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 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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