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Two can play that game

Street Fighter, Street Fighter II, video game, box art, fighters, Chun-Li, Ryu, Blanka
faces, Later Levels, Kim, Pete, Butlins 2022

Video games have a wonderful way of bringing people together.

Whether it’s playing them with a family member, discussing them with a colleague during your lunch-break or meeting new friends at an expo, they can help build connections between people. They can create a sense of friendship even when we’re miles apart.

For me personally, they’ve played a part in helping form the relationships I have today. Every friend I speak to on a regular basis now is someone whom I’ve met through either playing video games or blogging about them, and there’s a special gaming-related story about each of them.

This includes my other-half. After appearing online with a simple video-game-themed question eight years ago today, Pete and I have been stuck together ever since. I’m not the sort of person who gets overly sentimental or gushes about their partner. But what I will say is that he’s incredibly supportive and is able to put up with me, and I don’t know what I’d do without him sometimes.

To celebrate our anniversary, here’s a selection of the releases we’ve played together over the years and how they’ve featured in our relationship. From spending Christmas avoiding aliens on spaceships to getting drunk while trying to escape an ancient pirate curse, I guess you could say this has been my very own gaming romance.

Video games can help build connections between people, and create a sense of friendship even when we’re miles apart.

2014: Street Fighter

In the spring of 2014, I moved to a new part of Essex for a fresh start after some messy life stuff. What I didn’t expect was to end up meeting my player-two there. After popping up online and asking who my favourite Street Fighter character was, I agreed to meet Pete for a drink, and we discovered we’d grown up in houses on parallel streets as kids and moved to the same town as adults. We then visited The Heart Of Gaming together, where we battled it out on the game and I kicked his butt (there’s a chance he let me win).

2014: Alien: Isolation

For our first Christmas together, the most festive thing we did was eat an entire tub of Quality Street. The rest of the night was spent playing Alien: Isolation, creeping around the Sevastopol space station in search of Ellen Ripley – and being unable to make our way through a particular dark corridor because the damn Xenomorph kept dropping through a vent in the ceiling and onto the protagonist’s head. In a fashion which has repeated itself with horror games since, he was in charge of the controller while I hid behind a cushion.

2015: Journey

To introduce them both to the indie side of gaming, I re-installed Journey for Pete and my stepson Ethan – and the kid fell in love with it as soon as we handed the controller over to him. After climbing the snowy mountain and reaching the final cutscene, he said: “So I’m the star in the sky, and the next person playing right now will see me in the sky at the start of their game. That’s cool.” Getting the opportunity to show him that video games don’t have to be about violence and the fact he understood that so well made me very proud.

2015: Guild of Dungeoneering

Pete had never been to a gaming expo before so when Rezzed rolled around in April 2015, I bought him a ticket to go with friend-of-the-blog Phil and I. His favourite game of the show was Guild of Dungeoneering: a strange choice for him because neither of us are particularly into card games. The quirky hand-drawn visuals won him over however and we played this title together for several weeks afterwards. Even now, he occasionally bursts out into song because the catchy theme tune has suddenly popped into his head.

2016: Overcooked!

When Ethan was younger, he really enjoyed releases that all three of us could play together so Overcooked! seemed like an obvious choice for him when it was released in 2016. We never managed to complete it though and gaming sessions usually ended up with him running around blasting the fire extinguisher. However, It was a lot of fun and encouraged an awful lot of yelling from all of us. We tried to increase our team to four members by including my mother-in-law when she stayed with us – but it had hilarious, if disastrous, consequences.

2017: The Bunker

I’ve always had a fondness for full-motion video (FMV) games and it’s thanks to The Bunker that Pete found that love too. It tells the story of the last remaining survivor in a nuclear bunker and was filmed entirely at the Kelvedon Hatch Secret Nuclear Bunker in Essex. This isn’t too far away from us, so we took a trip to the location and then played the game the following evening. It was weird experience, seeing somewhere we’d stood only the day before appear on-screen, particularly when parts of the plot feature a hooded villain with an axe.

2019: Infinity

During a trip to Bristol to visit friends-of-the-blog Tim and Jake in 2019, they scheduled our first ever escape room. We were well and truly bitten by the bug afterwards and went on to book another experience around the UK every month or so. The lockdowns unfortunately prevented us from doing any of them for a few years but, with The Magpie Mystery completed in July, we’re now returning to them. You can find out about those we’ve experienced so far in this post from last month.

2020: To The Moon

Although it’s not the sort of game he enjoys, Pete was happy to sit and watch me play through To The Moon again for a community event in 2020. He may have teased me when the tears started falling towards the end but he could see how much this title meant to me. When it came time to pick the music for our wedding ceremony a couple of years later, Everything’s Alright by Laura Shigihara therefore seemed like the perfect choice. The piano version we went for left our guests unaware that it was a track from a video game.

2021: The Balthazar Stone

There were a lot of hours to pass during the COVID-19 lockdowns and we found ourselves branching out from video games to fill the time. Escape-rooms-in-boxes made up a lot of our non-digital entertainment. It took us around three hours to complete The Balthazar Stone one afternoon, although I’m putting that down to the bottle of wine we managed to drink alongside it and how often we got distracted. It’s funny how even small situations can turn into hilarious events when you’re doing them with Pete and a bottle of alcohol.

Ongoing: The Elder Scrolls Online

If adventuring through the Elder Scrolls lands was fun before, it was even more fun having Pete there by my side. We’ve played so much of this game together over the years. We’d level up our characters alongside each other and complete all the quests at the same time; when a solo one came up, we’d wait for our comrade by the exit once we were done. It’s nice having someone to explore a digital world with, celebrate in-game accomplishments with, and trade loot with. And it’s an added bonus that he’s next to me on the sofa.

He’s incredibly supportive and is able to put up with me, and I don’t know what I’d do without him sometimes.

Here’s to the video games we’ve played together so far, and to the ones we’re going to play in the future. If you have a special story gaming story about your partner, friend or a family member, I’d love to hear it.

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