Of Love and Games

Of Love and Games
Romance on the High Seas

Murray Chu | 10 Feb 2009 12:33
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Ocean Masters are game admins and moderators that Three Rings hires to provide customer service and community management. Hypnos and Hermes met in game before they became admins. Later, they met in real life at a Puzzle Pirates gathering, and less than a year ago they got married. They both still work for Three Rings.

Many couples in Puzzle Pirates were dating before they started playing together. Plenty of guys have tried to share their favorite hobby with their girlfriends, only to be rebuffed. I had a slight advantage: While growing up, my girlfriend played many hours with her hand-me-down Super Nintendo. By the time she outgrew the console, she was already a Tetris expert.

Her skill at puzzle games carried over into Bejeweled. We used to play our scores against each other on MSN messenger, and it always surprised me when she mopped the floor with me, sometimes even managing to double my best score. It bruised my fragile ego, but it also encouraged me to keep my eyes open for another game that we could enjoy together.

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It was chance encounter that brought my attention to Puzzle Pirates. I played it on my own for a month before I was convinced that it was the perfect game to introduce to my girlfriend. It was colorful and full of cute cartoon avatars. My girlfriend immediately fell in love with the familiars - animals that sit on your avatar's shoulder - which were the most prestigious items in the game, attainable only by winning special events.

More importantly, the puzzle games in Puzzle Pirates were extremely appealing to her. The first game that I introduced to her was the one for bilging, or pumping water out of a ship. It's reminiscent of Bejeweled, and I knew that she would both enjoy it and excel at it. Conventional, grind-heavy MMOGs would bore her; Puzzle Pirates had none of that and, as a bonus, incorporated a game she was already good at, which instantly increased its appeal. Before long, my girlfriend and I were playing daily. We even had our own circle of friends in the game. It took about a year before we managed to claim our own familiars, but we did it together in a team event.

Through Puzzle Pirates, we met many other couples like us, including those who were married and brought - or dragged - their spouses into the game. Some of these couples succeeded while others returned to one partner playing on his or her own with while the other only logs on periodically, if at all.

Every day, the ratio between successful and disastrous relationships in games gets closer to par with the real world. So the next time someone talks to you about their in-game relationship, don't be too quick to dismiss it. People may still raise their eyebrows, but if masquerading as puzzle-solving pirates brings people together, who are we to judge?

Murray Chu is a writer living in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

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