This is a guest post, by my partner, about gaming as a couple. It’s a response to this here article about another gaming couple.
I was convinced he was either a porn addict or a cheat. However, his was not your average tale of debauchery and deceit. The magazines in the closet, the suspicious gaps in the internet history, the long, blank spaces of time when he wouldn’t answer his phone and, curiously, the podcasts he would never let me listen to (but that he would listen to religiously whilst he did the dishes every night – this is back in the day when he cared to do the dishes).
It took a while before I realised what was going on: Mr. Very Very Gaming was in the Very Very Closet about his Very Very Habit.
The first time I visited Mummy Very Very Gaming and Daddy Very Very Gaming I was very nervous – would they like me? Was I talking too much? etc – but I now realise Mr. Very Very Gaming must have been even more nervous but for VERY different reasons. In his parent’s living room, Wii and Gamecube games dominated the shelves. Mummy Very Very Gaming exhibited a curious amount of insider-knowledge of Mario and Link’s exploits, and revealed her past obsession with high score games (remember Galaga? And Charlie Chimp…?). Daddy Very Very Gaming kept the family’s Amiga in pristine condition (by not moving it for the last 18 years). I began to suspect that something was amiss.
That night, as we lay in bed, I couldn’t help but notice the teenage-era posters of Squall from FFVIII and Link – and a myriad of other characters I couldn’t name. Turning to my beloved, I decided to confront him: “Do you like videogames?” No response. Unperturbed, I continued, “Final Fantasy IX is the best game ever…” and proceeded to relate my childhood memories playing with my brother on the Sega MegaDrive (Echo the Dolphin, Sonic, Cool Spot, Streets of Rage 2, etc), Playstation (PointBlank, Blaze and Blade – which we freakin’ completed over the school holidays! – Final Fantasy VII, VIII and IX), Gameboy (we had the big blocky yellow one – Pokemon…mmm) and our neighbour’s N64 (Smash Bros all day).
Unfortunately, Mr. Very Very Gaming was unprepared for my impassioned speech. He totally freaked out and denied everything. But take this as a lesson ladies: you CAN change your man. Ignore your mother’s advice. Through a combination of the silent treatment, slapping him around (metaphorically) and assaulting him randomly (metaphorically) with gaming facts, over the course of several months I was able to get Mr. Very Very Gaming to relax, and come out of the closet as the completely nerdy, dorky retro gamer that he is. I still find it hard to believe that he had hidden his hobby from me for so long.
It took playing a few games to completely overcome his initial shyness. If it hadn’t been for those early experiences together, the day might never have come where we would have real marital arguments about games, as opposed to stupid arguments about unimportant things like children, rent, and money. Not only that, but now we rarely play any games alone. Games have completely overtaken films and TV as our relaxation medium of choice. Sharing gaming has only increased Mr. Very Very Gaming’s fondness for the medium, to the point where he created this blog just so he could write about our experiences. He told me recently that he used to spend more time reading about games on websites and listening to videogame podcasts than actually playing games.
Our first few experiences playing videogames together were crucial to changing that and turning gaming into a shared hobby. And so, with the sentimental preamble out of the way, here are our BEST “couple” games that shaped our early experiences so that we now play together always. These aren’t necessarily the best games (although they’re all pretty damn good) – instead this is a countdown of the videogames that proved the most compelling and memorable for us as a couple.
Top Thirteen Couple Games…for (retro) Couples
13. Super Mario Galaxy 2 (Wii)
His opinion – I’d already played the majority of the game before and this was just polishing up the Green Stars, but still the sheer wonder of this game pulled us both in. Plus the two-player cooperative proved a god-send during the insanely difficult 242nd star.
Her opinion – I doubt it is possible to do the final challenge without a second player: thank the LORD for that little star and its ability to freeze stuff!
12. Puyo Puyo Sun (Saturn)
His opinion – This is the only 2-player versus game on the list. The competition this game engenders is so intense at one point we were playing “best of 50 rounds…OK, first to 50 rounds” every day.
Her opinion – I have a love/hate relationship with this one – addictive, and a brilliant way of settling arguments. In particular, the Sun blocks mode is exciting, fast-paced and cruel/fun! Also, the hilarious catch-phrases: “Oh my God…”
11. Zelda: Ocarina of Time (N64)
His opinion – This was a repeat of the classic game that I’ve played before many many times. It’s a close call between this game and Majora’s Mask in terms of quality, but Ocarina of Time was the more memorable experience, especially because it was her first experience with Zelda. I was worried at first that she might be bored, and the game might not hold up in the earlier stages especially, but the pacing and progression in this game is so masterful, and the game itself so captivating that I shouldn’t have worried.
Her opinion – My brother put me off Zelda because, and I quote: “There’s too much grass.” Watching this being played was finally understanding what is meant by “classic”.
10. Psychonauts (PS2)
His opinion – This game was a big surprise for both of us. I’m a big Tim Schafer fan but I’d never played Psychonauts, and the game turned out to be Tim Schafer unfiltered and on crack. Conspiratorial milkmen, street bullfighting, a Napoleonic board game, directing a theatre performance, all within a summer camp hub world of psychic children.
Her opinion – A game all about wish-fulfillment, this is probably Schafer’s ultimate-dream-game fulfilled. Zany. I analysed the meta, whilst he laughed at the funny voices.
9. Final Fantasy IX (PS1)
Her opinion – This is my favorite game of all time. Bar none. The beautiful environments, amazing musical score and the most heart-breaking storyline ever! This was the first game we played together, but it was my third time and so I impressed (and greatly disturbed) Mr. Very Very Gaming with my completionist playing style and walkthrough-like knowledge of the game. FFIX moved us both almost to tears towards the end. It was like theatre, but only for two people in a darkened room, at 4am. Had this list been my choice it would have been number one, but that’s what being in a relationship is all about: compromise, so you can gain points for later.
8. Silent Hill 2 (PS2)
His opinion – This game was a slow grower, but when it got going it really got going and never stopped. The last few hours of this game were simply amazing and had us hopelessly hooked until the end.
Her opinion – I have never looked as hospitals in the same way since.
7. Shadow of the Colossus (PS2)
Her opinion – Stripped back to basics gaming is a joy, with added underlying moral ambiguity to the act of killing the poor beasties: as much as it was exhilarating to watch, you were always left with a sense you’d done something terribly wrong. Jaw dropping. Heart stopping. Cinematic. Tragic.
His opinion – Beautiful game and a unique experience. Ico was special in a quiet sort of way while this turned the action up to eleven, but without compromising on the atmosphere and sense of loneliness. The sheer lack of game-stuff in the world (no collectibles, no pick-ups, no items, no levelling up, no load times) makes this game great to watch as well as play.
6. Streets of Rage 2 (Megadrive/Genesis)
Her opinion – I am a self-proclaimed button-basher. This game brings out the worst from my thumb. It also brings out the worst in my personality in terms of being a selfish, crazy bitch: the amount of times I’ve screamed “That was MY CHICKEN/GOLD BAR/APPLE”! to he who is the biggest thief ever.
His opinion – Well you should’ve been quicker then shouldn’t you?! I love this game. The feel of it is perfect, and unlike most beat ’em ups there’s a real sense of strategy which makes it compelling to return to time and time again.
5. Shadow of Memories (aka Shadow of Destiny, PS2)
Her Opinion – The storyline of this game floored us both. Also: kittens ❤
His opinion – I’ve said enough about this game previously!
4. Project Zero 3 (aka Fatal Frame 3, PS2)
Her opinion – This game scared me so much my stomach hurt – but it also meant I needed closure and so we kept playing the darned thing every night (often in the day, because it literally scared us THAT much that playing it at night was too much).
His opinion – When we first started this I laughed off the idea that it would be scary, whereas she found it scary from the off. I shrugged it off as a Ring-inspired piece of “Japanese horror”. My optimism soon faded as the game got scarier and scarier until- I don’t want to talk about it.
3. Chrono Trigger (SNES)
Her opinion – *big watery eyes of love*
His opinion – Spectacular JRPG that doesn’t get bogged down in the conventions that usually tarnish the experience. The music with the lighthearted but often touching story is the icing on the cake – this makes a wonderful game to share.
2. Silent Hill 1 (PS1)
Her opinion – Nothing will ever beat the elevator moment. Nothing.
His opinion – Psychological horror done really, really well.
1. Gain Ground (Megadrive/Genesis)
Her opinion – Up until 4am several nights in a row early on in a relationship…nothing new. Only you aren’t spending hours in the throes of passion – you’re cursing your gaming buddy’s foolhardy behaviour on the battlefield, and the fact he’s STOLEN an archer when you really needed one. This is Gain Ground. It’s team work, but it’s also competition. I don’t even understand why it’s so good – it’s just such a well-balanced, innovative but simple game.
His opinion – Gain Ground came out of nowhere. I’d never heard of it, but within 24 hours Gain Ground went from being an archaic looking piece of filler on the Sega MegaDrive Collection on PS2 to replacing the title of the latter, so the Collection is now known exclusively as Gain Ground, which is really saying something given the calibre of some of the other games on what is an excellent compilation. This game is a remarkably accomplished work with a very basic look and feel. A hybrid of action-strategy, the two-player mode is mercilessly addictive as a test of your teamwork, intellect and reflexes. It’s a tough game too, and nothing compares with the satisfaction of besting its 50 or so stages.
So, Gain Ground takes our prize spot as the top game for any game-loving couple. As you might have noticed, our list is made up mostly of single player games, all of them on consoles, which we play by passing the controller round, or more often she will watch me play exclusively (“feeding your egomania”, as she would put it).
We’d love to hear of games you’ve enjoyed with your partner, and more especially how you play them: LAN, online, split screen, swapping controllers, one person watching another play? Do you prefer competitive or cooperative? And, most importantly, how has playing videogames together affected your relationship? Let us know!