I like to tell people that I met my wife on an MMO, but that isn’t entirely accurate. Technically, she and I both frequented a forum about an MMO that we both played, and she noticed that I’d quoted both Buffy and Gilmore Girls in a short bit of fluff fiction I’d posted, then commented on that fact and complimented my good taste. Unlike your typical cliche, that initial conversation didn’t inevitably bloom into some long-distance virtual romance; let’s say we were aware of each other and our mutual presence in the game. We didn’t exactly matriculate in the same circles, but the circles we did inhabit overlapped in Venn Diagram fashion, we sometimes found ourselves inside that overlapping elipsoid at the same time, and those moments of casual contact were, in my memory, always positive ones.
It wasn’t until we met face to face that the fireworks went off.
Still, she was in New York, I was in Denver, and while we were dating, it wasn’t as though we could see each other every weekend (though we certainly tried). During those two years, we supplemented phone calls and a downright irresponsible number of flights back and forth with ‘date nights’ together on that first MMO and, not that much later, Lord of the Rings Online; I playing the stoic bearded dwarf guardian and she with her elven orc-hunter. Good times.
Good times which we were happy to continue when we finally got married and she moved to Denver — it may not be that sexy-sounding, but we had a lot of good times and long laughs over stuff we were doing in LotRO.
Then came Sean.
Now, I’ve gone through gaming-with-a-baby before — I got Kaylee to drift off to sleep more times than I can count with the soothing white-noise pulse of my City of Heroes fire tank’s damage shield — but I won’t lie to you Marge: this time around, it hit our online gaming time hard. The stuff we typically did was a lot more involved in LotRO than my time had been in CoH, and there was basically no point in trying to play with only one hand free while you hold a bottle in the other. One of the reasons I’ve played EvE so much in the last year (I started an account a few weeks before Sean was born) was the simple fact that I could do almost everything in the game with just my mouse hand.
And forget raiding and other group activities — just forget it. If it’s just the two of us together, we can do some things, but forcing other folks to sit around and twiddle their thumbs because we have a sudden formula-related emergency? Neither of us were comfortable with that, and every time we tried to make it work, the whole evening left us more exhausted, frustrated, and stressed out than we had been when we started.
That sort of end result is usually not why a person plays a game.
So it has been a year, now, since Kate and I have really had any time to just… screw around on our computers, playing a game, together.
Enter Star Wars: the Old Republic, which we are — perhaps foolishly, perhaps optimistically — trying to play. Together.
In its favor is the fact that we both love the stories bound up in Bioware games like the Mass Effect and Dragon Age series, and SWTOR seems to have done a great job delivering that kind of experience in an MMO. Also, we have a fondness for the setting, which doesn’t hurt at all — even my daughter has managed to finagle herself a few characters to play when she has time. An unexpected plus is the fact that we hardly know anyone playing the game, so we don’t feel obliged to log on every night, keep up with everyone’s leveling pace, or join in on group content when it’s not very, very convenient to do so.
Working against it is the fact that at its heart, it’s an MMO just like any other, with some mechanical requirements (two hands free, preferably no screaming children in the background when you try to talk on voice chat) that still present challenges. It’s tough.
(Also working against it: Technical support that is nothing but pure, liquid excrement blasting in your face with the strength of a fire hose stream.)
But we shall see. It’s been over a month since we started playing, and so far our highest level characters are… level 12 out of a possible fifty. Kate has managed to actually run a few missions on the second planet: the SWTOR equivalent of talking to her first contact in Steel Canyon, or finally reached Bree. That’s not the best rate of progression in a month.
But at least we get to play together, sometimes, and that’s pretty good.