How Diablo III Told Me My Marriage Was Over

I like to say that the couple that games together, stays together. I'm not alone in that sentiment, either. I'm sure there are lots of couples who integrate gaming into their day-to-day interactions and manage to get along just fine. But just because I like to say it... well, that doesn't make the statement true. Unfortunately, I only know this through first-hand experience.

My husband and I met online, like a lot of people do these days, and he liked to say that he fell in love with me on that very first date.

I have a habit of hiding behind a gaming handheld when I'm really nervous with someone new. It wasn't long into that first meeting when I dug into my purse. I pulled out my Nintendo DS, and just kind of fell into it for a couple of minutes before closing it and going back to him. He swears that that moment, right there, was the moment he fell in love with me.

I still don't know what he saw in me at that moment. Was my nervousness merely indicative of the sort of unshaped person he was looking for? Did it make me look more submissive, perhaps? Maybe he just wanted someone who played more games than he did. I haven't really gotten an answer, and that's OK. I'm not looking for answers these days.

***

This year, we separated, and the divorce process has yet to really get underway, despite the fact that we're both pretty happy with other people at this point. What I realised most recently about our separation is that the way we played together this year said a lot about where we were in our relationship.

Two games managed to show me it was all over. There wouldn't be any turning back. No rolling a new character for a fresh start, no "maybe I'd be a lot happier in this marriage on ‘Very Easy.'" These games, which were very different from one another, weren't the problem, but they were certainly illustrative.

I wasn't an idiot. I knew when the snowball started rolling down the hill. After one of our (increasingly common) serious talks that left me bawling, I told my husband that we needed some time to ourselves. We needed a couple of hours away from the distractions (read: other people) just to see if there was anything to salvage. I wanted to make it a weekly thing, even.

I wanted counselling. He said no. So, us being us (or perhaps me just being me), we picked a recent downloadable PlayStation 3 release to play together.

OK, so I wasn't an idiot then, but I sure was stupid to think that a couple of hours was going to do a lot for us. Maybe hope kills brain cells.

I wanted counselling. He said no. So, us being us (or perhaps me just being me), we picked a recent downloadable PlayStation 3 release to play together — The Simpsons Arcade. He'd played it a lot as a kid, since he could visit an arcade on a semi-regular basis. I hadn't ever managed to play it before, but the show, as well as the game's genre, are among my favourites. The best part (to me, for this occasion) was that it was all co-op. No fighting each other allowed, only working together.

In a sense, going back to this kind of game was the perfect thing to do. We were going back to basics, trying to figure out the essence of "us", whether that was particularly painful or not.

Here, the pain was minimal. We actually finished the game in about half the time that was allotted in our schedules, but we didn't want to go back and do it again so soon, so we perused the menus and that was really just... it.

I don't think playing something together really "worked", but then again, I don't know what I expected. We came, we played, we went back to our (increasingly separate) lives. Honestly, we never even spoke about the nothing that happened again.

And playing together weekly never happened either. That time would be the next to last.

The absolute last time we played a game together was the Diablo III launch. He had been waiting the better part of a decade for this game, and I had only been waiting the better part of a year. The way he talked of high school LAN parties made its predecessor sound like the ultimate in companionship gaming. Bonds were forged, and loot was had. I wanted in on this.

I got my chance during the game's press preview for the beta. I could finally get a real sense of what the game was like (and find out just how well it would run on my MacBook Pro). I installed the game and started playing while my husband watched, and man, it's like something was just weird in that room all of a sudden.

I didn't deserve to play, he said. Mostly because of the fact that I had never touched a Diablo game in my life. Does that really compute? I'm not sure. I offered him my computer and told him about that last open beta push before the game's release, but I don't know if he ever went for it.

I didn't deserve to play, he said. Mostly because of the fact that I'd never touched a Diablo game in my life.

In any case, we finally made it to release night, and after his late-night gym excursion, which could bring him home well after midnight most nights at the time, we booted up, avoided error messages (perhaps due to blessings from Deckard Cain himself) and went for it.

I made my gal a Demon Hunter named Ariadne (named after my similarly classed WoW toon), he got started with a Barbarian, and off we went.

Since I'd already done all of this before, I was directing things pretty well, but trying not to be too overbearing about it. It was, in my opinion, so, so cute to see my husband so excited about exploring New Tristram. We went on for about an hour, and then it happened.

He let me die.

In co-op, enemies scale with you and the size of your group. When I had played before, there wasn't much of a problem (with the exception of that damn Skeleton King) because my enemies were scaled for a singleplayer game.

So, here we are, fighting our way through the very beginning of Act I and we separate and all of a sudden I manage to aggro everything in a pretty large radius and I don't know how that happened and they're attacking and oh my god sweetie I don't wanna die hey can you help me they're killing me um seriously can you help because I can't get range and I'm mostly good for range attacks and... dead.

He let me die. In a room where we would often simultaneously play our respective MMOs with chairs sitting literally next to one another and desks that were touching, he let me die.

With me verbally asking for help, he still let me die.

Yes, it's just a game. Yes, I could come right back to life and keep going (and I did). But I still cried that night before I went to bed because he. Let. Me. Die.

While Ariadne came back again, prepared to handle the onslaught alone, part of me didn't. We were over.

Yes, he was wearing headphones, but he heard me. I confirmed as much later, when we were done for the night. Oh, "it's just how you play," he said. Oh, so it was normal to ignore your partner. It's just "normal" to not even deviate from your loot-grabbing activities to save your wife from monsters. I gotcha. (Except everyone I've ever told this story to who has any Diablo experience is always as shocked as I was.)

I guess it's too much to expect "‘til death do you part" to extend to the virtual world, to avatars that aren't even programmed to express the sentiments behind such vows.

While Ariadne came back again, prepared to handle the onslaught alone, part of me didn't. We were over. Really over, and nothing could save us. It wasn't until after this moment, though, that I really accepted that as fact. It wasn't just that He Let Me Die, it's that he was so nonchalant about it, even while tears ran down my face.

I left our home the next week. I've spent the majority of this year in the kind of depression that you really only seem to get after someone very close to you dies and there's nothing left to take its place. Once I left, things got better, but I've really only been replacing one kind of sad with another.

***

There is a spark in my life, thankfully. If there wasn't, I probably wouldn't have made it to today, to be honest. I have a boyfriend now (and I've had him for over a year now, so you do that maths — I'm a cheating cheater, and while that isn't the only thing that made us fall to pieces, it certainly is among the reasons).

I'm not like Patricia Hernandez, who wrote not too long ago that she just plain doesn't list gaming as a thing she's into on her OkCupid profile anymore. It's there, it's something I'm open to talking about, but if you're creepy as hell about it, I'm just going to ignore you. My guy... he's not a gamer. Not in the traditional sense, anyway. He's pretty "meh" about most games these days, despite still fitting in the occasional Age of Empires game (and this is the very first version of the game). He has a Wii, but who doesn't? The thing's ubiquitous.

So, OK. He doesn't play a lot of games. That's fine. It doesn't bother me in the slightest. But when we first started getting a little more serious, or at least as serious as an online long-distance relationship can get while you're still married, he did mention having a copy of Portal 2. This, by the way, was the best thing ever.

I'm a Portal maniac. I love GLaDOS' acerbic humour more than almost any game character as a whole. She may be what amounts to a sentient operating system, but still, my point stands. Best character. Oh, and the part of Portal where you play with portals is pretty good, too.

So I knew Portal 2 pretty well by this point. Hell, after my town was flattened by a tornado and I used the game as a bit of a way to return normalcy to my life, I wrote to the game's co-writer, Erik Wolpaw, to thank him. (His response was to say thank you, "but [I] didn't actually say the game was any good." For the record, sir, it's excellent.) I had been through the co-op campaign with someone else, but I didn't know it like the back of my hand yet.

So it was only natural that I bugged him to play it with me. After a lot of IMs, he finally installed the game and it was on. Part of the beauty of online play is that despite having about 2092km between us at the time, it only felt like mere inches.

We stumbled together through it again. What struck me most was the fact that this time, it felt truly cooperative. My first partner, to whom I'd lost my co-op virginity (gasp!) was smart enough and well-versed in game design, so if we were stuck, he almost always figured it out. When I tried to play with my husband, it fizzled out after about a half-hour, because the portal mechanic just isn't his thing. I get that. (Sort of.) Also, I don't think he liked taking too many directions from me. (It's possible that this theme may have existed for a while.)

You know, he and I hadn't even met in person yet. But here we were, handing off edgeless cubes and hitting buttons and being willing to try things even if they don't work. I was able to actually teach him some things about the game — no, you can't carry things through the emancipation grids — and, as a bonus, the game did feature voice chat. So it was a fantastic Skype replacement too.

Here we were, handing off edgeless cubes and hitting buttons and being willing to try things even if they don't work... Playing with him just felt right.

Playing with him just felt right. I don't know how else to explain it. Maybe I should just say it was like having the knowledge that there's someone out there in the universe who just understands you. Maybe this means more to me as a woman, but if things weren't clear, he would wait for me to explain them and ask questions until he completely understood whatever task was at hand. Like, oh my god. Dream guy.

It wasn't long after that first play session before he decided to ask me something. This something was prefaced as a "weird" something, so I wasn't quite sure what to expect.

He wanted to know if I would have his children.

And perhaps this sounds stupid, or like an uninformed product of lust and at-the-time completely unfulfilled sexual tension, but I... uh, I said yes.

I said yes not just because I love him, but because while we were playing, I literally had the thought, "Huh, this feels like real teamwork. I honestly think I could have kids with this guy if this is how well we interact."

It'll be quite a while before I have to live up to any of that, sure. That is, if both us as a couple and the plans for everything that happens before kids shake out. But over time, I've felt like a game — a silly game about screwing with physics — is really a better litmus test for relationships, having children with someone, and other serious endeavours than anything else I've encountered (you know, aside from actually doing any of these things). It's puzzling, challenging, and occasionally you just want to throw up your hands and give up. All of that sounds like parenthood to me. Except for the part of parenthood where you don't get to sleep. I hear that's a thing.

Ultimately, I think we can learn something about ourselves and our relationships with others when we take the time to play with other people instead of against them. Maybe you don't always like what you see, sure, but it's worth the effort. How's that competitive personality going to work out with another person? Are you the sort who gives up control too easily on a shared screen? Does that translate to you giving up control in your life? It's something to examine, for sure.

As for me, well...I'm ready to learn some more about the people I love. Just as long as it doesn't involve Diablo III. That one still hurts a little.

Tiffany Claiborne is the former news editor at GamingAngels.com. You can reach her on Twitter at @kweenie, or by email at [email protected]


Comments

    I hear a lot about how men are cheating bastards, but all the cheaters I've ever known or read about have been women. There seems to be a large proportion of women who are self-interested jerks who think they're the centre of the universe.

    Great you got around to imparting the information that YOU'RE A CHEATING WHORE Tiffany, halfway through your bawwwwwwwwww article about what a terrible person your husband is for being a dick in Diablo 3. You don't deserve sympathy, you deserve to be mocked like the self-centred brat you are.

    I love how all these comments treat a relationship as such a black and white subject.

    Seriously guys, first off his behavior of late night gym sessions sounds suspicious to me. Second why was she cheating (Yes Why, not a question of if, because she was but a question of why)? It wasn't physical because the relationship was 2092km apart so she was cheating emotionally because that need wasn't being fulfilled within the relationship. And I'm not sure of the timeline here but she was trying to get her husband to fulfill that emotional need. She wanted to try counseling to attempt to save the relationship he didn't want to.

    And despite the cheating on her part this guy had pulled some pretty big douche moves like saying she doesn't deserve to be in the Diablo 3 Beta because she hadn't played Diablo 1 and 2? She wasn't a big enough fan of the Diablo series to play it? As for letting her die, making a failed attempt or even acknowledging he couldn't save her would have been better than ignoring it.

    I only have her side of the story, I know I don't have all the facts and I won't even pretend there is justification for cheating, as a betrayal will always hurt more than a break up. The relationship was dead neither of them where willing to admit it.

      This article is stupid. Co-Op games as a test of a relationship because of the team-work required? Kinda nuts. If the argument was - I have fun playing Coop games with this person, then I guess there wouldn't have been a story here because it would have just been - I like/love this person because we enjoy doing things we enjoy together.

    I honestly can see why you felt that this is a story worthy of sharing with the public, but nothing to do with this story was worth posting as in the long run you've hurt what reputation you have to readers with this article, you can already see the people crying "Cheater" and others nit picking the subjective way this article was written.

    A lot of us would rather read about the healthy gamer guy & gamer girl relationships out there than this relationship that from what I've read about it i can only say was clearly toxic from the beginning, we have all been in toxic relationships i had a girlfriend who cheated on me with 5 other people two of which were (are?) female, and even though she has been engaged for the last year to one of the men she cheated on me with, she is still out there sleeping with anyone and everyone she can, was it because she wasn't a gamer and I'm an avid gamer, No.

    I admire you for posting this story, but the connection to gaming is slight at best, if anything gaming let you see their true colours but it didn't make or break either relationship (unless you count the way gaming seems to inform your opinion of people) people either work in a relationship or they don't.

      ...with 5 other people two of which were (are?) female....
      Two of whom are female. Use who and whom when referring to people. Save which for objects.

    oh god Kotaku
    did you seriously post this
    some chick that needs games to determine her relationship was over
    her relationship which she was cheating on
    Kotaku, you're ruining my weekend
    Kotaku
    pls

    A lot of people her seem to be obsessed with the "cheating" thing.
    Its not really such a big deal, its being prats to each other that's destructive.
    "Cheating" is just a symptom.

    I think the new boyfriend should watch out. If they do get married and have kids his wife might decided to "keep her options open" again. The first husband should have made more an effort but Tiffany shouldn't have cheated either. If you're dating someone while MARRIED then you obviously don't love your partner enough to be in a relationship with them

    Here's a thought; don't base your relationships around video games. Hot tip - guys who play lots of video games are typically disaffected and don't work that well in relationships. Also cheating is not cool, break it off first.

    I'm going to have to agree with everyone else on this one...

    It's really hard to have any sympathy for you in this situation. While reading the article you came across as quite immature and in my opinion I don't think you're ready for a serious relationship with anyone, let alone long distance ones with guys you meet online. Maybe that's your problem, maybe you need to try to build relationships with the people around you, not avatars, especially ones that ask you to have their children while you're still married to someone else.

    It just seems like you'll take whatever you can get?

    Of course I'm pretty ignorant in all this as I don't actually know you, but this is how you come across. I think you need to take a decent look at yourself and sort your shit out before you commit to someone.

    I felt that there was a lot that this article didn't explain or care to acknowledge. Biggest thing for me was why did she cry herself to sleep after he let her die? Seems like a bit of an over reaction. Of course there's obviously more to the thought process between "omg he let me die" and tears being shed. But it wasn't explained so I was just like LOLWTF. Then she revealed to be cheating. and in the vein of her article. SHE.REVEALED.TO.BE.CHEATING.

    Dude should have run for the hills the second she whipped out a DS in the middle of a first date.

    this whole forging a relationship through gaming is terrible?
    gaming with a partner is nice but its not what makes or breaks a relationship - unless well thats the ONLY interaction you have with each other, then that pretty much sounds doomed to me.

    try doing other things together like eating out, cinema, sex, walks, hanging out with friends, sex, you know.... relationship building activities that actually involve physical contact or stimulate your mind.

    Read with an open mind up until the part where you admitted you were a lying cheat. I hope your boyfriend cheats on you, dumps you and leaves you sad and alone for the rest of your short pathetic life. The end.

    Ignoring all the cheater issues, and the talk about the previous relationship. Especially while drunk drunk at 3 am, I'll try to make a point about what think the article might actually be about.

    Co-op gaming to me has been a godsend in more ways than one. It brings people together in a far healthier way than competitive gaming. I love a good kill in Halo, but a song played well by a a group in Rock Band or Guitar Hero or that boss kill in multiplayer Borderlands 2 is a MUCH better feeling to me.

    I'm going to go against the grain here and say that shit happens, life isn't perfect, I'm glad you found someone else and the fact you're being honest about your indiscretions is admirable;

    However writing an article on "How Diablo III Told me my Marriage was over" and then stating "while that isn’t the only thing that made us fall to pieces, it certainly is among the reasons" gives us the impression that you are someone that over thinks things way too much and if something that small can make your come to such a blinding realization about the state of your marriage i would honestly suggest speaking to someone professionally trained in dealing with whatever issues you have/had and take some time away from any relationship to get your head straight (if you haven't already done so).

    Don't get me wrong i know first hand that when relationships get to the point of you looking elsewhere you seldom make the right decisions and everything that goes on from that point gets harder, but a simple (and obviously very emotional) conversation stating you aren't happy and are having feelings for someone else would have been the easiest way to have dealt with the situation. No its not an easy thing to do but thankfully i still speak to my previous partners and we still enjoy each others company although it didn't work out - live and learn.

    My apologies if this post seems pompous or condescending it wasn't meant to, just a friendly piece of advice and a hope that you are happier than you were :)

    I wrote a long comment, but erased it. You ain't worth it, Tiffany. I hope your ex finds someone who respects him enough to NOT cheat on him.

    Karma gonna be a b*tch when it catches up with you...

    maybe counselling was a good idea if you cried over getting killed in diablo and used it as a metaphor for your relationship with your husband.

    If you use video games as a litmus test for your relationships you're gonna have a bad time

    Yep, one word to ruin the whole article. Cheater.
    You are what you are, and to think you will have any type of respectable relationship with the person you were cheating with on your husband???? you are an utter fool.

    I would had dumped her too.

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