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Rose and Rosie: how video games play a role in our marriage | Games


Rosie Spaughton

Games were never something I was very good at. Relationships on the other hand, came easily. A young, blonde, confident bisexual with two older brothers, I found boys totally unintimidating and girls mesmerising to be around. Flirting was my main language, and I couldn’t understand why anyone would ever have dating woes.

My brothers, on the other hand, never seemed to have girlfriends (or kept them extremely secret) and instead stayed in their shared room that had a computer, a television and an Xbox. I watched them play hours and hours of Worms, Dungeon Keeper, Halo, Grand Theft Auto and Call of Duty. I sat behind them, fascinated by all the guns and aliens, but I was never allowed to play. If I ever did manage to grab hold of a controller I was useless. No one had the time or the patience to help me get better. So I went back to hunting down my snogging victim, and they continued to hunt down the Covenant.

Years later, when I met my now-wife Rose, she told me about her favourite pastime of beating her brother at Top Spin on Nintendo GameCube and how she grew up watching her sister spend hours meticulously building the most perfect theme park on Rollercoaster Tycoon. Playing games with her family had impacted her life, and before we even moved in together she wanted to share that whimsical competitiveness with me. Rose set up her Xbox 360 and the first game we ever played together was Grand Theft Auto. To my astonishment, my inability to drive in what could even remotely be considered a straight line was met, not with frustration, but complete joy. The kind of joy you get when Lara Croft goes swimming and starts to breathe really heavily.

Rose was hooked on my utter ineptitude, making me play game after game while she wept at my inability to do anything. She thought it was so funny she started to film it, and put it on our YouTube vlogging channel. Our audience was so obsessed with these videos, it led us to start a comedy gaming channel; Let’s Play Games, where my complete lack of skill became our trademark.





‘Complete lack of skill’ … Rosie, left, and Rose.



‘Complete lack of skill’ … Rosie, left, and Rose. Photograph: Let’s Play Games

For the first time in my life, someone actually enjoyed watching me play.

Rose taught me everything she knew about gaming. Her knowledge, teamed with her determination to exact revenge on innocent bystanders who were simply respawning in GTA, was hot. Plus I liked the noises when she tapped on the controller.

I learned about different consoles, different types of games and I quickly figured out for myself which was my favourite.

There is only one game I have ever been any good at and that is Fortnite. Having been an enthusiastic fan of the movie Battle Royale and later The Hunger Games, it is my perfect game. I love the idea that there can only be one winner. Now I have a headset and a microphone, I’ve made new friends both online and in real life. I enjoy an ongoing competition with my little sister over who is further up the battlepass rankings, and it is something I can do in the evenings with Rose to truly relax. When it’s been a stressful day, or when someone has wound me up, there’s nothing I love more than to take a pickaxe to some buildings or shotgun blast some bananas. Gaming, like relationships, brings people joy – it’s just that both require practice and confidence.

Own goals … Rose and Rosie play Fifa 20

Rose Ellen Dix

Rosie wasn’t lying when she said playing games with my family impacted my life. I was a Sega and Nintendo girl, while Rosie spent most of her childhood tied to a tree. Sure, accidentally wiping Commander Keen from the family computer and replacing the folder with one entitled “Poo poo wee wee” caused an immense amount of upset. Fortunately, as a seven-year-old I was forgiven, but I’ve done plenty of questionable things since.

One that’s gone down in family history is the story of MeatSim 6. The first-person shooter Perfect Dark was one of my favourite N64 games, the spiritual successor to GoldenEye 007, and my first experience of a strong female lead.

The game included a co-op “combat simulator” mode where players could choose from a variety of foes and then fight them together. My brother and I would usually take on a type called MeatSims: the least intelligent and lowest difficulty combatant in the simulator – apart from my brother. I thought it would be somewhat entertaining to rename my usual Player 2 to MeatSim 6 and enable friendly fire, thereby disguising myself as an enemy automaton. Then I repeatedly killed him with single shots to the back of the head and he couldn’t understand how he was being victimised so artfully by the game’s bottom-rung AI. His suspicion grew fast, but not as fast as my kill count. The moral of the story is never trust those closest to you, and don’t underestimate your little sister’s thirst for an indefensible kill. This is how I was raised.

I don’t hold the same contempt for Rosie as I did for John growing up, so playing games with my wife is a far less bloodthirsty affair. I have a vicious competitive streak, but Rosie’s novice skill level, with the exception of Fortnite of course, is something I find no pleasure in crushing. Whether she’s falling down a cliff in Red Dead Redemption, running into her own goal on Fifa 2020, or driving into oncoming traffic on GTA5, some spark of humanity forces me to congratulate her on her success. Is it love? No. It’s pity. But either way, playing games as a couple has brought reams of cry-laugh moments, especially when Rosie tried making a quick getaway from the San Andreas police department in a hearse. On an upward incline.

As an adult I’m drawn back to the games I grew up with, and I get great pleasure introducing Rosie to them. Was I mentally scarred by the messy footpaths in Theme Park, the time pressures of Tetris, or the lack of actual support that Tails offered in Sonic the Hedgehog 2? Yes I was. But it’s an endearing trauma. Not dissimilar to the trauma I inflict on my characters in The Sims.

Playing video games together allows us to unwind in the healthiest of ways and it reminds us that sometimes, you just have to screw over your partner to get ahead.

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