Fellow post-Valentine survivors, it’s time for Ask Kotaku, the weekly feature in which Kotaku-ites deliberate on a single burning question. Then, we ask your take.
This week we Ask Kotaku: What’s the best co-op game to ruin a relationship with? That is to say, what co-op games might be risky to undertake with one’s romantic partners?
The headline says it all:
Congratulations to all the couples who didn’t break up over this Valentine’s Day weekend. You clearly didn’t play Overcooked 2.
I married someone who is so far removed from video games that the last thing she can remember playing was on a friend’s Mega Drive (or “Genesis” as it was known in one remote region of the world). And I’m good with that. While I do occasionally think how nice it would be to sit on the couch and play a game together, honestly, her complete uninterest in the medium is by far a bigger blessing. It forces me out of the gaming bubble that consumes most of my working day, and crowbars in some variety.
So I suppose my answer would be: any game. She has no desire to be “converted,” and I have no interest in trying. And anything I’ve thought might bridge the gap has never gone well—just the other day I figured it might be fun for us to play You Don’t Know Jack, and one of my favorite franchises went down like congealed sick. So yeah, we just don’t.
For some reason I really do not enjoy playing Sackboy (or the other LittleBigPlanet games) with my partner. I get really annoyed when he runs off to collect more point bubbles than me instead of helping with whatever co-op task we have to do. We’ll attempt to do a no-death run, and he’ll fall off the side of a platform—a seemingly honest mistake the first time that becomes far less understandable the third time as we’re at the end of the level.
The slaps. Oh god, the slaps. It’s charming at first until it’s really not and my otherwise amazing boyfriend just ruined the photo it automatically takes.
It looks like a kids’ game, but it’s so much more than that.
I can’t name just one game and they didn’t almost ruin our relationship but they certainly killed the mood. It was September 29, 2017. The Super NES Classic Edition had just come out, I’d picked up my pre-order, and was super excited to have a chill, retro Friday night messing around with it.
My partner and I were also set to go on a date that evening, so we hit up our favorite Indian BYOB, ordered the chicken tikka masala and baingan bharta you’d expect from our basic asses, and then headed back home to kill off another bottle of wine. I was beyond pumped to share the classics from my favorite childhood console with the love of my adult life, and so I booted up Super Mario World. It did not take. We tried Super Mario Kart. She came in sixth place. The animation of her Yoshi who didn’t place going up in a poof of smoke never felt so brutal. Then I put on Donkey Kong Country. I made it a couple screens and then high-fived Diddy to throw control over to her. She immediately fell in a hole.
It turns out SNES games are hard, unintuitive, and deeply frustrating, especially when you’re a little tipsy from half a bottle of cheap Malbec and your partner does nothing to help prepare you for the long road ahead. I have not touched my SNES Classic since.
I’ve actually never played a video game with a significant other, but growing up, my most constant co-op partner was my sister. And we would go absolutely HAM on Mario Party, even though it was probably the basis of, like, 98% of our fights as kids.
Like most board games, Mario Party is designed such that screwing over your fellow players is often the best option to get ahead. Add to that the fact that, with the exception of some skill-based mini-games, a lot of it is pure randomness, and you have a powder keg for childish arguments.
I honestly don’t remember a single game of Mario Party that didn’t end with one of us (usually her) in a huff. Sometimes we wouldn’t speak for hours afterwards, upset about some underhanded scheme the other pulled to squeak out a last-minute victory. I don’t know why we kept playing or, more importantly, why our folks kept buying them for us.
Fortunately, my sister and I have done a lot of growing up since those dark days. We sat down for a game of Super Mario Party on Switch a couple of Christmases ago and had a really good time. I guess miracles really do happen.
I can only recall one super-negative episode and that was playing split-screen co-op Borderlands with my then-partner in 2009. I forget the specifics, but I can tell you that it was stupid and that we started being very short and rude to each other at some point in one of the opening desert zones, escalating to harsh comments, mutual withdrawal, simmering bad feelings. But we stayed together mostly happily ‘til 2015, so either it wasn’t a relationship ruiner or it was a very slow burn of one.
She still lets me use her Netflix and I share my Steam.
That game though, cursed. Either that session or one soon after, I received a phone call that a terminally ill friend, the sweetest person you could meet, had succumbed to her illness. So yeah...Xbox 360 Borderlands! Great stuff. Thanks for the memories?
All of them! Every co-op game can be a miserable experience if you’re playing with the right person. I love my partner dearly. (Hey boo!) But, by his own admission and my own experience, he is a nightmare to play with or against. He gets very excitable and loud in co-op games which grates on my generally reserved self. He is an efficient machine, I am a chaotic mess leading to conflict when I do a task in a co-op game that would have been done faster his way. Ari already mentioned Overcooked 2—yup, that was terrible. I introduced him to Age of Empires, a game I’ve loved on and off for 17 years, and in our first match he beat me in 20 minutes flat. And don’t even get me started on Magic: The Gathering. If he’s playing against me, I’m dead by turn three. If he’s assisting me in a Magic: The Gathering Arena match, I’m deaf in one ear by the time we’re done.
It’s not all bad though. It’s generally disastrous when we play co-op or versus but we have far more fun when one person plays while the other watches (that’s how I got through Bloodborne) or if we play the same game on different consoles (our preferred method of playing Hades and Picross). I love him dearly, and we’ve figured out how to play games together without getting on each other’s nerves. I added a second monitor to our living room so we can play games together...separately. It’s better for everyone that way.
Kotaku’s weighed in, but what’s your take? Has a game ever come close to deep-sixing one of your romantic attachments, or perhaps a night on the couch? We’ll be back next Monday to deliberate and debate on another nerdy issue. See you in the comments!