How relationships should be approached more like video games

It’s hard to find someone who doesn’t enjoy video games; playing them, watching them, finishing them, revisiting them, and so on. I’m sure they’re out there, the funless lot who are probably far smarter than me with oodles more logic and patience, but I’m hard pressed to say I know anyone like that.

I doubt we’d click well together, if we managed to click at all.



Why do we regular folk like video games so much, especially long-ass, convoluted RPGs like the Final Fantasy series or incredibly difficult arcade games like Super Mario Bros?

Well, at the heart of it, we’re awfully human. We like pretty pictures dancing in front of our eyes, we like being rewarded for almost every action we take, and we like listening to ear crack: the more repetitive and predictable a musical theme (think: Pac-Man, Mario, Tetris, etc.), the more our brains love it and reward us by pumping us full of dopamine.

Across the board for all the best video games (or at least the ones closest to our hearts), our senses receive stimulation unlike any we can find elsewhere IRL. Furthermore we get the feeling we’re achieving something every time we win a battle, receive coin, slay an enemy, advance a level, unlock a treasure, and so on.

Coupled with over-the-top sensory stimulation of modern games much in same fashion as porn, and it isn’t difficult to see why video game addiction is a very real thing — sometimes being rewarded for playing a video game just makes so much more sense than sucking at real life.

But you know what’s perhaps the best thing about video games that so many people say is missing from real life?

When your last remaining character with 23/8760 HP and 0/655 MP waits for his ATB gauge to fill while the others lie KO’d next to his crouched figure, completely out of curative items and unable to scan the HP/MP of the opponent who’s about to strike his final blow — the best thing is being able to say, “fuckit”, mashing R1-R2-L1-L2-start-select all at once, and hearing the familiar opening theme of the game build up in your ear, then clicking “Load Game” and continuing from a time when you weren’t as royally fucked as you had just been 30 seconds ago.

In short: Hard restart, load from save point.

Real life however is not missing a hard restart code or frequent save points. In fact, it is full of them. It all depends on you cooperating with your party. Let me explain:

Many of us find ourselves in relationships where it seems almost unthinkable to hit that reset button and start afresh with a better understanding of what lies ahead.

Any chance at victory, at triumph over our issues, no matter how catastrophic a pyrrhic one may be at that point for future progress, is stubbornly pursued until GAME OVER dampens everyone’s mood. Sometimes GAME OVER hits you so hard that you never pick up the game again, leaving it forever as something that just wasn’t for you.

Why is it so hard for us to say, “fuckit, I’m dead in the water. Time to hit hard restart, load from last save, and win this motherfucking game” ?

Well, sometimes we say it with less profanity, but you get the picture.

Well,” says the sensible person in a difficult but loving relationship (who probably doesn’t care very much for video games at all), “there are no save points or reset buttons in real life relationships. Hard restarts would be starting a new relationship with a different partner, and that isn’t what either of you are working towards at this point.”

Plus, you’ve invested so much time and efforts this relationship,” he or she continues, factually stating their case. “You’ve learned so much, cried so much, sacrificed so much to be where you are now. If there was a reset button and a save point, it would invalidate all that, all you’ve gone through together. Not the best thing for a healthy , mature, adult relationship.”

Not wanting to be the toxic, immature, childish one in a relationship between two people who want only the best for each other, you’re starting to see the sensible person’s point. “The best thing for that sort of relationship would be to accept that things are what they must be, and work with that until you just can’t do it anymore. Then if it still fails, for whatever reason, declare it a loss and find a more fulfilling scenario.”

Don’t sweat it that you weren’t trying to part ways in the first place — things are what they must be. That is the mature way to go about things. And hey, something better suited for your character might come along! See, I’m fun, I can make video game references too…” says the sensible person, rather insistently.


In a completely passionate frame of mind, the antithesis to sensibility, I would respond as follows:


It’s just a matter of you both agreeing to return to them, in the same understanding of them.

Sometimes, a save point can be as cut-and-dried as changing the format of the relationship: “We were casually dating and it was the best time we had with each other. When we got serious was when it started to become difficult to be with each other, so we are going to revert to casually dating because we still want the best for each other. Furthermore, we want each other to receive the best of us.

If you both believe that and agree to it, well then, good! You’re at your mutual save point, you can pick up from there!

Looking for a save point means mutual agreement, shared action, and deliberate movement. It means getting down to brass tacks about what your relationship really is founded upon, and what you’re willing to do to reboot, to re-strategise, to restart, to renew in order to make those foundations even stronger.

Do you love each other? That’s a save point.

Do you want to be the best possible people for each other? That’s another save point.

Do you see how the other expands your horizons and improves you as a person? Yet another save point!

If you don’t agree with your partner as to what must be done, or vice-versa, then you haven’t loaded a save point yet.

If you insist, for example, on a reformat that only one party can see the merit of, and you haven’t reached a mutual agreement before taking the necessary steps to make it so, then consider that maybe you reloaded from a save point you weren’t prepared for.

The game scenario is still too difficult to surmount, find something more basic to jump off from.

If in your quest to understand the foundations of the relationship, you find that you have had it and just cannot see the point of being with your partner any longer, then it’s a legitimate game over. Thanks for playing, I had a lovely time. I don’t hold anything against you, I’ve learned so much from you, I look forward to both of us finding happiness.

THAT’S the healthy, mature, adult thing to do — not “run something initially good into the ground because I’m sentimental about how much effort I put into making it better”


I mean, what do you plan on achieving here? Why it stick out in a toxic state, when you can regroup and recoup and improve yourself? That toxicity wears you down, almost to desolation. You may not even want to pursue any contact with anyone afterwards, perhaps robbing yourself of valuable, healthy, helpful emotional bonds and rewards that could improve the quality of your life.

You aren’t trying to restart your machine, you’re trying to play the game in the best way you can. You won’t get very far (or enjoy yourself at all) if your machine keeps restarting when gameplay gets hard. You aren’t tackling a hardware issue, but figuring out a strategy to proceed and advance. So, stop trying to redefine terms you don’t fully understand, sensible person. You’re a little off.

In reality, the whole point of a hard restart is to stop something from ever becoming a loss. It’s a technicality, but it means a lot to us wee sensitive hopeful folk. Your entire party didn’t die, you just restarted. You can load a save point from here (see previous point) that will make the outcome better in the long run, or at the very least, the challenges easier.

You’ll have the same goal as last time, but you’ll be better equipped, have a better strategy, cultivate a stronger party, etc. You’ll be better suited to the difficulties you know you will face. You will know what to expect, you can choose to be stronger than you were before. You will have learned.


Until both of you or either of you have had enough of each other and the shit time people have in close romantic relationships, do make it a point to go back to the basics when the going gets tough. Remind yourself and each other, or better yet, figure out together why you’re together in the first place. A renewal of your wows, if you haven’t made any vows yet.

As in, “Wow, I love this person so much that I think even a comfortable life lived without them would be rather bleak.”

Wow, this person is so special to me that I can’t even describe it.”

Wow, this person makes me want to be a better person so much that I forget to accept myself as I am.”

Wow, this person loves me so much. We’re making it work through things that would have killed it for us otherwise. I love this person so much.”


When you reset things, you’re not taking away these wows, these realisations. You’re not dismissing hurt feelings, or forgetting important things that you need to know about each other. You’re wiping away the resentment, the pain, the hurt, the contempt that grew out of the plain fact that good and effective communication is hard as shit.

We tend to push aside these “wows” when we feel nervous or insecure about how we are with our partners, and all the ickle beastly anxieties just break down communication even further if they aren’t given a positive, serious, and unmistakeable dose of good communication.

Communicate what you agree on.

Find equal footing.

Be honest.

Touch base by touching minds.

When you find your positions on the relationship, on each other, on yourselves aren’t all that different from each other’s, or even from when you two first started being together, resentment and contempt and mistrust and doubt just sorta melt away. Anxiety abated, nervousness calmed, insecurity defeated, you won’t need to tough it out in a shit situation because it won’t be shit.

It’ll be fulfilling, it’ll be beautiful, it will be the happiest time of your life — and your partner’s too.

That’s a save point right there.

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