Sordid tales of true romance in online games

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Picture: Blizzard / Kotaku

It’s February, and love is in the air. But so do airborne particles that transmit a global pandemic, so real-world romance isn’t an option for many people. Luckily, uh, online games still exist, at least? And where there is a willingness to flirt with complete strangers, there is a way. In this week’s episode of Kotaku‘s Split screen podcast, we discuss sex and romance in games, with a special guest, Cibele and We met in May designer Nina Freeman.

To begin the episode, Michael Fahey and I stand aside as Ash Parrish’s dream finally comes true and she discusses BioWare romances on the podcast. She delivers her hot shot Baldur’s Gate 2the only romance option for female characters before delving into the story of how she learned to install pc game mods entirely for purposese to have sex with Alistair from Dragon Age: Origins. Next, in our second segment, we design the ultimate dating simulator, which crucially allows gamers to see cocks, not just butt and tits. Plus all romance options are Sonic the hedgehog OCs, but remixed by a procedural generation algorithm. If you think you can find a better dating sim, well, I don’t believe you.

We end the episode by bringing in Nina, whose game, Cibele, is based on his experiences with MMO romance as a teenager – to talk about those experiences alongside Fahey, who certainly has some stories. The two contribute to an extremely interesting discussion that I wish I could have lasted longer, but alas: time, like romance, is fleeting.

Get the MP3 here, and check out an excerpt below.

Nathan: Nina and Fahey, when you first experienced romance in an online game, how did it start? What was the first step that got you thinking, “Oh, maybe this is something more than a standard online interaction? “

Nina: To me, Cibele is not based on my first online relationship; I feel like I’m kind of a veteran teenager at the time. So Cibele is based on my gaming experiences Final Fantasy XI, and I had been playing this game since I was 14. I didn’t really have a love life when I was a kid in real life. All my first experiences of romance were in FFXI. I had been involved with, like, several people. It was not something so intense until the events of Cibele it happened — so around when I was 18. But I was flirting with people online when I was very young. They were my age; some of them that I met in person later in life so I know they were my age.

It was just natural. I was a kid, so I wanted to find someone to flirt with. It is a natural thing for someone of this age. So of course, wherever it was available, whether online or in real life, I went.

Fahey: It was pretty much the same in my situation. Well, not quite the same; I got married very young, in my early twenties. My wife ended up leaving me for everyone, literally everyone in our circle of friends. It was really weird. When she left, I logged in. I was socially awkward. I mean, I did well in social situations, but I didn’t know where to look for them. But online, I had complete control over everything. I was a good writer. I could talk to everyone. Once the voice chat started, I had my radio voice, which was lovely. I just met so many people.

I think there are a lot of people online spending all of their time online looking for connection. So one day I play EverQuest, and I’m running in the woods with a guild mate, and I realize that I’ve been playing with that guild mate every day for the past month, and we talked about our personal stuff. I knew about her husband that she wasn’t that interested. She brought up the husband over and over again in negative circumstances. I knew she had a child and loved children. Suddenly the sun goes down, and we’re sitting in a field after killing lions, and there’s this feeling of heat going up. It was like “Wow, this is something real going on here.”

Ash: Was it your first date?

Fahey: It was the first date with one of many people. This person ended up getting angry and lashing out at me after her husband found our chat logs.

Ash: Phew.

Fahey: Nothing happened sexually. There was no cyber. But her husband found our journals to be romantic and pursued that ideal of online romance. So she disappeared, just like that, which is a special thing in MMO romance. That person can be everything to you, and the next minute they’re gone.

Ash: They transferred servers.

Fahey: So it came from the loneliness and convenience of connecting online. It’s like Amazon for romance, except you can’t trust other people’s reviews? I do not know.

I’m sorry, Nina. I speak inappropriately at all times.

Nina: Oh no, that’s a really interesting story. Especially for someone from my point of view, where I was so young for online relationships. I stopped flirting with online gaming a bit after the events that happened in Cibele, so I was 18 or 19. I feel like my adult love experiences are very different from that time in my life, so it’s very interesting to hear someone doing this at a different age than I was. – a different life experience.

Fahey: As an older man, I got caught a few times. Young women are very passionate about finding people online, and if they hang on to you I don’t mean ‘hang on to you’ because it makes it look like they’re doing something wrong. . But they’re very impressionable, and they feel like it’s very real. You have to be extra careful if you are a senior online. Younger people are malleable in a way that you shouldn’t be involved in. At all.

Nina: Yes, I broadcast on Twitch all the time, and I have a strict rule for my channel where if you’re under 18 I ban you outright, because I don’t want to create a space where those connections can even possibly happen. . It is obviously worth noting. And as a kid in these situations, looking for romance in an online game, these kids don’t necessarily tell their parents what’s going on in their lives online. Especially at this age, you don’t want your parents involved. So as adults it is our responsibility to make sure the spaces are safe and we set strict rules for our communities. Because at least then, it’s not like the game is doing anything to stop it. So I agree, it’s an adult responsibility for sure.

Nathan: On the one hand, it feels like the idea of ​​romance in MMOs has become a bit more normalized than it used to be, but on the other hand, I think you now hear a lot of stories about people making games. inappropriate comments towards female streamers or getting very obsessed with their favorite streamers, regardless of gender, parasocial relationships and stuff like that. How do you think what’s happened before in MMOs and games like this inform this current era of people seeking what they feel like very powerful relationships online?

Nina: In our generations, as people who have kind of grown up online, we know its medium and its limitations. So in fact, what I wanted to explore in Cibele this is how online relationships have some sort of physical element even if you haven’t met the person. In online games there is a progression, you know, you talk through text chat, which feels physical, but then if you go into voice chat, the physical nature of the voice of the people. people really change the dynamics of a relationship and your relationship with each other. And even while talking on the phone, you have the phone pressed against your face – there is something physical about it. And then you send each other pictures to each other, you show your bodies to each other, whether it’s naked or not. It is a physical activity. So I think that’s a really interesting part of online romance: it’s not just digital. Our bodies are always involved.

So maybe interesting from a streaming point of view, with the parasocial relationship element, you see the streamer – not all streamers, there are VTubers and people who don’t use webcams – but as a streamer, I am very aware that I am physically visible to people. So I find it important to set limits and things like that. I think the streaming conversation is different, but it’s good to be aware in all of these situations of our physicality in the medium. Because it’s real, even though we’re on the computer. There is still a real body there.

For all this and more, check out the episode. New episodes come out every Friday, and don’t forget to like and subscribe on Apple podcasts, Spotify, Where Stapler. Also, if you like, just leave a comment and you can always message us at if you have any questions or suggest a topic. If you want to yell at us directly, you can reach us on Twitter: Ash is @adashtra, Fahey is @OncleFahey, and Nathan is @ Vahn16. See you next week!

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