Editorial | 4/25/2012 at 11:25 PM

Co-Op Couples: How Much is Too Much?

Can you ever have too much co-op?

For most people with a hobby, finding someone else who enjoys it exactly as much as you do is rare. It seems there are always those who like it more than or less than you do, with few being right at your level of passion. I’ve been playing guitar for over 16 years, and despite living in different cities with different aged people of all instruments and playing styles, I rarely if ever find someone on my level who wants to play as frequently as I do. I’m a football fan, and I have friends who are fans of varying degrees. Some are the insane, scream-at-the-TV types, and others are very casual and only watch during playoffs.

In the video game arena, too, there are is a similar spectrum between the hardcore and the casual. The Xbox Live service has divided up video gamers into different categories just like these when you register for Live, to better help you find like-minded people to game with. I’ve come to the conclusion that those of us who call ourselves “gamers” have a spouse willing to play a game or two with us, albeit typically with much less frequency or length of time playing.

Aren't they romantic?

My wife grew up playing video games off and on. She loved the Mario series and even had a Game Boy at one point. Her favorites were GoldenEye and anything in the Mario Kart series. When she started dating me I moved her to WWF Wrestlemania 2000. It was easy as she was always on my team (one of her requirements for playing with me, about which I’ll address in a future article) and I could always bail her out (sometimes without her knowing!). Despite trying everything I tried, I soon found she never wanted to play as much or as long as I did. She was simply not that type of fan.

James would do anything for love, even this.

So we’re back to the question: how much gaming is too much for your casual/non-gaming partner? A few matches for Wifey is all she needs. Later on after the Nintendo 64 I moved her to the Xbox with Star Wars: Battlefront II. She LOVED this. It was easy to grasp and she could follow the action. Yet every time, around 30-40 minutes of playing, she was done. I bought and LOVED TimeSplitters: Future Perfect. The amazing ability (sorely lacking on most current gen games) of having co-op versus bots meant we could both enjoy the game. So I set to work and meticulously built custom maps for us, with themes and special ways to keep the AI in check and on her level. Here too she was able to keep up and loved playing, especially as I pointed out how to properly navigate the levels I made just for her. Again though, around 45 minutes she was ready to call it quits, regardless of the outcome. Win or lose, she rarely wants to play more than an hour. 

Why is this? I suppose it comes to the degrees of fandom we looked at in the beginning of this article. My wife is not a video game fan. She’s a wife and wants to experience her husband’s world. She’ll play games with me to be with me, in the same room, enjoying my hobby. Are more wives/husbands this way? I have a few friends on Live who play with their wives. Even among those few whose wives play harder games (one online friend’s wife could tough it out in Gears quite well), every wife I’ve played with plays less than her husband. I base this on times in the games (wives excuse themselves and drop out while we keep going) or what I see them doing on the dash (Netflix 99% of the time).

Only good in small portions

For co-op couples, I’m guessing the real goodness is much like a treasured candy or treat. When you partake of the coveted foodstuff it is awesome and enjoyable, but simply never lasts like you think it could (or should). Obviously your mileage may vary and there are likely some couples out there where the wife plays way more than the husband. For me though the goal is no longer trying to get Wifey to play more, but to focus on the game when she’s there and make the most of every minute.