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 You can reach her on Twitter at @kweenie, or by email at [email protected]

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    Hang on, you say you're still with this other guy and yet just a fortnight ago posted an article about your OkCupid profile?! Are you looking to get your fingers in ANOTHER online pie?

    EDIT::My mistake!

    Last edited 02/12/12 12:37 pm

      That was somebody else

      "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."

    I understand the need to disclose, and there is something to be said about the expectations of positive team-building relationships. What I think is really sad is that the author thought it was unusual that her husband did not have the same level of emotional engagement after a separation, pending divorce, and sense of betrayal. It is sad, don't get me wrong, but I can understand why the "ethic of care" had disappeared from the cooperative games. However, I am not a counsellor so cannot comment further on the type of relationship you had. All I can do is comment on this article itself.

    The title of this article is misleading, because it was not the cooperative gaming that brought down the relationship, but a whole lot of other factors. Cheating. Personal priorities. It was evident that the relationship was deteriorating before either person picked up a gamepad, and I think the author was aware of this before Blizzard was accused of being a homewrecker. What this article has demonstrated is that humanity is complex, beyond the "stereotypical" gaming behaviours that Tiffany has discussed (indeed, the level of caricature is a bit concerning, and something that women in games have been fighting against for a very long time).

    What I find really sad about this article is that it is not actually an article for a video game website. It is an article about the end of a relationship, lightly salted with a gaming garnish for a bit of added readership. This is why people are responding to it negatively. Choose a different target audience, Tiffany. I have fair respect for you, but this is a bit below your usual high standards.

    I'll try and inject a moment of clarity here amongst all the judgment.

    Yes, the real issue is her cheating, not the game.

    But the true story is what that tells everyone about her issues.

    She's obviously mentally unwell. She has problems with attention, and self-absorption - which can be seen from the very act of writing the article, much less the content.

    Rather than just pointing fingers and blaming, a more productive approach is to realise this is very common in women throughout society - generally stemming from difficult childhoods/early lives.

    Yes, she may indeed be a 'cheating attention whore'. Great, we established that, everyone feel good and righteous?

    Now the more important questions to ask are 'why is she this way?' and 'what steps can she take in her life to ensure it no longer is an issue for her and those close to her?'

    In my experience, 'emotional cheating' (as opposed to cheating by those people who literally don't know any better) is something that tends to happen to more women than men (because it's a common combination that women with insecurity issues end up with less than emotionally open men due to the sheer prevalence of both conditions).

    It's a serious issue but one that very few people think through as they are too busy judging. Rather than just being self righteous twats, more currency will be gained by folks acknowledging the problem and considering how it can be dealt with in both specific cases and as a general social issue.

    Oh and by the way I was recently cheated on by my partner of over a decade. I don't judge her for it and I'm helping her understand why she did something she regrets more than anything else in her life and deal with the childhood abuse that wounded her to the point where she would do something I would never consider.

      You're a sucker. I don't know, maybe you aren't, but I have known too many guys and girls in the same position you are now (helping their ex try to cope and understand why they cheated on/abused/manipulated them and every single one has turned out the same - a realisation of the truth - that their ex is slowly getting better while they rapidly deteriorate and that their ex still doesn't care that they are hurting them. There are professionals who can help her, who would do a (no offense) much better job of it than you, if only because of your ties to her. Maybe you are the single person in this situation who is not going to come out even worse than they were when they broke up though. I doubt it.

      You should really send her to a psychologist for that. No, really. Even if you were an APA accredited psychologist you're WAAAAAAY too close to the situation.

        She's seeing two counsellors and a psych. I didn't mean I'd do it single handedly!

    I like to say that the couple that doesn't goddamn cheat on each other, stays together.

    You don't need Diablo III to tell you things, you need to seek professional help.

    Good god this is terrible.

    Maybe you should have considered being an adult? Thinking video games are a good means to mend a collapsing marriage is so hilariously naive, it's actually quite sad.

    Try finding your morality in the real world. Maybe that'll help you to stop making such idiotic decisions in the future.

    And if you truly believe Portal 2's co-op (or any other co-op game-type, for that matter) is a good "litmus test" for a relationship, you may want to reconsider what you think you know about relationships. And what you think you know about video games.

    This was honestly the worst thing I've ever read about video games.

    What...the...hell? This is truly the weirdest article I've seen on Kotaku...To me it seems Tiffany has some sort of severe mental illness and needs professional help. O.o these are definitely not the words of a sane, healthy minded person whos grounded in reality.

    I am seriously getting the impression that shes got a few screws loose...

    Ok. I think i'm going to break the mold here a little.

    Now, i'm on the same ground as everyone else, there is never a justifiable reason for cheating. But I don't condemn you for it. People, when their hearts and heads are put into these sorts of "broken relationships" especially if you are a submissive person, or scared, will often lead into seeing someone behind the partners back. It is bad regardless. But nevertheless, its not the main reason for my comment.

    Everyone is using THAT fact as a reason to disregard everything else she has said.
    You do not know the timeline of events that lead to this. So leave it be.

    The fact of the matter is, she has created a Parallel between Relationships and Gaming.
    Her Ex-Husband spoke of Diablo 2 as if it was the Holy Grail. memories of Days forging teams and looting dungeons, sheild and sword. Spell and bow. etc etc.
    In playing this with her husband, she expected to be put into the same place. Strengthening her relationship and (perhaps) saving it?
    Him letting her die is, more of a Symbol. Letting their relationship die as "its just not the way it works".

    Regardless, Well done for expressing it. It could of been written better. Perhaps attempting to explain your motives a bit more? Regardless, you've paid your dues by your marriage ending. Best of luck in the beginning of the New Game. ( see what i did there? heh )

    For the sake of all your future relationships, I sure the one you have now is based on mutual trust, love and respect. It sure as hell does not sound like either of you really were living for the other in your first marriage, which is probably why it was doomed to failure.

    A lot of people are passing judgement here, missing the point of the article entirely. The article is about how games work in a relationship, and how co op games can show how well two people may work together. There seems to be a bit of a witch hunt going on here, with a lot of people saying that she deserved to have her relationship fail because she was cheating.

    I find it interesting how most people are choosing to ignore the fact that the writer mentions that both parties were seeing other people. Long term relationships between adults are complicated and never black and white. In a lot of cases, two people simply grow apart and begin to lead increasingly separate lives. This can be caused be a number of factors, and often cannot be simplified by pointing the blame at a single person.

    This article doesn't give you details about how they were seeing the other people, but it's not the main focus of the article.

    Oh, wait, that wasnt it...
    Id say grow a pair, but... well... you know...

    Wow the author of this is all levels of crazy. If a girl randomly pulls out a DS in the middle of a date and plays away at it for a few minutes that should raise a pretty big flag.

    The reaction she had to getting killed in D3 softcore is pretty amazing too. You have to be pretty crazy to think your marriage vows apply to video games and decide its over based on something unimportant like that.

    Get help. Or you know go away where no one can find you because you are such a glorious screw up of a person.

    I just wanted to say you're fucking nuts!

    This article is hilarious. Games is seriouz busniess guize.

    I've read a lot of terrible articles on Kotaku, but this one is exceptional.

    Stopped reading when she said she was cheating.
    Your marriage ended because you cheated, not because your husband let you die.

    Jesus what is wrong with people these days?
    Bloody hell......

    Funniest thing I've read all day. I needed that.

    You're a fucking freak, you were cheating on the guy and you're nagging him about hitting the fucking gym? So what if he didn't save you from the intense aggro, lose some gold and move on you wreck. Shits your fault dun dada. Hope your new boyfriend reads this and dumps your ass because of trust issues.

    Just have to chime in on a few things; first off dying like that in d3 is a fact of the game, he didn't "abandon" you to let you die. The flow of the game is you play with other people but your on your own, this isn't wow. No healing class. No tanking class. Pure dps.

    But to people who are bashing you for "cheating" which honestly is your husbands fault for not being emotionally there for you, (I have a theory that women and men cheat for different reasons, and women cheat when they are emotionally neglected among other things) he was asking for it. It's not like he gave it his all and you went behind him, he'd given up too apparently, game over.

    I have a son who i play with whilst the missus plays bingo on her iPad - match made in heaven

    Wow, I can't help but wonder how old some of the commenters here are with responces like "YOU'RE A CHEATING WHORE"!?!
    Grow up, in an adult relationship shit happens. Yes she cheated, but by then the relationship was -in all probability- already dead, even if she hadn't realised it. Sometimes things don't work out, It's not either parties fault really, it's just how it is.
    It truly bugs me that so many people read the article and jusped to the decision that Tiffany was entirely to blame. If she was getting what she needed from the relationship it is unlikely she would have cheeted, maybe if she'd done something different her ex would have talked more, or gone to councilling or something. In the end it doesn't matter two people who where connected drifted apart, and hence things came to an end.
    Whilst it is often easier to blame someone, most of the time stuff like this isn't anyones fault.
    I can sympathise with both the author, and her ex, as no-one likes to see something they once thought would last forever crumble to dust.

    I think a lot of the commentors here need to grow the f--- up.

      I agree with the majority of your post, but this I must point out:
      "Grow up, in an adult relationship shit happens."
      A relationship where letting someone die results in the affected crying themselves to sleep and judging that that was the "it's all over" moment is hard to categorise as an adult relationship.

    So your relationship was dead because he let you die on the skeleton king in D3 and not because you were fucking someone else? Suuuure..
    I'd have let you die aswell. In future don't cheat on someone and blame a video game for making you realize. The second you were with that other guy should've been a bit of a red flag.
    You should have dumped him and just said you were unhappy rather then make things a complicated mess. You're as much to blame as him. If not more

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