Love And Games: Long Distance Wizard-Killing

I was in a long distance relationship for over two years and gaming was incredibly useful for keeping in touch with my partner*. But not every game was a good fit, either because of relative game experience or temperament or any number of other things. So here are some of the games which worked and some of the games which didn’t. I’m going to explain them from my point-of-view because I don’t want to presume to know exactly what his experience was!

Dota 2

Dota is one which sort of worked and sort of didn’t. It kept me in touch with a lot of friends – not just my partner – and I also used it to make friends and go in unexpected directions with my job. But it’s a game which also has the capacity to make me incredibly sad or frustrated or competitive and the same with my partner. Less so now, but in the past it could also be this huge source of tension. Nowadays my actual desire the play the game comes in fits and starts and I’ve learned to shake it off better when a game isn’t going my way which in turn makes me nicer to play with, or at least nicer to be on Skype with afterwards when I’m no longer being pleasant for the sake of other people ;)

Overwatch and Heroes Of The Storm

I’m going to lump these together because they fill a similar space. They tickle the competitive multiplayer part of both of our brains but they’re nowhere near as loaded as Dota or a SRS BSNS shooter like Counter-Strike. Part of that is that they’re shorter matches, part of that is that they’re styled in a more light-hearted way and a far bigger part is that I came to them after learning a lot about what makes me stressed or happy with Dota. I know when I’m happy to try a new hero and when I’m not, which roles I excel in, and also how to talk before the game so he knows what kind of a mood I’m in and what kind of a game experience I’m seeking – genuine practice/a backdrop to a conversation/drunken wizard-killing and singing…

Viscera Cleanup Detail

This one is just a really lovely accompaniment to conversation. We both seem to have a similar enjoyment of tidying the spaces and settle into a really nice rhythm of passing to and fro with buckets and boxes. The first time we tried it we got a higher rating than I have ever managed with anyone else and it was just really lovely sharing this kinda weird game with someone else and having them love it too.

Guild Wars 2

This one should have worked but really didn’t. It came down to the fact that he had played it loads before getting it for me so every time we sat down to play it turned into this weird tour guide experience where I always felt like there was nothing new I could discover or share. That happened when I tried World of Warcraft with friends a few years ago. They were all hardcore players with max level everything and so would just stick me in a sidecar and take me everywhere they thought was exciting. It was nice in the way that a tour is nice but there was no sense of having a partner to explore the game with.

Divinity: Original Sin

The same thing happened here. He had played and knew the game and I was still getting to grips with where everything was and how a town near the start fitted together. The best way I can describe the experience is like you’re a toddler who is excited by each rock or your own feet or whatever and the other person is the weary parent who wants to get to the coffee shop and have a sit down and FOR THE LOVE OF GOD THAT IS A DEAD END STOP GOING OVER THERE


Yes, it’s a console game. Shhhh. But Destiny has been a reliable source of positive shared experiences. PvP can be a bit irritating at time and he’s the kind of person who gets really into the microscopic differences of particular weaponry or particular rolls on armour items whereas I just collect shotguns I like the feel of and get really precious about my armour shaders. I’ve currently dressed my warlock as a kind of heroic banana. Occasionally we’ve been salty about PvP or I get annoyed that he’s suddenly turned up in a full suit of raid gear when CERTAIN OTHER PEOPLE WOULD HAVE LIKED TO RAID THANK YOU VERY MUCH but I’d say Destiny ended up being a weirdly important game for our relationship, offering space to talk and to hang out without needing to do exactly the same thing.

*FYI we have since moved in together and now I do things like break his X-Wing miniatures by accident while he’s out and has expressly told me not to mess with them and not to pretend the freezer is the ice planet of Hoth.

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  1. Arnvidr says:

    I had great fun with Torchlight II, and we were both new to it. Sometimes with voice, sometimes just chat.

  2. Hmm-Hmm. says:

    Yeah, I can agree that having both people start a game at the same time is often essential. It would be nice if players can do extraneous activities which don’t necessarily raise their levels or stats if one of the two also plays the game alone. It’s fun to discover places, mechanics and such together.

  3. wheadna says:

    As someone going through Divinity with their partner, I can confirm it is awesome when you’re both discovering it at the same time. Except when the finicky selecting on a gamepad causes you to dig up a grave instead of talk to the nice dog and oh god there’s a zombie and the dog is dead :(

  4. Horg says:

    I would have thought the Dark Souls series would have been the ideal long distance relationship co-op simulator. Two people with similar interests, who can otherwise communicate perfectly, struggle to meet up in the same place at the same time. Then, when you do finally work something out, some 3rd wheel dressed all in red crashes your moment and ruins everything.

  5. int says:

    Destiny’s destiny is the destiny of being destined for a PC release. It is only fate.

  6. Lexx87 says:

    I’ve found Minecraft to work quite well – pottering around together making stuff while chatting is great. I’ve just moved to Korea and have to wait a few months before my wife can join me, so this article came at a good time!

  7. etolis says:

    Can somebody help where the gif in the end of the article is from and what is about? Thank you!

    • GWOP says:

      Somebody help out! It’s his Destiny to know, dammit!

    • Stripe says:

      It’s from Destiny, they are both doing an emote at the same time and wearing the Engram (what the loot looks like in Destiny) helmets from the Halloween event.

  8. Gnoupi says:

    It’s a shame that you didn’t start GW at the same time, indeed, because it’s really a nice experience in couple, at least from my experience. We had a similar situation of long distance relationship, and while I had played through prophecies on my own, we started playing anything guild wars together since Factions up to Heart of Thorns, and it was a great time, with countless hundreds of hours spent this way.

    Well Heart of Thorns was admittedly less fun to play, since the solo part of it mostly revolves around those big battlefield maps with punishing design and enemy patterns, and we were looking more for a nice long story. But that’s another topic, the rest was great.

    Other than that, tight coop games like Trine 1 and 2, or Lara Croft and the guardian of light were a great time as well.

    • Dawngreeter says:

      If you haven’t tried Heart of Thorns recently, try it again. My wife and I had the same experience as you, but found ourselves quite enjoying it after the last patch, couple days back. It’s not a breeze, mind you, but we went up and down tangled depths, mapping it in entirety, just the two of us.

      And, as for the main topic of the article – yes, yes, GW2 is the best spousal game I have ever seen. Always a ton of options there. You have things to do when one or both of you feel tired and just want to click on some stuff. You have things to do when you feel like you want a challenge. You can do something for immediate reward, and you can also plan out long term goals that you want to accomplish in months ahead. We collect crafting stuff, we trade amongst ourselves, we argue which legendary weapon is the best, then pool resources and hike all over the world to craft the damn precursor. Also, it’s so very pretty too.

      I have zero clue how people who don’t play Guild Wars 2 do their marriage.

  9. Premium User Badge

    magogjack says:

    This is a somewhat sad article for me as I just broke up with my boyfriend. He didn’t game at all and expected me to watch brain dead T.V. with him instead (Ellen, the Young % the Restless, etc). It became this huge problem where I would just stay up all night instead of being nagged at to do something I didn’t enjoy when he refused to even think about joining me in a game every once in awhile or even let me play one when I didn’t want to watch the newest episode of Once upon a time.

    Obvs there were more problems then that but it was one that regularly came up, so good bye to six years together….

    • Premium User Badge

      magogjack says:

      oops % = &

      • Premium User Badge

        daktaklakpak says:

        I like your mistake better – I read it as “The Young Mod The Restless.” It’s like a summary of parenthood. Great advice for many in budding partnerships!

        • Premium User Badge

          daktaklakpak says:

          Oh, and because I didn’t mean to come across as an insensitive jerk: I’m sorry it didn’t work out for you :(

  10. lglethal says:

    Hey guys, can anyone suggest some co-op games which are not first person or Dota-likes? Divinity: Original Sin is the obvious one, but I’m looking for some other potential examples. The reason – My fiancée finds first person games make her feel sick (due to the movement on the screen), and she’s is not a fan of competitive games like Dota. I would love to share my gaming experiences with her, but so far no luck. We are going to try Divinity: Original Sin soon, but does anyone have any other suggestions?

    • NDAgreement says:

      My wife doesn’t really game, but we had a great time playing through Her Story together – I handled the interface, but she came up with the words to uncover the clips, and we both worked together to come up with a ‘solution’, though the internet tells me we definitely got it wrong.

      Telltale games also work for partners with a gamer / non-gamer split – anything where one person can make the decision and the other can handle the inputs. It’s easy to forget that I know where ‘B’ is on an XBOX controller, but she has to look away from the screen and down at the controller to check each time, which makes any time-critical button presses way too stressful.

      • TheLetterM says:

        I would second Her Story. My partner will play games, but due to a lack of dexterity, time, and familiarity with 3d interfaces, most modern local multiplayer options are out. We played HS the same way as you, and it was great to have something we could share while she was nursing our daughter.

    • draglikepull says:

      I was in a long distance relationship recently that involved a lot of gaming. The games we played the most were Civ IV and Civ V. They’re great for long-distance co-op because you can play at whatever pace you want, leave it for a while and then come back, etc. Civ’s also great if you’re trying to play with someone who’s not especially competitive and it’s not in 1st person, so that might help you too.

      We also played a lot of Diablo 3 and Torchlight 2. And a fair amount of Awesomenauts, which we’d play together against AI opponents.

      • Timbrelaine says:

        I second the Civ IV/V. So great when schedules don’t always match.

    • Relani says:

      I would absolutely recommend Don’t Starve Together. It’s pretty easy to pick up but has a decent skill/knowledge ceiling. The art style is gorgeous (and appealing even to those who don’t really consider themselves “gamers”); there’s lot of stuff to do/find/explore as well. Plus it allows for play in either a more hardcore or more relaxed mode, depending on your and your significant other’s preferences.

    • Ragnar says:

      Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light is fantastic. I highly recommend it as a co-op game.

      After that, I’ve had great success with Trine 1&2. You could also try Titan’s Quest Gold, Torchlight 2, Diablo 3, Monaco, Magicka, Castle Crashers, Dungeon Siege 3, Shadow Puppeteer, Terraria.

      Rocket League is 3rd person car, so that might work.

  11. Timbrelaine says:

    So many good suggestions! I think I’ll try some out on my gf when summer starts.

  12. Ragnar says:

    Congrats on moving in together. I wish you luck.

    But I’m disappointed to see that your list of games is mostly MMOs and MOBAs. There are so many great co-op games out there.

    Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light is fantastic, a true co-op game that works regardless of skill level. The sequel is fun too, just not as good.

    Trine 1 & 2 are great on co-op. I haven’t tried the 3rd yet.

    Borderlands is great fun in co-op, as are the action RPGs – Diablo 3, Torchlight 2, Dungeon Siege 3, Titan’s Quest, etc.

    Divinity: Original Sin is a great co-op RPG.

    Then there are lots of smaller co-op games. Magicka, Monaco, Guacamelee, Jamestown, Shadow Puppeteer, Castle Crashers.

    There are so many games that I feel deliver better, less stressful experiences than MOBAs and MMOs.

    And if you’re going to play an MMO, I think The Secret World gives the best co-op experience with its investigations.

  13. Von Uber says:

    The other half doesn’t game much at all (although she enjoyed Limbo) but she enjoyed playing Gone Home, Her Story and Life is Strange together (with me at the controls). Not really a long distance solution though.

  14. Punning Pundit says:

    No need to break his X-Wing Minis, FFG is doing a good enough job at that. I mean, have you _seen_ what the Defender is?! All those lovely fast moves, all those lovely evades. Top Jouster is Top!