Aug 312011

Yesterday was our (Nikki’s and my) 19th anniversary of being together as a couple. That’s all well and good, you say, but what does it have to do with gaming? Well, for one thing, we’re both gamers and have been for longer than since we’ve known each other. But the time we’ve been together, there’s been a lot of gaming too. Let’s take a quick trip down memory lane…

In 1993, Street Fighter II was still the rage. Many a battle was waged on our Super NES, often pitting my Chun Li against her Ken, with the outcome always in doubt. Indeed, the SNES cartridge for this game was our first joint purchase. Some of you may still in this day and age think it’s no fun to have a significant other that can hold their own against you in a game; you are wrong. Its calculated cat-and-mouse gameplay also suited both of us better than today’s more modern 67-hit power-bar-fueled ultra-combo finishes. We later revisited this kind of awesomeness with Soul Calibur when the Dreamcast launched but it never quite reached those previous heights.

While some of the irritating tactics used in SF2 led to occasional ill-will, no game ever came close to destroying our relationship–except for Magic: The Gathering. We hopped on board with the Revised Edition and Legends in mid-1994 and, like many others, became mildly addicted, buying packs and boxes to increase the variety and potency of decks. But Magic is a game where, with a careful deck and lucky draw, you can (or at least could at the time) end the game before your opponent plays a single card, and we tried to get as close to that ideal as possible, stacking multiple Black Vises, Ivory Towers, Channeled Fireballs and all sorts of other jackassery that led to games where we wouldn’t meaningfully speak to each other for an hour or more afterward. We stopped playing sometime around 1996 or 1997 and sold almost all of our cards to finance a cross-country move. While I still sometimes miss Magic, I don’t miss any of those cutthroat matches.

For several years, we played an online text-based MUD, Aardwolf. Countless hundreds (maybe thousands) of hours were gobbled up in this madness that reached far back into our psyche and harkened to a time that we can both remember, when people with computers used their phones to dial in to bulletin boards and interact socially from there. Yes, that’s right, if you’re young you might not have realized it, but Wargames really was how people used to connect to other computers. I know it’s mind-blowing in the days of your hula-hoops and dot-coms, but there we are.

The 2000s brought graphical MMOs into our world. We’ve shared Final Fantasy XI, City of Heroes and, more recently, Warcraft; there have also been occasional dalliances that never quite stuck, such as Anarchy Online and Rift. Our characters always have some sort of intricate backstory that inevitably brings them together for… Well, whatever the purpose of the MMO happens to be. The limiter to us playing these games usually turns out to be budgetary–both in terms of time and money–more than enjoyment-wise (however, even some free games, like Champions Online, just never clicked.)

Our lives, like many others, were changed in 2005 when Harmonix developed Guitar Hero. Since then, through Guitar Hero II (and, admittedly, GH3), and all the iterations of Rock Band, we’ve found yet another way to play together, living out private jam sessions in our own game room. Much like with MMOs, our bands have stories about getting together, becoming famous, breaking up and reuniting; we even have custom art of them (usually from the hand of our good friend Amy Mebberson.) Of all the game series we have played, Harmonix’s empire has lasted the longest–we still play to this day and watch for the announcement of new downloadable songs every Friday. Will Dance Central 2, which adds multiplayer, be the next straw in the cap that is Harmonix’s stranglehold on our entertainment? We shall see.

Though neither of us are true shooter afficionados, Borderlands sucked us in when it came out in 2009 due to RPG elements and the now-catchphrased “kill guys and take their stuff” motif. It allowed us to easily work together at our own pace, level up, acquire lots of goodies and otherwise succeed where Halo, Call of Duty and so many others would fail. Oh yes, we’re very much looking forward to the sequel.

Our most recent joint venture is Pathfinder, which brings me back into the fold of D&D style campaigning after more than 20 years and gives Nikki a chance to experience the joy of extended campaigning; so far we’re loving it (and our ever-expanding collection of dice) with me running her characters through the Kingmaker adventure path while she puts mine through a custom campaign made up of a bevy of individual, usually-unrelated adventures. Prior to this, we had enjoyed Neverwinter Nights when it came out many years earlier, but while the two are both built on the foundation of Dungeons and Dragons, they are incredibly different experiences and I can say that not once did we stay up until nearly four in the morning playing Neverwinter…

All in all, it’s been an excellent 19 years (for more than just the gaming, mind you.) If you’ve never been able to get someone else to enjoy gaming with you, then I feel for you. If you’ve never been interested in gaming (tabletop, card, video game or otherwise) with someone else, you should reconsider. Me, I’ve got both of those experiences with the best girl in the world and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Here’s to another 19 years of gaming and then some.