What It's Like to Fall in Love Inside a Video Game
Though usually a forum for competitive bloodbaths, some have actually found romance in the digital realm of video games.
Philip and Katterin and their TSW avatars, both courtesy of Phillip
With video games having long ago eclipsed Hollywood as the largest entertainment economy in the world, and players spending an average of six hours a week gaming, it stands to reason that some star-crossed lovers would eventually meet as they battled their way through their preferred electronic pastime.
We asked people who found their player two amidst a sea of opponents to share the story of how it all went down. Whether it fizzled out, developed into something serious, or resulted in more questions than answers, each of these stories further solidifies the fact that finding love in a Call of Duty lobby is now a normal part of the dating landscape.
We initially found each other on a Reddit thread asking if there were any Team Fortress 2 players at our college. We started playing together and talking in-game. It started with general conversation and TF2 silliness. There wasn’t much flirting. We would pocket heal each other, though. That’s kind of intimate. Eventually we started to bond over our mutual interests in science, My Little Pony, and [our] similar taste in music. I didn’t realise internet people could turn into real people so I didn’t think much of it at first but, after a couple weeks, we added each other on Facebook and soon after that she asked me if I wanted to grab coffee. Coffee went well and it ended up turning into my first serious relationship.
-Jenner, San Diego, California
My now wife and I used to role play on a browser game called IMVU. I had been doing it for a couple of months and got good enough to take kill contracts – meaning, if I defeated your character, you had to start from scratch. She was a contract I got for what amounted to $20. I worked for about a week on tracking her down and trying to take her out, but she had a small army of role players protecting her. Ultimately, I whittled them down to four players before she and I hit it off and started talking out of character. We met a year later and got married a year after that.
- Jared, Los Angeles
Arianna and I met on Second Life in 2008. Being a world where all the content is created by “residents”, your avatar is a blank canvas which you can customise to fit the idea of personality and role you want to play. My avatar’s main activity was not much of a stretch from my real life. I am a dubber, a voice-over actor, so I soon got involved in reading groups, where many residents gathered to listen to pieces of literature and, in many cases, to submit their own compositions to be read in front of an audience.
I was reading at this event in a beautiful land called SaliMar, when I noticed this stunning avatar in the audience. At the end of the reading, we started talking. She was Italian, just like me, and, as Arianna recalls, I started flirting with her like there is no tomorrow. No wonder. Arianna’s avatar was a model (fashion shows are a big thing in SL). But beauty is an obvious standard in Second Life. If you can customise yourself as you see fit, you bet your life you’ll make yourself look as handsome as a Greek God (or Goddess). So, some long-lasting chemistry must spark from personality, not beauty alone. Then, if the romance lasts, the avatar fades out and the person behind starts to appear. For me and Arianna the chemistry was strong.
We were enthusiastic and motivated. We put together a virtual theatre group, touring several Second Life lands presenting full production reading events. Only months later we started the first attempts to see each other for real via Skype. We [hadn't] met in person yet. I live in Los Angeles, she was in Milan, thousands of miles apart.
Then the real test, the trial-by-fire: meeting in person. I flew to Milan, she was waiting at the airport and then… the sparks! Were we as beautiful as our avatars? Not by far. Nobody can beat those two guys. But the chemistry was even stronger. In SL, the avatar has two sides: it conceals you from others, but by the same token, the mask gives you that feeling of protection by which you open up more to someone. So, you end up knowing someone very deeply and intimately. Fast forward to ten years later, and Arianna and I are still happily married and, last year, little Liam was born.
- Luciano, Burbank. CA
When I joined World of Warcraft, I made sure I was playing with people I knew from school, friends from the "real world.” It was 2007 and online gaming was just starting to take off. The mindset at the time was still that the internet was a dangerous place full of predators. I eventually joined a guild that had [a voice chat application] channel that we used it for general chit-chat as well as game stuff. One day, my guild friend and I were paired up with a pair of random players waiting on standby for a dungeon instance and, once we’d completed it, my friend invited these players to join our guild. They accepted and joined the chat channel too.
We learned voices before we learned names. Character names were acceptable nicknames, and mostly, if people didn't want to tell you a piece of information, they didn't. You can learn deeply personal details before ever knowing something as basic as the colour of someone's hair. One afternoon we revealed the county we lived in. Surprisingly, one of those two dungeon runners said that he was currently stationed in our area. Direct chats started. Slowly, more information about work, school, and life came into the conversations.
I worked at a store in the mall, and he came into where I worked. Thanks to months of [voice chat] we recognised voices. The meeting was anxious, to say the least. But with me chained to my post at the register, and a mall full of people, it seemed safe. We talked, exchanged numbers, and then he left with friends. We spent most of our time together in game since our schedules didn't really line up at first, but we also did offline things too: movies, dinner, the usual.
The relationship progressed pretty normally, really. The game was still a hobby, something we did independently or together, but it wasn't what held us together, and it certainly wasn't why we broke up. It was a long relationship, about four years. We don't talk anymore, but he's still on my friend list, and we still send the occasional like or happy birthday.
- Kat, Fargo, North Dakota
When I first started playing The Secret World (now called Secret World Legends) I definitely had escapism in mind, but simultaneously expected a far richer experience, having enjoyed the game designer's previous work. While I did enjoy both escapism as well as a rich and rewarding gameplay experience, I never thought that the benefits I would reap would be quite so literal. Until I met Katterin.
Katterin was one of a multitude of players in the game world, but as in chat rooms of yore, relationships depended purely upon communication, and my virtual correspondence with her revealed to me someone I wanted very much to meet in the real world. Over the next few months, we communicated a lot and even met up a few times. Eventually, it became more than obvious that this was the person that I needed in my life, but never realised how much until knowing her. Moreover, if I didn't snag her, then someone far more deserving than I would have snagged her instead.
While my now-wife and I don't play TSW these days, we do still play games, but these games include: Mortgage Quest, Laundry Slayer, and Raising Baby, and its sequel Raising Baby: The Revenge of Poop. Sometimes these new games aren't very fun, but they are definitely challenging. And the XP accumulation is pretty insane!
- Philip, Kansas City, Kansas
Met a girl on this mobile game, The Infinite Black, and started talking to her and we hit it off and started dating long distance. She told me that she had gotten preggo right before we started talking and I was like, "Well okay, I have a kid too, so NBD, kids happen." Anyways, fast forward and we've been talking for months and I've been getting belly pics, helping her pick out a name, and was buying baby clothes on Amazon for her. (She never actually asked me for anything, though.) I was ordering up lunch and flowers to be delivered to her at work, all kinds of nice stuff.
I should’ve seen the signs that there were issues. From the beginning, she hated my child and would talk shit about him or just not talk to me whenever I had him visiting. I'm not sure why I stayed.
One of my buddies decided to run her phone number and it turned out to not belong to the name of the girl that I thought it did. It was assigned to some older lady. Turns out the girl I was dating was like 43 and had two kids my age. I Facebook searched her from a second account and found that I was blocked by her real account. I also found [out] that the "conversations" I’d had with her "parents" and a couple of her “friends” were her using dummy accounts. She had faked a whole family. I had talked on the phone with her daily for like nine months and never would've guessed she was older. She sounded young, knew all the jokes that someone our age would know.
I’m a truck driver, so I actually went down there by her house once and was going to see her, but I said something dumb and she used it as an excuse to not come and meet me. Instead, she had her "neighbour" pick me up and take me [around]. Turns out, that neighbour who had picked me up and taken me around town was actually her!
As it turns out, the pregnant belly (and eventual baby) pics she was sending me were just pics of someone else's baby she’d been stealing and cropping so you couldn’t see her face or anything. And because she never asked for anything, I never thought I was being catfished. I mean, she put in nine months of solid time and devotion to this one lie and I don’t think she ever got anything out of it other than me listening to her. I guess that could be her reward in a sick, controlling kind of way. It was seriously an awful experience and I'm glad to be with my wife now.
- Roy, Nashville
Accounts have been edited for length.
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This article originally appeared on VICE US.