Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Co-op Couples

Every relationship needs entertainment to combat the boredom lulls.  Couples can only frolic in romance and coitus for so long.  Often this ends in copious amounts of watching television or window shopping.  Initially in my own relationship, my significant other was interested in hiking and playing with our new dog.  Fine endeavors indeed, but I wanted to slay dragons and shoot aliens too.  So one night as she sat next to me in front of the HDTV, I asked if she wanted to play a video game with me.  Her reply was, "I don't play video games, but I'll watch you play them."

This was not an acceptable answer.  I was determined to find a video game my lover would enjoy.  And so I began showing her quite the variety.  Kirby's Epic Yarn made her want to vomit.  Bucky O'Hare arcade version?  Not a fan.  Donkey Kong Country Returns wasn't much fun.  After about a dozen random tries like this, I was nearly ready to give up.  I just couldn't find the gateway game.  So for our last go, I took a wild shot in the dark.  That night's final game was ObsCure: The Aftermath; a very difficult, gory, and brutal co-op survival horror game.  I figured she'd hate it.  I was wrong.  She loved it.  I had found her gateway game.

After we spent a few evenings finishing ObsCure: The Aftermath, she was ready for more.  So over the next few weeks, we took on Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles, Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance, and Trauma Center: New Blood. We completed them all cooperatively, and she enjoyed every minute.  Turns out I had simply underestimated her tastes.  She didn't hate video games, she just hated cutesy fluffy ones.  She couldn't get enough of the dark and serious stuff though.  By sheer determination and experimentation, I had found a golden compromise.  I was getting more gaming time, and she was getting new experiences in entertainment.  And something even greater was happening beneath the surface. Our relationship was becoming stronger due to the power of cooperative gaming.

This beneficial aspect wasn't something I had consciously realized immediately.  But over time, I had noticed that when we were faced with a mutual real life conundrum, our problem solving skills seemed to occur more smoothly then before.  I couldn't help but wonder if all those virtual hours spent cooperatively solving puzzles and killing monsters had accomplished more than just entertainment.  It seemed that our simultaneous electronic victories somehow translated into real world relational stat bonuses.  If nothing else, instinctively we learned to know when to back off from an issue and let the other handle it.  I have no doubt that cooperative gaming has helped develop that particular sixth sense more strongly for us.

I am not saying that two people in a relationship playing video games together need nothing else to help strengthen their bonds.  Obviously if a marriage is going sour, beating Bubble Bobble together won't replace a counselor's help. I'm only saying that working together to beat a game, mutually overcoming its obstacles together via teamwork, that sort of entertainment has tangible merit.  I refuse to believe sitting around watching reality television has the same sort of teamwork building skills as co-op gaming does.  And I encourage gamers to get their non-gaming partners into playing games with them because of that.  Taking down a huge beast cooperatively in Monster Hunter has got to do more for your relationship than window shopping for new winter coats.

You might be surprised at how many things there are to cooperate on in a video game.  For example, in Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance, there was an entire economy to mutually endure.  Firstly you had the finite resource of gold pieces to distribute evenly.  Secondly you had random loot drops to dole out fairly.  That dropped flame sword might never appear again, so only one of you gets to have it.  Who?  Which items are worth buying from the shopkeeper, and who gets to keep them?  If the path ahead diverges, which hallway do you two take?  Who makes that decision?  What's the proper strategy to use to kill that boss?  And who gets the killing blow?  There were so many factors to puzzle over, only to be solved together for the greater victory of cooperation.  Surely after doing all of this, divvying up the mundane bills and chores of real life becomes more intuitive.

It stands to reason then, that this same sort of relationship building cooperative gaming magic applies beyond the amorous sphere as well.  I could certainly believe beating games together with a close friend would have tangible offsets.  If nothing else, you'd learn a little more about each others' personal strengths and weaknesses.  (Seriously, if you want to know someone's true personality, play Dokapon Kingdom with them.)  So if your partner doesn't play video games, but you'd like them too, just keep trying.  There's a genre out there for everybody, and chances are it has some co-op titles available within.  Whether you choose to play couch co-op games with your significant other, your friends, or even your children, there are positive results for all involved.

Co-op gaming sites for finding stuff to play:,619/

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