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.
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…
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.
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.
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.)