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.


    Especially if you play twisted metal together than you get a blowjob.

    ... OK hate to burst your bubble here, but I think in these examples 'gaming' is just a synonym for 'shared interests'. A couple without much shared interests/activities will quickly grow apart.

    Sorry but this isn't really a case about gaming being good for couples, it's just you should actually do stuff together to even BE a couple.

      I agree with this. And even if both of you game, if its (very) different genres (or console/PC games vs. facebook games), things can still go pearshaped

      Gotta agree too. Still I really like to see articles like this because, as it has been said "It’s only that video games happen to be “okay” to hate on.” I guess it just helps point out that gaming together is just as valid as doing other activities together.

    Man, I've spent hundreds of hours playing co-op games with my Fiance... Our biggest problem when the fun runs dry for me yet she wants to keep playing, but I want to move onto something else... She doesn't enjoy single player games as much as I do :(

    Thats a fairly good wicket to be playing on, i wish my partner and i could share the same relationship but i think our current one suits us. The way we work is i'm allowed to play when i want but when she says put down the controller its down and we do what she wants to do. However the game we always play together is buzz, i'm not a big fan personally but it makes her happy so why not do it. Also littlebigplanet, i think its because its adorable. However anything with a little bit of blood she absolutely loathes, which is understandable. I think the boundaries are important and it will be interesting to hear the rest of your situations.
    Does anyone remember that gamecrush service? We always thought it would be funny if i pimped her out on there, so she talked and i gamed and we'd make money. But after hearing some horror stories from friends who did it we decided against it. That would of been the closest we got to a large amount of gaming together. (btw we would never of done it, we aren't the sorta people who'd rip others off)

      "The way we work is i’m allowed to play when i want but when she says put down the controller its down and we do what she wants to do"

      I'm sorry, but does this seem horribly contradictory to anyone else? 'You can play games any time you want except when I say you can't.' *whipcrack*

        Well unfortunately we cant always get what we want and a dont tell me what to do attitude doesn't get me terribly far with my partner(hint hint). She outright hates gaming and doesn't hide it. I find if i play ball well i get to play more(she leaves me be). I dont know about you but i don't like being a jerk to my partner just because its the manly thing to do. I will always choose my partner over gaming, wouldnt you?

    My fiancée is significantly better than me at every single game we play. When ever we play together we both end up getting frustrated. It's the same reason we never play monopoly (I have never won a game of monopoly).

    in the photo, is the guy holding a gamecube controller while his 'missus' is holding a ps controller?

      It's not a gamecube controller, just a 3rd party PS controller. Which makes the pic a bit more genuine I reckon because usually the guy is the better player so he should take the handicap of having the crappy aftermarket controller. ;)

      (and yes, I know full well that saying the guy is the better player is a stereotype and all flames will be ignored) :)

    I find it hard to find a good looking gaming chick. I agree with most comments above. It's about striking a balance, give and take etc. I never played a game when my girlie was home, I'd give her my undivided attention. But it just comes down to each person etc. Some woman accept it, some dont understand it at all. I'm a 'gamer' and I'll be this way until I cant physically be one any more, but I know all about balance in a relationship. Now I just have to find me a good looking gamer chick, that loves to give massages :P What can I say, I'm easy to please :P

      Spoonie, the gamer chicks I know are hotter than pretty much all the other girls I know.

      Think maybe the problem might perhaps be with you and not the gamer chicks?

    I have a love/hate relationshop with that stock photo...

    My wife never played games till I met her now she loves them :)

    My boyfriend and I live in different states, but playing an mmo together helps tide the time between visits nicely, and is something we can share.

    My wife and I play Kirby's Epic yarn together - good fun and almost reached 100 % :)

    Yeh its all about balance. My gf likes the Kinect and me, the hardcore games. She sometimes likes watching me play and has a good laugh (Saints Row 3). Others times she will demand attention, which I'm happy to put the controller down and give her. Love my gaming, but love her more.

    Two people enjoying an activity together is healthy for a relationship? Who'd have thunk it?

    It's all well-and-good to roll back stereotypical ideas about gamers and gaming culture, but let's keep things in sensible perspective. If two people shared an interest in cooking or reading or skydiving it would enhance and strengthen the relationship. Gaming is just another thing 2 people can enjoy together.

    Nice little article, I've gotta say it's been great gaming with my partner. Especially cause she's sometimes all "OK, lets head home and kill some aliens" :P

    Portal 2 was the first co-op game we played through together and it's bloody great to bond with someone playing though it. Now we've played through the Halo series a few times and are looking for more good co-op games to tackle, and geez that makes me happy. Nerdiest girl I've been with and it's great to not have to dial back the nerd-factor :P

    Some friends, a couple both in the mililtary, often find themselves apart for periods of up to six months at a time. I have known the one who isnt on deployment, to get up at 4am just so they can hang out for a few hours together in Guild Wars.

    My does not play games.

      I missed something important there.

      My Wife does not play games.

    My gf likes to play some games with me especially wii, Kirby epic yarn, donkey king country returns, and we played portal 2 aswell, I want to play resident 5 next if I can convince her it's not too scary hehe, rythym heaven on wii ahkild be a good co op game to play too cant wait for that one,
    lately I've been playing my single player games while she sits next to me and reads , which is a pretty good thing , I can play for hrs lol and she can read for hrs too :D

    I always have a blast playing things like Borderlands and Resistance 3 with my boyfriend, I think if both people enjoy the type of game that is being played then there's absolutely no reason why gaming can't be a part of any healthy relationship, just like tv, movies and other communal activities. While my favourite games will always be single player RPGs or mmos, I do enjoy anything with a coop campaign!

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