In Real Life

Couples Who Play Together, Stay Together

Typically too much gaming in a relationship can cause issues — but on some occasions it actually brings couples closer together. Patrick Stafford speaks to some of those couples…

There is a stereotype ingrained in mainstream culture: only children play video games and adults, especially married couples and those in long-term relationships, should have outgrown them.

It’s true, many over-indulge, and this type of indulgence has left many women – and some men – in these relationships dismissing video games altogether, their partners’ habits leaving a sour taste. Some even try to sell their other half to get rid of the problem!

But children who grew up playing video games are now finding themselves adults in long-term relationships with other gamers. They come from all types of backgrounds, some eager to play the latest titles with each other and some eager to simply knock out a tune on Guitar Hero but, increasingly, couples are gaming together without straining their relationships.

Significant others are even now embracing more games as a bonding mechanism, especially as the number of co-op games available continues to rise.

Let’s Stay Together

Emily Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani are such a couple.

Nanjiani, a stand-up comedian and actor, and Gordon, a freelance writer and program director of the NerdMelt Theatre in Los Angeles, host the Indoor Kids podcast. Part of the Nerdist umbrella of websites and podcasts, every week they invite guests to talk about gaming – and how they maintain their lifestyle as gamers.

Not only do these two play games together – they rarely do so when apart.

“We play plenty of co-op games together,” Gordon says. “Usually they’re really hard, require timing and cooperative play. It’s fun to have a hobby that we can share.”

“It’s just been such a big part of us being together, and it’s not something that’s changed over time or evolved. It’s just a part of who we are.”

They’re proud of the relationship they’ve set up. And why couldn’t they be? Gaming together has allowed them to maintain a fun and happy lifestyle without falling into addiction.

“I think what we’ve been able to do is impressive,” says Nanjiani. “I fell in love with it, and pretty early on we figured out we were both super nerdy.”

The two even share a Skyrim character and stand side by side in Gears of War’s horde mode. Both say they’ve been able to keep gaming a healthy part of their relationship by simply setting some boundaries.

For one, they rarely game while apart, and secondly, they only do so at night. For Gordon, she says it’s all about the social interaction.

“When I grew up, my sister and I would play games all the time. We would gather around the television, and I think it’s just the way games should be played.”

Nanjiani says the two often wait for each other, even if they have a chance to keep playing on their own.

“If we’re playing Uncharted we won’t play alone because we’re playing the same character. We don’t have separate games. I do have some on my own, my NBA game, but we mostly play together.”

As gaming has been such a large part of the couple’s relationship, Gordon says she finds it hard to understand how others can find it so difficult to maintain a healthy gaming lifestyle.

“I get asked this question a lot, and it’s strange. Women get into guys a lot for playing games, but women have a lot of things that’s “our” thing to do, like watching Project Runway or whatever. It’s only that video games happen to be “okay” to hate on.”

“I feel that if gaming together, if you want to give it a try, then guys have to be a little flexible. She doesn’t want to watch you just watch you kill soldiers for three hours, get her involved with something that’s a story if you want to game by yourself.”

Emily and Kumail are an exception. They work unusual jobs, and not every couple actually hosts a weekly podcast on video gaming. So what about other couples who have managed to create an equilibrium?

Bond, Video Game Bond

John and Di, a married couple living in Taiwan, believe not only have they struck a healthy balance but that gaming has actually helped them bond.

John, an Australian, and Di, and American, work some pretty long hours. But both say they’ve been able to enjoy each other’s company more by playing games together.

“I’m actually a light gamer,” John says. “I go for six months without gaming and then go full speed for a few weeks. But I’ve got a string of games I picked up in the Steam sale lately and I’ll hopefully get to work on those.”

Di says she never actually thought about playing games before, until John invited her to try Half Life 2: Deathmatch. She was hooked.

“I instantly enjoyed playing, even though I was pretty competitive. I liked having that time to spend together.”

As time as passed, the two have moved on to more cooperative games including Left 4 Dead 2, and Portal 2 as well.

“I actually love these co-op games, and it’s really good for us. We’ve been married for seven and a half years now, and he still loves to hang out with me while we’re playing!”

Both John and Di are in their late 30s – perhaps a slightly older demographic than most gamers – but he says that mature outlook on life has provided him with a great outlook for couples gaming.

“I think when you have a more mature seasoned outlook on life, your taste changes a little. The cooperative aspect I really enjoy, and I’m looking forward to doing more.”

“We’ve picked up Portal 2 which is a great co-op game for couples, and incredibly satisfying when you have to nut out all the puzzles together.”

“One to two hours together, for us it’s just like watching a movie together, for us watching a movie is very much a satisfactory experience. Sitting down for a few hours to game is a great way to spend time.”

Not only is gaming about moderation, but it’s about dignity and respect. Dignity and respect for yourself, your health, your partner and your social life. Once you have these elements in balance – there is no reason couples can’t enjoy games together for decades to come.

“I say give it a chance,” Gordon says to those partners who are wary of joining in.

“Even if it is boring to you, it’s something that your man should be able to do. We have a lot of rules set up around gaming, we want to stay productive. Maybe more households should do that, without just saying it’s horrible and saying you’ll never do it.”

Patrick Stafford still intends to dance in front of Kotaku’s office if Half Life 3 is announced this year, you can follow him on Twitter here.