How to find the right MMORPG as a couple

People seemed to quite like my piece last week about how my wife and I wound up married in no small part due to World of Warcraft. Of course, I also alluded in the column to the fact that World of Warcraft was hardly our final destination, and we’re currently playing Final Fantasy XIV quite happily together. We’ve also gone into Final Fantasy XI, City of Heroes, Guild Wars, Fallen Earth, Star Trek Online, Star Wars: The Old Republic… a lot of different games, in other words. And I’m just counting the ones we’ve tried together.

I don’t think that there’s any one surefire way to always find the right game for a couple to enjoy, but I have had a fair amount of experience with it now, and it’s helped that we’ve both spent a lot of time working on finding what works and what doesn’t in this field. So here’s some (hopefully) helpful tips about finding a game that you and your romantic partner of choice can enjoy together.

We both want dwarves.

Pick something where your goals can overlap substantially

My wife and I did the progression raiding thing, and we were good at it. We’re never doing it ever again; we don’t find it fun. Our goals are basically to clear stuff together, even if it’s not just the two of us, to roleplay and enjoy dungeons and solo stuff. Solid storytelling and worldbuilding are big bonuses. So it’s probably not a huge surprise that we’ve wound up where we are, since FFXIV is pretty well-suited to what we like to do.

That doesn’t mean our goals overlap completely, however; I play the game with more time and more attention to, well, the fact that this is my job than she does. But we want most of the same things out of the game, which means we’re both going in the same direction.

It’s important to have some idea and communication about this ahead of time because while your partner might want you to be a pocket healer, it’s entirely possible to find out you hate healing but love tanking. Or you’re really good at DPS. Or you just want to be a crafting and market master. The goals can morph over time, but you’ll want to know you’re both looking for more or less the same thing from the start.

In fact, that ties in nicely to the next point…

Secret histories revealed!

Make sure you both actually like the game

My wife and I went back to SWTOR for a little bit after we fell head-over-heels in love with The Force Awakens, but it didn’t last all that long. Why not? Well, she loved roleplaying with me. She loved our characters. She just couldn’t stand the actual moment-to-moment gameplay and found the combat to be a chore.

Did I find it that bad? No, but I have a different tolerance level for it than she does. So we dropped it.

It seems almost pedantic to say, but if only one of you actually enjoys the game, you’re in for a rough ride. There are aspects of any game that one of us really will enjoy and the other won’t like at all, but since our goals already overlap nicely, that means we’re usually going to stay in the same game only in cases where we both actually enjoy the game we’re playing. If she was all about combat and I just wanted to be a crafter, we wouldn’t be able to coexist in WoW; I’d be downright miserable. Similarly, she wouldn’t be having a whole heck a lot of fun if we were playing something enormously crafter-heavy, so it balances out.

Make sure that the game you’re playing has parts both of you fundamentally like. It doesn’t mean you must like all of the same things, but in addition to having overlapping goals, you likely need overlapping joys. But not only overlapping ones.

Sometimes this is easier said than done.

Give both of you space to enjoy the game

Something that I see come up a lot for recovering addicts is the idea that you have certain activities you do only when you’re drunk, or high, or whatever. You really enjoy watching cooking shows, but only when you’re stoned; once you kick the habit, you don’t get any enjoyment out of the shows. They’re just noise.

I think certain couples have designated “couple activities” that fill a similar role. Either both of you dislike them or one of you does, but these are Designated Couple Things, and so you take part in them because that’s what you do because your relationship is functional. The point here is that you do not want any game to be like that; if you’re both playing it, it should be because you both want to play it, not because it’s the thing you do together.

That doesn’t mean you have to have, say, a designated amount of time played apart. But both my wife and I have things we do in games wholly apart from one another. She and I aren’t in the same guilds on all of our characters. We have activities we do on our own, things we queue for separately in FFXIV, people we interact with as separate folks. And in the cases where I’ve tried to bring her into a game after the fact and had her be more of a satellite player to myself, it hasn’t worked well.

In other words, this should be a game you both enjoy. And sometimes it stops being that way.

I've got to get gone, I've got to get going.

Don’t try to force someone to stay

If my wife told me tomorrow that she didn’t want to play FFXIV any longer, I would be sad, but our relationship would happily continue to hum along just as before. I wouldn’t whine and try to cajole her. In fact, odds are if she were thinking of leaving, I would be too.

The nice part about this is that if you’re on a similar wavelength, you usually wind up wanting to move on around the same time. This is different from taking a break; there are times when I’ll be more focused on other games than ones we’re sharing, but that’s just a “right now” thing universally. If you’re both looking to get the same thing out of the game, you probably will both feel that you’re not getting it.

But sometimes one of you will be happier with the game than the other, and when that happens, you have to just listen, understand, and let the other person move on. The point is to share something with someone you care about, not anchor people to unpleasantness.

Obviously, this is something I’ve had a lot of time to think about and experience, so I’m curious to see if other people are interested in it as well. I could probably write more of these, but it’s obviously not a full-blown series at this point, so let me know in the comments or mail along to our comments line if you’d like to see more columns like this.

In the interim, she and I both have alts that need some low-level runs taken care of. (Stupid 2.0 MSQ.)

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36 Comments on "How to find the right MMORPG as a couple"

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zeko_rena

I tried WoW with my misses for a bit but she tends to just put herself on follow and then I end up having to tell her when she needs to loot quest objectives haha

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Karma_Mule

“Give both of you space to enjoy the game” is one my bf and I used to get wrong. We’re initially really excited and say “Ooooo let’s progress these characters together”, but then inevitably the actual time we have to play together is less than either one of us want to actually play, and we have to fall back to less-compelling alts to play while waiting for our “together time”.

These days we know better and while we may say let’s try to advance two characters together, there’s no hard feelings if one of us ends up with a bunch more free-time and doesn’t wait.

Games that make this a non-issue usually end up being favorites, so ESO with One Tamriel is especially helpful in this regard, and GW2 is another one we teamed up in a lot because of that sort of flexibility.

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Meanie

Next we need a how to on finding your partner in an MMORPG, get on it!

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Karma_Mule

As someone who went from a failed relationship with a non-gamer (“opposites attract”….BAH!!!!) to one with an avid gamer I can attest to how wonderful it can be.

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Terren Bruce

I have come back to SWTOR sooooo many times because I had that Star Wars itch… and every time I leave soon thereafter. The game play is so mind numbingly boring. At least in the open world and story instances. Every time I think to myself “it cant be as bad as I remember, let’s go do some Star Wars!” and every single time a week later I think to myself “at what point early in production did Bioware forget they were making a GAME and that it needs to be fun moment to moment, and not just during the dialog choices?”.

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Jeff

As much as I love story heavy games I am finding they make it hard to play with other people. We keep running into walls where we have to separate and meet back up together.

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Malcolm Swoboda

First boyfriend no MMORPG. Second boyfriend was a maybe but it didn’t happen. Current partner we tried RIFT together (he got to Lv 40s, I was regular through Storm Legion but slowed in Nightmare Tide), and TSW (he got through the gist of Solomon Island, I completed the first two regions, much of Transylvania and the main story, and Solomon’s DLC).

We are intending on trying SWL together again, but he’s not starting very soon. Maybe Path of Exile.

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Brown Jenkin

For us the issue is always progression systems :(

To date, GW2 remains the only MMO we’ve played together and equally enjoyed. She was turned off super-early to ESO (back before questing together was really feasible), and doesn’t play games consistently enough for most MMOs with vertical progression to work at all. GW2’s play when you want, how you want, approach was the perfect fit for both of us, which is definitely one of the reasons I’m so adamant against the grindbox design of most MMOs. Currently we’re enjoying SWL together, which is amazing (solving investigations in tandem is probably one of my better experiences in gaming), but the progression system is such that I have to have a separate PC that I only play with her.

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Giannis Papadopoulos

GW2 also has grind and a lot of it… I dont know how you chose to ingore it on GW2 but it makes you dont wanna play the other games? GW2 is a Grindbox too. Masteries, Ascended crafted gear, raid, Fractals…

It wasnt Grindbox at start, but it is now.

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Brown Jenkin

GW2 has changed a ton since release, and yes in many ways it is much grindier than it used to be. Particularly on the note of ascended gear, I never thought it should have been made though the system for acquiring it has smoothed out some after the fact. GW2 certainly has more vertical progression than might be my ideal in an MMO but plenty of the systems you listed are focused on horizontal vs. vertical progression and that IS a big deal, whether you”chose to ignore it” or not. Refusing to grind any one of those things doesn’t bar me from other parts of the game, that matters, tremendously. GW2’s progression system offers breadth rather than merely depth, you can dip your toes into each of those varied parts of the game at your own pace without being hindered from experiencing unassociated content.

If you don’t see the difference between this and other games, that’s pretty close to a willful choice. PvP is (as usual) one of the most obvious examples. One vertical progression focused gear grindbox of an MMO after another struggles with how to squeeze in PvP and any progress they make is upended once again when the next stint of mandatory vertical progression (via expansion) comes out. This wouldn’t be an issue if these games focused on horizontal progression, if your progress in PvE and raiding didn’t influence your ability to function as a PvPer… instead all progression in these games is about your character just being “stronger” and so of course this has to carry over to PvP.

Another fair example is crafting actually, in one MMO after another crafting is worthless because the entirety of the game is designed around vertical progression… and in these vertical progression focused games the best gear has to come from dungeons/raiding/”endgame” content… and if the best gear comes from grinding these things then obviously you can’t have them degrade over time as that’s all about people’s hard work, leaving no room for any sort of functioning player driven economy or crafting system (the existence of BoP/BoE equipment is an associated/related problem).

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Terren Bruce

You misunderstand what a grind is. A grind is something you do because you HAVE to in order to play the game. In GW2 there isn’t grind. There are optional long term goals for those who want them. You’ll get most of the masteries you need just by playing the HoT’s zones, you don’t need ascended gear other than trinkets and back piece, which you can get just by playing the LW3 zones. Raids are difficult content but they aren’t really a grind, you’re doing them because you want to. Unlike other MMO’s raiding isn’t the focus, just one option among many. And there are many different levels in Fractals, you only need to grind to get to the high level ones and that progression system is there specifically for those who want it and is entirely optional.

So yes there are a lot of optional long term goals in GW2. But they’re optional. You choose what activities you want to do. I challenge you to name a more casual friendly MMO out there with more to do without a grind attached to it.

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Giannis Papadopoulos

Isnt that applies to all games though? Last timed I played a different MMO than GW2 no one hold a gun to my head to make me grind… I chose to do it to get gear, glamour, achievements, etc.

You can perfectly ignore any grind in wow, swtor, eso, lotro, and still enjoy the 90% of the game which is questing, exploration, just like GW2.

The thing is that in any game, if you decide to increase your character power, there is a grind behind it and GW2 is not an exception nor the easiest grind of all…

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Giannis Papadopoulos

“She just couldn’t stand the actual moment-to-moment gameplay and found the combat to be a chore.”

I feel her here :P As much as I love SWTOR theme and Story, I cant stand the gameplay of it :( I wish Star Citizen live to the hype and give that space exploration and immersion with better gameplay and less combat.

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Brown Jenkin

I play most of my new MMOs in tandem with my wife, and frankly our biggest problem is one that has existed since the genre was popularized… one which there’s pretty much zero justification for it continuing to be a problem, fucking vertical progression. The idea that I pretty much have to have a character that I only play with my wife, or in most new MMOs we’ll either be out of sync in levels or quests, is utterly ridiculous for a genre that is supposed to be rooted in being multiplayer. With the noteworthy exception of GW2, we’ve encountered in almost all contemporary MMOs systems that separate players rather than assisting them to play together.

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Meanie

I believe FFXIV has pretty good systems to combat this, not to mention there are a plethora of jobs for you to choose to play with while you play together.

EDIT: I’m going off of playing with friends who have maintained their sub for the most part since launch/relaunch. Every time I get in I can more or less play with them no problem.

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Brown Jenkin

Interestingly we’ve never really given FFXIV a fair try. Of all things the friggin sign up system was enough to put us off. Good to know though, maybe a nice option to revisit?

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Bryan Turner

In my case it’s more a matter that my wife’s interests changed even though she’s the one that introduced me to WoW. She was interested in GW2 for awhile I guess before claiming head aches (even though her glasses are brand new with anti glare, and I made sure there wasn’t any potential allergens in the office which is funny if you think about it since we have cats). I tried focusing more on D3 since she claimed to enjoy that game (even though she keeps saying she can’t play because she doesn’t have Reaper of Souls, which of course is BS since I remember buying it and installing it). I’ve made an effort to get out of my comfort zone and learn to enjoy Secret World Legends since I remember she really liked that game for the week she played it before she just abruptly stopped playing again, trying to peak her interest that the game feels like old school Resident Evil back when it had puzzles.

I just tell my self it’s because she’s Diabetic and works nights, it makes people more prone to sleep a lot from what I’ve read.

Is what it is.

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Utakata

As long as my pigtails are GGG with the game, I’m in. <3

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Tiresias

This is all great advice. When someone asks me for a recommendation for an MMO to start with to answer this eternal question, I typically recommend Guild Wars 2 or WoW.

Guild Wars 2 because the progression is pretty flat and it doesn’t really matter if one person gets ahead of the other thanks to level scaling. Also, it’s really easy to find something to do — just determine what zone you want to run events in and jump into the cycle.

WoW because… it’s WoW. It’s successful for a reason, and it resonates with a lot of people.

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Giannis Papadopoulos

For someone that starts MMOs for first time I would point them to Lotro and to an RP server… it is the only way to get the feeling of great community and why we fell in love with MMOs… send him to wow and you condemn them to a super solo leveling experience and to a toxic community..

GW2 is a good option too, but lotro has the best community by far… Is the game to teach him to not afraid to seek chat and communication with other players

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Vexmaiden

Good points with Guild Wars 2. EverQuest 2 is similar in function as there is a mentor system, and even Rift to some degree as you can set your level to match content.

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Paragon Lost

When we fall out of sync with the mmorpgs that we’re playing, we still play together just in different mmorpgs. Currently she’s over in TSW and I’ll be logging into LotRO shortly.

Playing TSW irks me too much currently to play much since it’s now a dead mmorpg due to SWL and neither one of us can handle playing SWL. Anyhow, great article Eliot. :)

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Vexmaiden

Hubby and I have been playing MMOs together since EverQuest in 1999.

After all these years, we tend to go in cycles, which I imagine most people do. He’s extremely goal and equipment oriented, I’m just a “wanna try every mechanic and play every class” type of gal. Even though we’re extremely opposite in what we want out of gaming, we have a boatload of fun, regardless.

Cycle usually goes EQ > EQ2 > Wildstar > Guild Wars 2 > SWTOR then back to good old EverQuest. Other games make their way in once in a while, like The Secret World or Rift, and games have come and gone over the years. World of Warcraft was permanently removed from our line up years ago, after casual game play became too easy and devoid of challenge. Presently we’re on Agnarr, the new Planes of Power-locked progression server :)

Eliot’s article has it right, and the most important thing I’ve found is not forcing them to stay in a game they’re not enjoying. You wouldn’t want that, why make someone else?

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Stuart Gibson

As long as there’s exploration and shineys to find and collect around the world, my wife will be happy for me to push on, close all the quest dialogs, race to max lvl to pvp etc. I go back and help her with anything she gets stuck on.
It works :P currently Secret World Legends fits this, for her at least, i just hope the endgame has enough for me.

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MesaSage

We like the same things, so never an issue.

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Sajiri

While my husband and I met in mmos, and we both play them, I find it hard to find one we want to play together. We have similar interests and goals, but achieve them in different ways. Typically, while I am perfectly capable of playing games well and taking part in endgame, I don’t really enjoy it. I’ll want to see and clear it, but I don’t want to do it all the time and I dont care so much for being best of the best. The husband wants to be on top of everything.

For example, we play FFXIV. We did a runthrough of Omega when it launched and cleared it the first time together, but he immediately starts grinding it so that he has everything he needs right away. As soon as he hit cap in stormblood, he rushed into EX primals and did them over and over to get everything he needed before I had even managed to unlock them. Sure, he said he’ll go back and do it with me the first time, but it doesnt really feel the same anymore. (its not that I was procrastinating, he just got ahead of me because I had to work that week and I didnt).

This tends to be the ongoing problem, especially when other people come into the mix. I want to take my time and enjoy the ride, he wants to get everything done as quick as he can. He will look for and join and endgame guild, whereas I would prefer a more sociable one. We both want to do endgame, but I’m just more casual about it. This then leads to us going at different paces.

The other issue is we enjoy story based mmos, but a lot of them don’t seem to encourage playing with someone. Sure you can party up and do some quests, but it’s likely you’ll be splitting up a whole lot for solo instances.

We did get back into star wars galaxies on an emulator a little while back though when I had a random urge to try it out. That was pretty fun but then we got caught up doing other stuff.

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Paul

My wife and I have been playing MMOs since about 2007 (I started a few years before that then she took an interest).

Our list isn’t dissimilar to yours – best times we’ve had as a couple have been in Vanguard and Fallen Earth. (Unfortunately VG is closed – we have high hopes for Pantheon – and FE isn’t the same game we played back at the start)

I think a key point for us is not to think we always have to be in the same game at the same time – its good when we are and most of the time that’s the case but usually one of us gets bored a few months before the other in a particular game. Best thing at that point is accept it and wait till our interests align again rather than one of us playing a game after the shine has worn off.

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Bart Cook

Great article. In my case we always look for a mmorpg that can be played with 8 years old also :) As of now, only WOW seems to pull all of us in [Timewalking, LFR and random BGs mainly]. When raids are on loot cooldown, we play Minecraft or Path of exile. Other games we play solo.

We wish there could be sandboxy mmorpg with WOW + Minecraft features :D Can’t find anything like that tho…

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NeoWolf

How to find the right MMO as a couple? Ahhh I’ve played this game, lets see it goes a little something like this.

She tells you which one she wants to play,
You agree, buy a copy, and you play it.
Peaceful life continues.

lol..you think im joking. ;) Bless…

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Bhagpuss Bhagpuss

That’s pretty sound advice, Eliot. Well, I would say that, I guess, since it’s not dissimilar to my own experience playing MMOs with my wife for the last nearly two decades. The way it works in our house is a bit different, given that I rarely have less than half a dozen MMOs on the go at any one time while Mrs Bhagpuss tends to play them serially not in parallel.

I generally end up spending more of my time in the MMO she plays, though, I doubt I’d have stuck so loyally with GW2 since launch had it not become her MMO of choice. On the other hand, it was my wife who wanted to try The Secret World when it went launched. I had no intention of playing it at all. After six weeks she’d had more than enough of the relentless grimdark and never played it again, while I still chip away it, on and off, all these years later.

We’ve never been particularly focused on playing together, as in grouping our characters for xp, but we like to share a guild and a chat channel so we can make inane, childish jokes and bait each other. Then again, we did an awful lot of leveling, dungeons, instances and so on together in EQ, EQ2, Vanguard, Rift, WAR, W101, Guild Wars, GW2…

Flexibility’s the key, I think. Play together or play apart as the mood and the practicalities dictate.

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Karl Maurer

My wife and I started playing MMOs together with EverQuest Online Adventures for the PS2. We’d spend hours on it together, and when I was at work she would play it with alts or doing crafting or just generally exploring. Then City of Heroes came along, I played it for a year (part of that in beta) before she jumped on board. Just like EQOA she and I loved playing it, were it together (as we did regularly) and in groups or solo. At one point I considered proposing to her inside CoH… but the timing never worked (instead, just after Christmas a year and a half ago, in a local library, in the SF section, I did propose, and she said ‘Yes!’).

We tried EQ2 and we’ve tried other games since the sunset of CoH, and they never had the common draw that EQOA and CoH did for us.

The thing that made EQOA work for us was the ease of ‘getting into’ the game. There was no huge learning curve, you jumped right into the play of it all, and once you knew things it was easy (and sometimes really fun) to go back and do them again with an alt or two.

For CoH it started with the fact that we could make our toons look unique. That allowed for some ‘investment’ in actually playing the character, both on the casual role-play side, and just in play itself. And due to the sidekick and mentoring system, one rarely had to care if you were both the same level when playing together in a group. Add to that the same sort of ease of play that EQOA had, and a very, very friendly and supportive player community, plus the endless ability to ‘roll up’ another alt and play things again, with different powers and different choices. At the very least the alt could look (and sort of ‘feel’) very different from the other toons. When the game sunset, we both had many incarnate characters, and she even had one that had more incarnate (end game) abilities than my main did.

Both games had elements that made playing with at least a friend or two real easy. CoH took that higher as we found ourselves in supergroups and playing in teams of 8 at least twice a week (though 6 in the group were a bit more consistant) for regular game content (we rarely did taskforces unless it was a rikti raid or invasion).

I haven’t seen a game since the sunset of both EQOA and CoH that has that ‘right’ combination. For my wife and I, we require tab targeting, toon customization to allow true uniqueness at the time of creation, and not having to worry about ‘mini-maxing’ every little piece of equipment and stats just to play the game. Too many modern MMOs have gone the more complex route. Even SWTOR in it’s current state requires more worrying about gear and time investment in doing regular upgrades than my wife really wants to deal with. AND there isn’t enough customization at character creation. Close, but not quite. (Yes, there are ways around that if you got your legacy going and/or have a good guild at your back… or have a lot of tolerance for… lockboxes (ew!).) As for my personal other favorite with ‘tab targeting’, FFXIV, it is way too complex, my wife says… especially those ‘gotta do it just right’ battles (dance the dance). Even I left the game when character progression REQUIRED certain team battles and I got enough of the ‘you caused a party wipe because you went left when you should have went right’ from my fellow players. I still love FFXIV, though. It still is one of the most richly built MMOs out there with just the right mix of ‘western’ and ‘eastern’ idea of game play. Being able to ‘do it all’ with a single toon ALMOST broke my ‘altitius’.

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Cassidylux

My gf and I don’t play mmos together anymore but we’ve gone back to play Mabinogi at least 4 times at this point. Most recently in February! She just fell back into it again yesterday so I’m considering it again too.

The game can’t seem to keep us, but it updates with new stuff so frequently it easily calls us back.

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Dan Hogarth

Really good article. This is something I too try to balance with my wife, but I often wrestle with being selfish where I enjoy it more than she! Would love to read more like this Eliot.

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Jennifer Yaner

Awesome article. I wish I could find a MMO to enjoy with my partner, but we never seem to have similar interests. It’s very difficult because I like MMORPGs, but they aren’t as big on that genre as me.

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Andrew Ross

That’s often an issue. I had people try to set me up with fellow gamers, but the ladies usually enjoyed puzzle games or shooters. Genre’s important, as are gaming habits. My first g/f was a big WoW fan, but getting her to try other games was like pulling teeth, while I was constantly wandering into new games and genres. We had fun times, but there was a lot to negotiate.

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Jennifer Yaner

My recent partner would drag me to a game, get me into it, then quit himself after a week. It was super frustrating because he would pick up and drop games very quickly, and it made it hard for us to game together. We weren’t living in the same house and he had a lot of disposable income, so it was easy for him to swap games repeatedly. Myself on the other hand was finishing college and I was flat broke, so I could never afford to keep up with his trends. We ultimately broke up and a lot of had to do with that personality trait, because he had a short attention span with our relationship too…

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