Video Games and Marriage: Game Related Divorce Rampant in Real and Virtual Worlds!

Video Games and Marriage: Game Related Divorce Rampant in Real and Virtual Worlds!

I have no intent to make light of divorce or marriage or anything else related to human relationships – they are tough enough as it is. But recently there have been a couple of reports related to video games and divorce that I found interesting. So let’s dive right in!

While just about any hobby involving a significant singular time commitment can cause strain in a marriage – my father and a couple of his friends called themselves ‘quilting widows’, and there are people I work with who go on fishing/hunting/camping weekends, and on and on – it seems that ‘video game addicts’ have gotten a huge amount of attention. Perhaps it is because it is also something our kids are so drawn to and therefore it permeates the entirety of our consciousness in a way that scrapbooking and needlepoint do not.

GamePolitics brings us a study from the Times of India that talks about the rising occurrence of video games being cited as a reason for filing for divorce. As the article notes:

Of course, blaming games for a broken marriage is like blaming a Holiday Inn for your spouse having an affair…

The basic manifestation is that the spouse – generally the man – comes home and immediately starts to look for game time. According to the study:

“Often men take to playing video games as a stress buster and as a filler to fill a vacuum in their lives,” Khurana tells The Times of India. “It’s wrong to play the blame game, and place the onus on the creators of a particular game. The fact is that there are serious issues and there is something missing in the relationship, that is pushing the guy to resort to escapism to deal with them.”

The study also looks at the impact of video game addiction. This is a term that is tossed around so loosely that it is easy to dismiss – heck, in reviews we often toss around ‘addictive gameplay’ as a term! But addictive personalities coupled with any sort of compulsive action, particularly one with a ‘dopamine reward system’, can be a dangerous thing.

He goes on to say that video game addiction can be dealt with by counseling and support from a partner, but couples also need to explore the reasons why the video game has become the man’s main focus.

“A non-addict cannot see why it’s a compulsion for the addict to play the game everyday no matter what,” he adds. “Try and come to an understanding probably ask him to play for an hour or two instead of being at it for more than three hours. If all of this does not work out seek professional help.”

In the end the advice is little different than for any other marital issues: figure out the root cause that is allowing these things to take hold.

One thing not addressed is the changing face of gaming. Way back when gamers acquired the ‘basement dweller’ reputation, you needed a powerful desktop PC to be a gamer, and then a bit later a console system tied to a TV. Each of those was a ‘tethered’ activity, which ended up in fights about TV usage, coming to bed before 1AM, and so on.

In the last decade we have seen the laptop take over from the desktop, and now even a mid-level laptop is generally respectable for playing games. Add in wireless networking, and suddenly you can sit in bed or in front of the TV and STILL be playing a game. Worse still, more powerful handheld game systems and particular app-centric smartphones and tablets mean that we are seldom disconnected from gaming systems … and for addictive personalities that can become an overwhelming compulsion.

Well … wasn’t that happy!

From the serious … to the BIZARRE!

Here is an … interesting story we got from Ali Miller of Nexon America, the company behind MapleStory and other online games.

Virtual divorces run rampant among online gamers

Just as game-related divorces are no surprise, game-related weddings have pretty much stopped being news. We have heard about people who met in Everquest or World of Warcraft having in-game ceremonies and often leading them to romance in the ‘real world’. But for those who never meet outside of the game, more and more online games have been offering in-game nuptials … for a price.

According to the report, in online games such as MapleStory in-game marriages are on the rise … as are in-game divorces! Here is a snip:

MapleStory, the action-packed side-scrolling massively multiplayer online role playing game from Nexon America, witnesses its share of in-game romances. Last year in North America, 26,982 in-game marriages were performed with a price tag of $25 per wedding. Of those marriages, 20,344, or 75 percent, have since been annulled at the players’ request.

Based on this huge ratio of failed marriages, Nexon looked to some of those who had their marriages annulled for insight. Here is one story:

With such a high annulment rate, Nexon called upon its massive community for insight into this phenomenon. MapleStory player Tyler, 20, from Vancouver, B.C., shares his story:

“I was young, naive, and thought I had met ‘the one.’ She asked me what I wanted in MapleStory for my birthday, and I told her that the only thing I could ever want was for her to marry me.”

After the ceremony, circumstances took a turn for the worse for Tyler, and he quickly saw his relationship heading in the wrong direction:

“She started saying that I wasn’t the person she fell in love with. That I had changed, and that I didn’t seem to care about her anymore.”

And that’s when things got serious. Not unlike the tossing of a man’s possessions out of a scorned girlfriend’s apartment window, Tyler’s MapleStory inventory was compromised:

“I got a call from my best friend, saying that all of my items were dropping. It was her. Less than a week later, we decided that we needed to sever all ties between us, and we had our marriage annulled. I haven’t talked to her since.”

I know you are every bit as surprised as I am that two people who have only met online were not exactly who they thought the other person was based on initial impressions! Shocking! But wait … there’s MORE!

But Tyler wasn’t the only Nexon community member who experienced the heartbreak of a MapleStory romance gone sour. Seth, 19, from Colorado Springs, Colorado, tells his tale:

“My former Maple spouse and I started off great; going on party quests together, boss runs, training, helping each other become better Maplers. Then I realized after a while that she was only out there to get free things off of me and we got in this conversation where she admitted to this accusation, so I decided I would have to annul our Maple marriage.”

This is totally appalling and unexpected! Anyone who plays any game in any genre online knows there is a strict code of ethics that people simply adhere to. No need to anti-cheat technology, no worries about loot-stealing, grief-kills, camping, or anything but the most generous and altruistic folks.

Uh huh.

Also interesting is the rather detailed process for getting married and having your marriage annulled:

To get married in Maple World, the couple must participate in an official process. First, they must get engaged. This requires players to complete a quest which is rewarded with an engagement ring. Players can use the engagement ring to send a proposal to his or her significant other, and they must accept in order to become engaged. If they do not accept, the player can use the same ring to propose to someone else.

Once engaged, players must purchase a cash shop wedding ticket. Once the ticket and the engagement ring are presented to an NPC, players can set a date, send out invitations and make a gift wish list. Once the couple is married, both players receive a wedding ring, coveted in-game item that boasts impeccably strong statistics, and the couple lives happily ever after. Or so it would seem.

But in order for players to undergo an annulment in MapleStory, the individuals must pay 500,000 mesos (MapleStory’s in-game currency) along with their wedding ring. They also must wait at least 10 days after the annulment before marrying another.

Producer Crystin Cox says that there is an upside to in-game divorce compared to real life:

“While it looks like our players break up at a much higher rate than people do in real life, at least our players are not on the hook for alimony. Couples who break up are not required to split up their loot, virtual pets or any enchanted items.”

Happy times.

OK, so I completely made light of the MapleStory … uh, story. The reality is that there are many people I have never met in person or even talked to who I consider my friends – including some folks here at GearDiary. The internet can be a great place to meet people from all over the world and share the human experience. But there are limits to what online chat and texting – and even phone calls and Skyping – can do, and eventually you will need to actually meet someone.

What are your thoughts on the impact of gaming on relationships and on the concept of in-game weddings? Let us know in the comments!

About the Author

Michael Anderson
I have loved technology for as long as I can remember - and have been a computer gamer since the PDP-10! Mobile Technology has played a major role in my life - I have used an electronic companion since the HP95LX more than 20 years ago, and have been a 'Laptop First' person since my Compaq LTE Lite 3/20 and Powerbook 170 back in 1991! As an avid gamer and gadget-junkie I was constantly asked for my opinions on new technology, which led to writing small blurbs ... and eventually becoming a reviewer many years ago. My family is my biggest priority in life, and they alternate between loving and tolerating my gaming and gadget hobbies ... but ultimately benefits from the addition of technology to our lives!