For the past year and a half, my boyfriend Alessio and I have done the long distance thing. I’m in London, he’s in Italy. But more than phone calls or Whatsapp, it’s playing Dark Souls online that’s kept our relationship alive.
We’ve tried other games, but Dark Souls III is our punishment of choice. Shooters feel too competitive. Horrendous lag got in the way of LittleBigPlanet 3. For two guys who love cooking, Overcooked is just too real.
The bleak, frightening world of Dark Souls may not seem romantic, but it’s an opportunity for two gamers to share an experience in different countries. Many friendships in my past have been built on gaming together in the same room, so why should a romantic one be any different?
And in this day and age of the Internet and technology, why should something as trivial as distance get in the way? Anyone who’s played a game in the Souls series will appreciate the triumphant relief at felling one of its chillingly demonic bosses. Doing so with another is a glorious thing. For us, it’s an achievement that brings us together across the distance.
“Playing Dark Souls together is like taking you on a holiday”
“I think the most important thing is that because I’ve already finished the game I know every corner of the levels,” says Alessio.
“So it’s like taking you on a holiday.”
Digital tourism is certainly cheaper than air travel and it provides a fun activity for us to do together.
“Also I can show off my outfits and cool weapons.”
It’s not always plain sailing though – especially in a game like Dark Souls. Playing cooperatively is surprisingly difficult. Resetting the game to be on the same server. Using up precious Embers to turn into human form (the only way to summon help). Laying your summon sign in a secret location for the other to find. Hoping against hope that you don’t die for the nth time.
For us, though, it’s all worth it.
We’re not alone though. In the book You Died, an ode to Dark Souls written by journalists Keza MacDonald and Jason Killingsworth, MacDonald writes of a couple for whom playing Dark Souls is an integral part of their relationship. For them, playing the game was their primary method of communication while long distance. The game soon spilled into reality, struggling through it preparing them for a lifetime together.
Increasingly, online gaming is helping to forge friendships and relationships alike. Speaking to members of the London Gaymers group on Facebook, there were countless stories of games impacting on relationships.
Other gaymers shared their experiences with me
There were tales of online gaming keeping friendships and relationships alive far more potently than texting. Romantic relationships had started online through shared interests in games before meeting IRL. There was even a couple who bought two TVs and consoles so they could play together, side-by-side.
“The technology of gaming these days is keeping my relationship with my BF going,” said one member. His partner isn’t into gaming.
“The Switch, Xbox streaming app and PS Remote play lets me play the games I love without the need for the telly. We can both spend time together while doing the different things we enjoy.”
There was also the tumultuous story of playing as a support character to a suicidal button mashing other half. “Long suffering doesn’t even begin,” he quipped.
Of course, any relationship is based on shared interests. It’s clear the ability to play games online helps to forge lifelong relationships that span cities, countries and oceans. Whether platonic or romantic.
“We all need someone to rely on – even if they are hundreds of miles away”
For me, playing Dark Souls with my partner helped me understand the very nature of being in a relationship. As a child spending hours playing games alone, I relish the challenge of solo Dark Souls. I want to get swept up in its horrifying fantasy world, lulled into its swirling darkness, terrified by its enemies, and revel in the glory of besting a boss with my own skills. That’s somewhat ruined by playing alongside someone several levels ahead of you, whose advice and assistance significantly drops the difficulty. In its place, though, is the comfort of having a crutch and of achieving something together no matter how much we may scream at one another.
In the darkest of places it’s dangerous to go alone and, although it’s sometimes hard to admit, we all need someone to rely on – even if they are hundreds of miles away.