My partner is the most patient man I’ve ever met. It’s one of the things I appreciate about him the most — especially since I’m the opposite. He’s the Lawful Good to my Chaotic Neutral. I’m a cyclone and he’s calm waters. Opposites attract, right?
For most of our relationship, this dynamic — his patience, combined with my spontaneity — has made us a pretty great team, able to support each other in exactly the ways that we ourselves are lacking.
At least, until we boot up a co-op game.
I play games pretty chaotically, I’ll admit. Long cutscenes bore me — I’d much rather live a story than have it slowly injected into my eyes — and I tend to gravitate towards playing light-fingered characters, because the rush of adrenaline you get from pilfering a sword out of someone’s pockets is something I’ll never get in real life. My partner, on the other hand, is the kind of person who will read everything carefully to make sure he understands it. He will play characters that behave, you know, like real people — not the weird little thief gremlins I play, who are constantly crouching and putting buckets on people’s heads.
I know. I’m awful. But the thing is, when I’m playing solo games, it doesn’t bother anyone else and I have a lot more fun doing things my way. It gets things done faster, and that’s just how I like it. And most of the time, it doesn’t matter.
But when we played Divinity: Original Sin 2, a game that I had already played a fair bit of on my own, that changed. Suddenly, my propensity to mash A through long dialogue to get to the meat of the adventure meant that he had no idea what was going on. My tendency to rifle through someone’s belongings while they look the other way kept getting us into battles that we couldn’t possibly win. I was like a feral toddler with sticky fingers, and he was just trying to keep the peace. And the less said about my overwhelming need to do my inventory management just so — which was complicated by the fact that I could see his differently-organised (not wrong, just different) inventory on the same screen as mine — the better.
We didn’t finish the game, and that was a shame, but it made sense. Our playstyles are fine on their own, but they just don’t mesh together well, because I am a monster.
But lately, I’ve been wanting to play Stardew Valley co-op again. And, more specifically, I want to play Stardew Valley with him. I’ve played hundreds of hours, and he’s never even touched the game, so I knew it would be tricky to stamp down my instincts to take control. After all, Stardew Valley is exactly the kind of game that you can min-max, using each passing day in the most efficient manner to get maximum profits, and that’s how I’ve always played it on my own — as a challenge to myself to be the best farmer that’s ever farmed, with a beautiful, organised farm and a series of colour-coded chests full of at least one of everything I’ll ever need.
But when you share something with someone, you necessarily have to cede control to at least half of it, or it’s not really sharing. It wouldn’t be very co-op of me to insist that I’m in charge of the storage system, because then it wouldn’t be our storage system, and a storage system you don’t understand is really hard to use.
So, instead of letting my chaotic feral inner toddler run rampant without checks as I usually do, I am channelling that energy into being in the background, doing what I can to give him a leg-up, because lord knows those first two seasons in the game can be slow. I am using my wiki’s worth of knowledge to help, not hinder.
That means taking items to the community center so we can unlock the shortcuts and features that make the game more fun. It means going mining to get bug meat to make into bait for him, so he can fish all he likes, which is what he enjoys most in the game so far. I don’t want to smooth out all the game’s lumps and bumps — I just want to make sure that he has a good time without too much friction, you know?
I’m… I’m min-maxing again. I’m min-maxing his enjoyment.
Oh god. I’m still a monster. I’M STILL A MONSTEEEEEEEEER
Postscript: I made him read this article and he said “I don’t think you’re a monster!” and then told me I had to add this to the end of the article so everyone knows that he doesn’t think I am a monster. He’s wrong, but I appreciate it.
What are your terrible co-op habits? Have you ever broken up a relationship over your gremlin-like playstyle? Let me know in the comments!
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