Support Clare, click to buy via us...
Image credit: flickr/pagedooley
A lot can change in your life in a few months, and in the time since I last wrote a lot has changed in mine both with gaming and dating.
Before getting into the ups and downs of my love life, I have been enjoying some of the great Nintendo DS games we are seeing. I think because the little handheld console is quite old now, developers seem to know how to make really good games for it.
Okamiden, Sola to Robo and Ghost Trick have kept me happy and entertained the last few months. In fact I usually take the DS lite with me on dates in my purse, and it has proved invaluable for a few times I've been left to wait. There is nothing I hate more than having to wait on my own in public for a date, it just feels so sad and lonely. But with my DS (although I know I probably look no less sad) I have something to take my mind off things.
On to more important things though. Dating has been something of an mixed bag for me. At times I've felt like cancelling my online dating site subscriptions and giving up on men. But most of the time I've actually been pretty positive. I think this is partly because of the sheer volume of prospective partners I've come into contact with online.
Learning to deal with this almost overwhelming number of men who apparent want to share my life with me is actually what has differentiated one dating site from another. Whereas at first it's a novelty to have a date at all, after a while these dating sites need to offer the tools to help you pick and choose.
For a really tailored set of online dates you need to put the time in.
Match.com: In terms of filtering partners they are quite good, but because of the volume of users I found I had quite a lot of work to do to create a manageable dating list. The website does have a few clever tricks to help you, but for a really tailored set of online dates you need to put the time in.
Impressed by the users as much as the Like and Unlike system.
Match Affinity: Similar to Match.com but because it already focuses on more committed relationships I felt that I had less to do. I've had some of my biggest success stories to date via Match and have been impressed by the users as much as the Like and Unlike system.
I found myself more willing to tinker with my selection criteria.
be2: Being a slightly older dater (I do wonder what the average online dating age really is) Be2 is another step in the right direction. Because it's aimed at the over 30's the pool of dates was already filtered. It didn't take much to get down to a manageable list. And because this is one of the most easy to use sites I found myself more willing to tinker with my selection criteria.
I found the instant messaging features a little distracting.
Friends Reunited Dating: This is a smaller dating site than some, and although that can be a negative in terms of filtering your dating list it is actually quite good -- provided you match the sort of people signing up here. I found the instant messaging features a little distracting though and would have preferred less gimmicks and more functionality to help me find my dating partner.
It was actually much easier than I expected
Dating Direct: I actually gave the video calling here a go to reduce my dating list here. Although I was a bit nervous about speaking to a stranger online about dating, it was actually much easier than I expected - and it did help me rule out (and in) a few potential partners.
As a starting point this was impressive.
eHarmony: Signing up took longer with eHarmony but this seems to have been rewarded by a ready tailored list of candidates that were much more refined than on other sites. I still had some work to do, but as a starting point this was impressive.
I knew better what I was looking for in a man.
Swoon: Perhaps it's their more therapeutic approach to dating, but I was willing to spend more time on swoon. The investment not only resulted in a better list of candidates but I also felt I knew better what I was looking for in a man.
Time taken to carefully pick the people you date from these online sites is well worth the effort. When you start the temptation is to just go on as many dates as possible. However, it is quality rather than quantity that counts here.
It's a little like videogames in a strange sort of way. There are so many games, that to try and play them all would be insane. However, pick and choose the ones you like and commit to them for the long term and you will find the experience much more enjoyable.
Since being more selective (with games and men) I've actually been on a few dates with a particular guy I like. I don't want to jinx it by going into too much detail. But I will keep you posted on how it goes next time I update the blog. Let me know how you are getting on in the comments at the bottom.
Online dating is a real world game that is difficult to master. I took a break from videogames to talk about the dating sites that have best worked for me.
Probably because I haven't had much luck with relationships, I've always enjoying playing games about Dating. It's actually a growing trend in gaming to either include personal relationships in games, like Mass Effect (360), or to make dating a core element of what you have to do, like Dinner Date (PC).
I know this is escapism, but sometimes that just what you need. Funnily though, playing these games got me out of my rut. Last year, armed with fresh enthusiasm I decided to do something about the lack of love in my life and hit the dating sites hard - there are so many.
To cut a long story (plenty of clicking and cross referencing spreadsheets) short, I discovered which were the best dating sites for me. My general advice is to research the different options beforehand and then go for the offerings that best suite you - rather than just the most popular or in vogue.
So, rather than reviewing dating videogames today I'm going to review the real life game of online dating. I'll keep this updated as my journey continues (still not found my man just yet), and do let me know how you get on in the comments.
I wanted quality rather than quantity.
Match.com: I first started using this dating site because it was quick and easy to join (I'm rather risk averse) and you could see who had been looking at your online dating profile. It felt a little like a videogame as my visitors slowly went up.
Although I hadn't realised this before I started, it's also the biggest UK dating site with more than seven million members. This wasn't my number one concern (I wanted quality rather than quantity) but the larger pond did mean I had more fish to choose from.
Your efforts are rewarded with much better suggested dates.
Match Affinity: This is owned by Match.com but offers a different take on dating. The focus here was a better fit for me - I wasn't after a string of one night stands, I wanted something that had a chance of lasting.
A little like eHarmony, you have to fill in a questionnaire before you start dating - and let me warn you this takes a while. Once you have done this your efforts are rewarded with much better suggested dates. This is all wrapped up with a nice Like and Unlike feature that helps you track people in the dating pool.
It was much easier to get around and looked neat and tidy.
be2: Being of a certain age, I'll admit I got a little down about all the younger more attractive girls (rather than women) that were plastered over most online dating sites. Be2 was refreshing because it was aimed at the over 30's. Here I felt like more effort had been put into bespoke matchmaking, rather than just offering an endless stream of dates.
The introductory £5 membership eventually swung it, and I was glad that I gave be2 a go. Compare to the others sites, it was much easier to get around (especially for someone like me who sometimes struggles with Facebook) and generally looked neat and tidy.
Maybe I'm just a talky person.
Friends Reunited Dating: I remembered getting all excited about Friends Reunited before Facebook existed, it was great finding old school friends. I hadn't realised that they had a dating site as well now, until a friend recommended me - on Facebook ironically.
Although they don't have as many members as other sites, I appreciated some of the nice touches. For example you can instant message and chat with other people and setup and audio profile. Maybe I'm just a talky person, but hearing someone really helped me get a feel for what they would be like to date.
Setup video-calling if you are brave enough.
Dating Direct: I liked their ethos - which matched my new "grab the bull by the horns" approach to dating. They have five million members, which I think makes them the biggest pool of UK daters, and there certainly seemed to be plenty of choice.
I liked the way you could chat to other members directly and even setup video-calling if you are brave enough - eek! Although I was a little unsure at first, this (and being able to hide profiles I didn't click with) meant I was a lot more active in their matchmaking community.
Icebreaker feature that got me chatting.
eHarmony: I had a colleague from Game People in the US recommend them to me because they have made headlines over there for seeding so many marriages. While I'm in the UK, and not sure whether marriage is the way to go for me, eHarmony did seem to do a lot of the matchmaking leg work for you.
When you join you fill-in a detailed personality profile. It takes longer than some of the other sites but it means they can then do a more accurate job of pairing you up with prospective partners. I also liked their Icebreaker feature that got me chatting with other members more often than on other sites.
Understand yourself better so that you can make better dating choices.
Swoon: This is a new site that has an unusually grownup take on dating. They want you to understand yourself better so that you can make better dating choices - a pretty neat idea I think. Because of this the questionnaire you fill out when you join but I found the questions they ask really got me thinking.
Along with the more therapeutic approach to dating, they also aim themselves at the slightly older person - over 30. This helped me feel more at home in the community and their suggested matches were at least in the right ballpark.
Becoming good at anything (videogames for instance) takes time and effort. When I first dipped my toe in the online dating site world I wanted quick results. After a few ill-advised dates I realised this was going to take a little more consideration.
The key thing for me was to hold onto my initial resolve to make some progress towards finding a partner. It helped me to remember dating is a bit of a game really - I needed to keep my head, keep playing and not walk away. You need to get yourself in this flow and try new things for yourself.
By trying out these different sites I soon gravitated toward the ones that suited me - I just felt more at home at eHarmony and Swoon. But I'm glad I tried out the different options available as I learnt a lot about myself - as well as online dating per se.
I'm still hoping for Mr Right, but at the same time I'm now more aware that finding him isn't only about getting lucky with the right person. I've realised that the best relationships in my life are those I've committed to working at with someone else so that we've both changed and grown together.
I'm planning to keep my thoughts and progress updated here so do check back. In the meantime let's chat in the comments below.
With so many different perspectives it can be hard to know where to start - a little like walking into a crowded pub. Sorry about that.
But so far we've not found a way to streamline our review output - there's basically too much of it. So, rather than dilute things for newcomers we have decided to live with the hubbub while helping new readers find the columnists they will enjoy.
Our columnists each focus on a particular perspective and fall into one of the following types of gamers: