal posts also can be won very easily. I had a cousin who could time it exactly and get the jackpot everytime (which really racks up the tickets).

    I happen to have figured out the best way to win at claw machine. After years of failed attempts, I finally developed the best strategy while at an arcade a number of years ago - and almost cleared out the machine. I don't do that well every time, because it really depends on how the stuffed animals are positioned, but I can basically win at least one.

    (not) The Girl Next Door - care to elaborate what seems odd?

  15. I love D & B. I love the games. I'm a girl.

    I always accept the prize at the end - regardless of whether I intend on going out again. Not that I want the overpriced stuffed animal, obviously, but because I always thought that was sort of expected of me. (And because I think it makes the guy feel badly otherwise.)

    Side point: I usually win the car-racing game, and I have had some pretty sore loser-dates. Always find that really interesting.


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