Co-Op Couples: How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the Co-Op

4/9/2009 at 3:22 PM

My girlfriend and I just beat Castle Crashers.

I know, I know, if you’ve been playing video games for a while, you beat it a minimum of 6 months ago and unlocked all the animal friends and whatever, but I just got Xbox live, so shut up. For casual gamers, little achievements like this are major victories. We did it! We beat a game together!

It doesn’t happen often. I can count on one hand the number of games Katie and I have beaten together, and only count on two the number that I’ve beaten alone (maybe count on a toe or two as well, my memory ain’t so hot). But the time we’ve spent digging into walkthroughs and figuring out the intricacies of co-op play are well worth it. I don’t think I enjoy single-player games anymore.

Katie, by way of introduction, was not a gamer before I met her, and to be fair, I’m not much of one. We had been dating for a while and every now and then I’d pick up some used game from some store for $10 and she’d watch for a little while as I ran through the first level or so, realized it sucked, then threw it on a shelf to never be played again (I’m looking at you, Overlord. And Two Worlds. And Hunter: The Reckoning). Me being a generous person, I wanted her to join in. Sitting there and watching someone have fun isn’t much fun.

So the next logical step was LEGO Star Wars. Two-player, low stress, easy game, really. Dying in a video game is a very, very disheartening experience, so I needed a game where death didn’t matter much. You die, you lose coins, you come back. Pushing through is the main thrust of the game. And in the end, it was a good choice. Any of the LEGO games are great intros for a new gamer, and not because they’re more child-like in tone, but because the emphasis is on puzzle solving, not health bars and continually saving your progress, otherwise you waste hours upon hours of work if the power goes out.

The thing is, Katie was good at the LEGO games. Real good. And I loved playing them with her. There’s so much joy in knowing that a person that you’re trying to impress is actually impressed by, and even looking forward to, something you’ve introduced them to. I picked up LEGO Indiana Jones almost the day it came out, just to recapture that feeling. And by then, I figured it was time to jump into…one-player games.

Yeah, I know, it’s not the purpose of this column, but I’m writing it, so I’m going off on a tangent. Sue me, if you can find me.  


Thursday = trash take-out day.

  I had played a friend’s copy of Kingdom Hearts a few years back and got all the way to the last level, until the swooping cameras eventually gave me headaches and vertigo and I dropped it like it was “hawt.” But Katie loves Disney and I love getting Katie into video games, so I picked up a used copy of Kingdom Hearts (easy to find these days!). Didn’t tell her what it was, didn’t even show her the box, but I sat her down in front of it and just told her to give it a try. It’s confusing, oh, it is so confusing when you begin it, but when you first see the Snow White and Beauty and the Beast icons come up in the intro, things start to become clearer. It’s a Disney RPG!

And luckily, it became its own sort of co-op. I certainly didn’t remember squat about where to go and what to do from when I played it 2 years before, and she would have probably gotten frustrated by wandering around in the wrong places forever. So We teamed up; I sat next to her the entire time with a Gamefaqs walkthrough open on my laptop, while Katie played the game. I could take breaks from looking at the screen to do crossword puzzles and such, while Katie mowed down Heartless. It was great. She’s near the end of Kingdom Hearts II now, in fact.

Other games, both co-op (LEGO Batman, Champions: Return to Arms) and single-player (Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, Catan) have followed, always with me either giving pointers or fighting alongside her. Now we’ve just beaten Castle Crashers and will probably pick up something else soon. It’s great, it’s something that couples can do by themselves that isn’t watching Netflix every night. I’ve been able to share my time and, more importantly, my interests with someone else, and it’s done nothing but pay off. Helping other people have fun is its own reward, isn’t it? 

And dude? We just beat Castle Crashers! We are so awesome!

Ethan Kaye is a writer and performer living in New York City. His work appears regularly in Wizard magazine, ToyFare magazine, and on his website,