Ten games to play with your loved one this Valentine’s Dayby Phil Iwaniuk
It’s time for Father Valentine to take to the skies in his sleigh, distributing amorous cheer equally across all denizens of the world. Some people don’t like the pressure of that newfound amorous cheer and choose not to recognise February 14 as a holiday. Some go all out to mark the occasion by gifting abstract depictions of vital organs to those close to them (no, not that organ – family show, guys).
Others use it as an opportunity to share their passions with loved ones. It’s the perfect time for the latter demographic, then, to share their love of videogames, whether their partner wants them to or not.
Perhaps you’d be tempted to plump for something obviously romantic – a visual novel, or the downtime of a Bioware RPG. But in doing so you’d be missing out on the surprising results that can come from exposing a partner to something they wouldn’t normally play – expanding your relationship in new, sometimes frightening directions.
Here are just a handful of PC games we’ve had new and exciting experiences with on the most love-ly day of the year.
“What… What am I looking at?” your partner says, trying to remain enthusiastic as they try to make sense of the lines of complicated text on an unfriendly grey background you’ve loaded up for them.
“You might know it better as Slaves to Armok: God of Blood Chapter II: Dwarf Fortress,” you whisper, seductively. “Its longstanding community dropped the first two prefixes some time after its initial release from a two-person development outfit in 2006.” You’re completely naked by the time you finish the sentence, resplendent in the candlelight of your study.
Your partner doesn’t respond. They’re now navigating what looks like a massively zoomed-out Minecraft map, except nothing’s happening when they click on any of the tiles.
“I… is it like Minecraft? I don’t…”
They’ve now made another tiny map appear within the screen that looked like a map in the first place. You reach slowly down to your ankles and bring your underwear back up to your hips.
Baldur’s Gate 2: Shadows of Amn
This whole endeavour was about understanding each other, so when your partner suggested the two of you play through their favourite PC game of all time, you keenly accepted.
70 hours have passed since then. Your partner has maintained their blanket ban on bathroom breaks and snacking. All attempts you’ve made at conversation during this time have been shut down with a firm “Shhhh,” and each time they’ve turned the speakers up a bit louder. The background music is deafening now.
In fairness, they did let you choose which stats to increase every time Misc levelled up. And for a good 30 hours, they let you swap the discs when the game prompted you to. So it’s not like you’ve just been sitting there like a lemon for nearly three days without food or water.
The credits roll.
“See?”, they say, every blood vessel inflamed in painful relief across their eyes. “Isn’t it brilliant? Isn’t the writing just a world away from modern RPGs?”
“It’s really good, yeah.” Your nose is bleeding a bit.
Football Manager 2019
“Right then!” your lover says, rubbing their hands together theatrically as you slowly hand them your laptop. “Let’s see what you’ve been up to on here all this time!”
They give you a playful little nudge in the rib as they say this, placing their hand on the mouse that you used to take Portsmouth from League Two to Premiership title contention in five seasons. They’re now using the mouse to hover over Callum Gribbin. Oh god what are they going to do to Callum Gribbin.
“This guy looks like a nob,” they say, ignoring his stratospheric stats improvement over the last two years since you signed him at great expense from Man Utd. “Let’s put him on the unwanted list!”
Before you know what you’re doing you’ve slapped the mouse out from under their hand, run out of the room crying, got in your car and just started driving and driving. You’ll probably not let them play it again.
“Yes there is a lot of radio chatter isn’t there,” you reply through gritted teeth. Maybe if they listened to it and stuck with the group instead of –
Your partner effortlessly headshots a soldier at least 1km away, adjusting for windspeed using the scope dials.
“That was good! That was… really good, actually. You really -”
They do it again to another soldier.
“Wow!” You say. Then, again, “Wow!”
A helicopter rises above the horizon, 800m away. They snipe it out of the air.
You’re getting a bit scared now. Once again, you reach down to your ankles for your underwear. You feel vulnerable. But your partner doesn’t reply to your encouragement. They just keep looking down their scope and clicking with absolute precision. In the kitchen below, your potato dauphinoise is burning.
“It’ll be fun,” you say. We’ll make versions of ourselves, and all our close family members. Basically anyone dear to us.”
“You told me it was a volleyball game,” they say flatly.
“Ah, yeah, thought it was. Picked it up in the Steam sale, wasn’t really paying atten-”
“It says you’ve played it for 78 hours,” in the same emotionless voice.
“What? Ha, that’s mad. I must have left it running while I went out or something.”
“You’ve unlocked 100% of the achievements.”
“What?” you attempt again, trying to achieve a still more incredulous tone.
The tutorial menus weren’t much fun, but together you got through them. Agreeing on an advanced military career for your newly created Gallente recruit (you both laughed at the aviators you put on her), you head out into space. Vast, beautiful, multicoloured space.
There’s not much to do while your spec of a a vessel makes its way to its objective, minutes away, so you just look at the swirls of colour together, holding hands. Your lover gives your hand a tender squeeze as a particularly nice greenish-blue mist appears. It’s like camping underneath the stars, you think.
Then Reaver_69 appears behind you. “F*** you, f****** Carebearing r********!” he says on the comms channel you forgot to switch to something friendlier. “Hahahahahaha, t***!”
“He’s shooting us?” says your dewy-eyed lover, wrenched from your shared moment of tranquility.
“Yeah, he’s shooting us,” you reply, as you look back over years of similar unprovoked attacks and wonder where all the resources you mined are in the universe, right now. “Just keep looking at the stars.”
“Aren’t we going to shoot back?”
“There’s nothing for us here now. Shhh.” You cover their eyes with your hand. “Shhhhh.”
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
“No, we will. We totally will. It’s just I told the guys I’d play a few rounds while you were getting ready,” you say.
“Well I’m ready now! Can I have a go?”
“Can I have a go?”
“It’s just we’re 16-14 down and there’s not long to…” You look away from the screen for the first time and see their face. “Um, yep. Just stay in this doorway, and kind of wiggle back and forth looking for the guys in balaclavas.”
They start scrolling through your weapons.
“Look at this knife!” They say. “Is it a shark on there?”
They’re coming around the corner, two of them.
“Sorry,” you say, displacing your loving, patient partner from the seat and retaking the mouse and keyboard. “I just need to get these two and then…” You bring up the scope. “Then… you can, er…” They’ve run back behind the corner. “You can have…”
“We need to set off now,” they say, quite rightly.
You just need to win this round. You’re not going out with a k:d like this.
“No, I know. I’ll just…”
“I’m going now.”
You hear the sound of the door closing a few seconds later. You just need to win this round.
Silent Hill 2
“I think I get it,” you say, a bit taken aback by the intensity with which your partner stares at you after the final, baffling cutscene finishes on Konami’s allegorical psychological horror. “So, she didn’t die three years ago… she got sick three years ago.”
“Yes. YES. Good. Go on.” Your partner is trembling slightly, maintaining unbroken eye contact.
Read more: Five romantic games that can teach us about love
“He… he killed her. The whole place… it was all just a construct that allowed him to deal with his actions, and his grief.”
“Yep, you got it,” they say, instantly disposing of whatever emotion had them visibly quivering just seconds before. “Right, shall we go to that new pulled pork pop-up place before it closes?”
You depart, looking momentarily back at the screen for a clue. Something to make sense of it all. You find a cheery tune played using samples of a dog’s bark, and a close-up of a dog’s face behind the rolling credits. You’re scared.
“OK,” you advise, “you’ve chosen Broodmother there. She’s a pusher, so your primary role in this match will be clearing enemy creep waves and amassing big friendly creep waves to take down towers.”
“Yep. Got it.”
“It means – oh. Alright. Well, the thing to keep in mind is that her Spiderlings can provide easy gold for enemy Heroes if you’re not careful, so in the early game you’ll want to stay in a quiet lane using your invisibility and Spin Web to increase your movement speed.”
“Yup.” They’ve just landed three last hits in a row.
“And, um, don’t forget to buy a Soul Ring early on, because, and I know this is a lot to take in -”
“Because I can use it to make my Spiderlings to harass the lane rival and safely take last hits. I got it.”
“Well… Well… watch out for Legion Commander because -”
“Because her first ability, Overwhelming Odds, caps how many units are in the AoE so it’ll destroy my Spiderlings and deal massive damage to me. I know.”
“FINE WHY DON’T YOU JUST GO AND BE AN ESPORTS PLAYER THEN,” you say, crying into your hands while running out of the room, tripping on the underwear you pre-emptively lowered before your partner chose their Hero.