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

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David Vraniak

http://mistwalkers.wikia.com/wiki/MistWalkers_Wiki

Lots of couples playing this throwback. Team behind the private server have added a new cave, new items, new monsters, revamped old caves, etc. Lots of work being put into this new private server. Fully free!! Check it out!!

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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?