For couples like Kiera Mason and Juan Bravo Jr, dating online is all they’ve ever known.
They’re married, own a house, go on dates, buy each other outfits and, on occasion, team up to fight monsters — all in an online video game (of course).
9News met with Melbournian Kiera and Juan, who hails from San Francisco, to find out how they manage to use gaming to maintain a long-distance relationship.
Pre-COVID, Kiera and Juan travelled to see each other in person at least once a year.
The couple still manage to go on weekly dates, meeting online in virtual cafes and restaurants, “People set up houses in Final Fantasy (XIV Online), and they’ll set them up as cafes, or clubs or restaurants and sometimes we’ll just go there to either hang out, or we’ll find spots in the actual world…” Kiera told 9News.
“It definitely gives us a way to connect. There’s a lot of things to do… You don’t even have to play the game.” said Juan.
“We’re just happily able to just hang out, just hang out with our characters there. So, That’s what makes it kind of fun.”
Even the experts agree, video games are a great way to keep the relationship alive, “‘It beats the boring standard conversation of ‘how was your day?'” says dating and relationship coach, Debbie Rivers, “Especially during COVID when people may not have anything interesting to come up with!”, she told 9News.
Debbie rates online dating highly and says she’s had plenty of success with her clients, “I hear many people telling me they don’t like online dating, however, if you want to go fishing you fish where the most fish are!”
Debbie’s tip for couples who want to increase attraction with each other is to do a fun activity that gets your heart rate up – and video games can do just that, “It works because there is something called the misattribution of arousal where the brain mistakes an increased heart rate being the same as when you get ‘excited”.
Kiera and Juan met in an online gaming forum nearly a decade ago and spoke for a year before Kiera shared her feelings. Although it wasn’t love at first sight for Juan, the 27-year-old was eventually convinced.
Kiera and Juan say Final Fantasy is a little more personal for them as they can own a home together in game, “We’re actually in, like, a house together in game, as well as our characters are actually married…” says Kiera, who added their character’s anniversary is coming up in just a couple of week’s time.
“It’s kind of something I haven’t seen other MMOs do where they allow you to actually have like that connection with other people in the game.”
Online dating seemingly melts away the distance barrier and makes Kiera feel more connected to Juan, “It’s given us something to actually do! And in a way I feel like we are together even if we’re not physically together.”
The couple get together a couple of times a week for online gaming and say communication is the key to making it work, “Personally, it’s all about communication. Really… And, I mean, the will to make it work.” said Kiera.
“You can’t really make long-distance relationships work if you’re not really interested in making it work.” says Juan.
“There’s definitely a lot of effort that goes into it, and it’s really easy to talk about how much effort you want to put into it, but it really shows when you want to make it happen with your actions.”
Video game expert and reviewer Emily Dalton, aka Retro Gamer Girl, has told 9News she believes online gaming is a great way for couples to spend quality time together when apart. “There are a tonne of games that allow for you to spend time together, communicate, problem solve, raid or fight to victory.” she said.
Emily and her husband, Beau Dalton, aka Retro Gamer Guy, spend a lot of time gaming together at home, “From personal experience it’s made us stronger as a couple. It’s fantastic to share similar interests and play games together,” says Emily.
While Emily believes it’s good to play it safe, she says it can’t hurt meeting new people, “Chat to people, share your knowledge and most of all have fun online and you never know who you just might meet.”
Emily shared with 9News her list of online games best played together, “The world of online multiplayer games is huge and there is a variety to choose from.”
“If you’re into strategy or fantasy themes – Guild Wars, World of Warcraft and Elder Scrolls Online have a huge player base to jump into.” she said.
Dalton’s personal favourite is the Call of Duty series, “I’ve met a number of people that I still play online with today with some even becoming my closest friends.” she told 9News.
Also on the list, Rockstar Games’ Red Dead Online, “It’s charming western setting is gorgeous to play & offers a ton of challenges you can do together. It has a large online player base so you’ll always come across other players,” Emily Dalton told 9News.
“Rocket League is a great free to play game across all platforms so it is a great fun choice especially if you’re competitive – and for a change of pace, Among Us is also a great game and it could really help you get to know someone!”
Well, there you have it.
It seems there’s nothing more romantic in 2021 than fending off a hoard of zombies with your significant other this Valentine’s Day.
To all those looking for love or seeking a way to spice up their long distance relationship… Just know you can always seek confidence in the online realm.