When Games Make Break-Ups Even More DifficultS

Having an ex in the age of Facebook is no easy thing. Between social networks and texting, it's difficult to feel as if you can completely cut ties with someone.

Do you keep them as a friend? And if you do, how much do you allow yourself to read about their life without you? Do you take down pictures of your time together, or untag them? Do you delete them off your phone? There's no end to the considerations you have to take about your digital relationship with someone, and no well-defined etiquette about how to handle break-ups and exes when it comes to using technology. Maureen O' Connor from New York Magazine describes the complicated matrix many of us have to navigate when it comes to exes thanks to social media well:

There’s the ex who “likes” everything you post. The ex who appears in automated birthday reminders. The ex who appears in your OkCupid matches. The ex whose musical taste you heed on Spotify. The ex whose new girlfriend sent a friend request. The ex you follow so you know how to win him back. The ex you follow so you know how to avoid her in person. The ex you watched deteriorate after the breakup. (Are you guilty or proud?) The ex who finally took your advice, after the breakup. (Are you frustrated or proud?) The ex whose new partner is exactly like you. (Are you flattered or creeped out?) The ex whose name appears as an autocorrection in your phone. (Are you sure you don’t talk about him incessantly? Word recognition suggests otherwise.) The ex whose new partner blogs about their sex life. The ex who still has your naked pictures. The ex who untagged every picture from your relationship. The ex you suspect is reading your e-mail. The ex you watch lead the life you’d dreamed of having together, but seeing it now, you’re so glad you didn’t.

What I don't see talked about very often are the sorts of difficulties or situations you might experience in a break-up as a gamer. It's not that break-ups are particularly difficult as a gamer, simply that, like social media, there are a number of curious things that you have to deal with if you play games. Stuff that's difficult to navigate and has no clear-cut answer. Stuff that's just as messed-up as drunk-texting someone you can't let go of.

A number of memories come to mind. There's a friend who refused to delete the alternate profile of his ex's avatar on his own Xbox, always seemingly pausing at the select screen—letting the character model wave and smile at him before snapping himself out of it and picking his own profile. I don't know if he ever got rid of it, even though I don't think that ex ever used his Xbox again. It reminds me a little of a different friend kept an ex's profile on Super Smash Bros, but he wouldn't let anyone else use it. Both of these dabble with the question of what to do with stuff that used to belong to a significant other: get rid of it or keep it? And what does it mean when you choose either of those options?

There's the friend who shared their Animal Crossing town with a girlfriend. When they broke up, the friend was more than overjoyed to boot up Animal Crossing and delete that character's house. No remorse; gone, gone.

Sometimes, you have to deal with the weirdness of no longer having a de-facto player two/co-op buddy that you go out in adventures with. Do you keep playing an in-progress game or is that too much? I have a couple of franchises that it feels like I can't return to because they're too entangled with the memory of someone I'd rather not think about.

There was one break-up I had where, gaming-wise at least, it felt like liberation: the ex hated the sound of shooting guns, especially those that were in games of that depicted modern warfare. He also didn't like the inevitable trash talk during my play time. But then, suddenly, I was free to play my favorite games without feeling guilty about it, although it feels like the judgement I underwent during that time haunts me still.

There are other instances where I've picked up an in-progress save that belonged to an ex on a shared device—which was weird because I'd gotten rid of all the stuff that reminded me of them, but there I was, basically wearing their digital skin. Like a fucked-up attempt at trying to understand someone or piece them back together by "becoming" them digitally. Technology lets you do strange things, man.

Then there's the friend who seemed to keep creating characters that looked like his ex over and over, across a number of different games. On the same level as only dating people who look like your ex, or just a quirk? I've definitely named protagonists or characters in my games off exes before, at least.

And I can't forget about Catherine, which asked me to confront the issue of infidelity to such an extent that I felt like I was obligated to talk about it with an ex I'd wronged.

I bet many of you have stories here—save files, characters or games that belong to or represent an ex. Bits of information stored somewhere that posed a strange problem for you after a break up, or affected you in some way, relationship-wise. Feel free to share your own stories if you have any: it's always good to know that you're not alone in the things you experience.

The Multiplayer is a weekly column that looks at how people crash into each other while playing games. It runs every Monday at 6PM ET.