Who needs to go to the club when video games are bringing couples together — and driving them apart. Biz and tech editor Ian Vandaelle reports
Emily Goode deftly maneuvers through the option menu on Mario Kart 64. She and her boyfriend, Andrew Galloway, select their characters and enter the Flower Cup. It’s been a hard day for the 20-year-old film students, and they’re looking to vent their frustrations digitally instead of arguing with each other. Galloway takes the first race, cackling as he crosses the finish line.
“Tales of my victory shall be told through the ages,” he yells, though a sharp elbow to the ribs quickly silences him.
“You watch it,” warns Goode, “Or else you might be single at the end of this cup.”
Goode gets her digital revenge, as she sweeps the last three races, but both end up laughing and relaxed after the game, much happier than they were before they started.
Goode and Galloway are part of a growing trend of couples that play video games together, or even meet in online games. With the rising popularity of Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games (MMORPG), Tanner Mirrlees, an instructor of Politics and Public Administration at Ryerson, thinks that this trend will continue to grow.
“I think that this [move to meeting in online games] reflects some need that is not being met in other parts of society,” says Mirrlees, who has written several papers on the impact video games have on players personal lives.
But, Mirrlees isn’t convinced this is a healthy shift.
“The fact that thousands of people are taking so-called flight to the virtual world in pursuit of meaningful relationships…says something profoundly disturbing about the conditions of our actual world and our face-to-face society,” Mirrlees says.
Sarah Andrews discovered both the good and the bad of meeting a fellow gamer online. Andrews, 21, a fourth-year University of Lethbridge student, met her ex-boyfriend Ben on a forum for fans of Red vs. Blue, a Halo parody series. Andrews played Halo regularly and was happy to find someone who shared her interest. However, it didn’t take long for the relationship to sour due to Ben’s gaming habit.
“I remember calling Ben and I could always tell immediately whether he was playing Xbox Live because there would be about a three second delay in him responding to me,” Andrews says. “In his case, the antisocial gamer stereotype really fit.”
Mirrlees says that while it may be too early to tell whether this type of relationship is doomed to fail, he’s unsure if the dynamic of an online relationship could work.
“We might jump to the conclusion that it’s unhealthy, because this interaction is existing in a computer environment that is not face-to-face,” Mirrlees says. But he says that since the phenomena is relatively recent; there aren’t enough case studies on the topic.
Tyfanie Wineriter and her husband Robert run a blog named Couple’s Gaming: a blog by a couple, for couples. Wineriter often writes about how World of Warcraft is perfect for couples, as well as relaying her and Robert’s experiences as a gamer couple.
“Each [of us] play as our own character, the way we want to…I look for hidden treasures or secrets while Rob keeps us levelling,” says Wineriter.
Like Galloway and Goode, Wineriter and her husband use games to let off a little steam in a constructive manner.
“There is nothing like being your online persona and messaging the person your disagreements…or, if that doesn’t work, kicking their butt in Mortal Kombat is always pleasing,” says Wineriter.
“It’s a lot like a stress ball,” says Goode. “Sometimes, the best way to deal with my frustration is to shoot Andrew in the head during a game of Goldeneye.”
— WIth files from Jillian Bell and Sean Tepper
Photo by: Chelsea Pottage