When Games Matter is a weekly exploration by Drew Dixon of meaningful moments in games. Operating under the assumption that games do in fact matter, Drew seeks to highlight those moments that have much to say to say about who we are and the world we live in.
For someone who writes about games every week, I actually don’t spend a lot of time playing them. One reason I don’t play videogames nearly as much as I would like to is because I wholeheartedly believe that I am called to love my wife “like Christ loves the church and gave himself up for her” (Eph. 5:25). My love language might be videogames but my wife’s isn’t. My wife is precious to me and so I don’t try to force her to play games with me every night or worse, ask her to watch me play. This isn’t a sacrifice–if there is one thing that I am determined to constantly acknowledge, it is the reality of how blessed I am to be married to my wife. She is my best friend, my confidant, and my biggest supporter. Spending time with her in any capacity is a joy so I don’t often bring it up. My wife, however, knows me well and it’s not uncommon for her to suggest we play a game together. She speaks my love language.
The other night, playing Rayman Origins with my wife, I was struck by the unique challenges playing with one’s wife bring. I love my wife and want to sacrifice for her but I also want to collect more “lums” than her and finish the level before she does. Cue Ephesians 5:25 and I realize that if I ever hope to play games with my amazing wife again, I am going to have to alter my strategy. My wife is a very competitive person and due to my experience, it is fair to say that I am a bit more handy with an Xbox 360 controller.
This makes for interesting experiences playing games in ways that they were not necessarily designed to be played. I recently played Rayman Origins, a 2-D side-scrolling platformer, with a good friend in a very competitive manner. Each level was an opportunity to collect more “lums” than the other and when one of us got ahead such that the other was in danger of falling off screen, we did not slow down. It was cut throat and given Rayman’s crazy and very French design, this made for a frantic and hilarious game experience. It was a cut throat competition but in the right spirit. Given the game’s aesthetic, I suppose this is the way they intended multiplayer to work–each player’s cartoon avatar punching the other for better position from which to nab more items.
So when Jennifer recently suggested that we play Rayman together, it wasn’t long before I was adjusting my strategy. Running frantically ahead until her avatar fell off the screen simply wouldn’t fly. Nor would bragging about my successes. Playing Rayman with my wife turned a purposefully competitive game into cooperative one. We would wait for each other if one of us lagged behind and when we finished each level we would congratulate each other and I never acknowledge my higher lum count.
I thought this would take away from my Rayman experience, but the pace at which my wife wanted to play actually added new value to what I thought was a pretty straightforward game. Playing the game more slowly allowed the character’s Pig Latin to fall in heightened tones, the animations of each character to stand out, and the environments to appear more noticeably vibrant. This serves as testimony to the unique play experiences games can provide us when we play together. Playing with my wife was less a competition and more a lesson in patience, kindness, self-control, and the appreciation of beauty.