It may shock you to learn that, according to some studies, role-playing games such as World of Warcraft—which Joshua Rivera examined at length in an EW longform—can have a negative impact on marriages. But, the studies note, that’s typically if only one partner is doing the playing. In cases when both spouses log on, gaming can make the relationship stronger. Data gathered in a 2012 Brigham Young University study indicated that 76% of gaming couples feel that their RPG time is a positive force in their relationship. The research also suggested that interacting in-game increased a couple’s satisfaction with their marriage. Little surprise, then, that relationships like these are regularly kindled by the game.
Laura van Outer and Brett Smith
Laura, 29, and Brett, 28, met in 2007 when she joined his guild. They married in 2012.
Laura was in a failing marriage when she started talking to new guildmate Brett, and as her divorce loomed she found herself increasingly turning to him for support. “He was there for me,” she says. “He was sweet and would listen to me gripe about my marriage falling apart.”
After two years of assuming they were in each other’s friend zone, Laura posted a photo of herself in the guild’s forum. “I was dumbfounded by how beautiful she was,” Brett says, “and I already liked her personality.” So he rolled the dice.
“We were raiding one night,” Laura recalls, “and suddenly he said, ‘You know, I’ve had a crush on you for a long time.’ Then I died in-game, and he told everybody, ‘I killed her when I confessed my love.’”
They started Skyping, and soon after, Brett flew from Louisiana to Kentucky to meet her. Four years later Laura gave birth to their daughter, and they married in August of that year. Both remain grateful for the game bringing them together.
“It’s not any different from meeting on Match.com, except that you already have a common interest,” Laura says. Adds Brett, “At first I thought she was just going to be another guildie. Then I dropped everything for her.” Eight years later, they’re still in that same guild.
Bells, 40, and Zuu, 27, met through Twitter in 2013.
It was the community surrounding WoW, not the game itself, that brought Bells and Zuu together in 2013. A friend helped link them up on Twitter, where they’re both extremely active, and mutual follows gave way to regular conversations. “We spoke via Twitter, email, phone, text, and Skype over a period of a few months before meeting,” says Bells. “Our relationship moved slower than my own grandparents’, which I find amusing. They met and were married within months back in the 1950s.”
Roughly a month after they started talking, the couple took their first trip to Azeroth together—as Bells recalls, it was in part to help Zuu with character posing for a Web comic she used to publish. Not long after, they began questing together. After several months Zuu moved from North Carolina to live with Bells in Arizona, where they share custody of Zuu’s daughter from a prior relationship.
Today Bells serves as Guild Master of the guild Chaotic Neutral on Proudmoore, the “unofficial gay server for WoW,” and says that she and Zuu couldn’t be happier with their corner of Azeroth. “Proudmoore isn’t a place where it’s required to be a member of the LGBT community to get along or feel at home, because the community is just generally welcoming and nice,” she explains. “In Chaotic Neutral we have teachers, IT professionals, college students, metalworkers, artists, stay-at-home spouses, and such who all come together—people who may not usually meet and hang out in other circumstances. Individual people thrive by being connected. We need to know we’re not alone.”
Susana and Pierce Baumann
Pierce, 27, and Susana, 29, were introduced in-game by a friend in 2007. They married in 2011.
Pierce had been playing WoW for about a year when he and Susana were connected by an acquaintance in Azeroth. “We started playing together,” says Pierce. “We created new characters. We created stories together.” All the while, they were growing closer.
“The good thing about meeting in the game is that I got to know his personality first,” says Susana. They didn’t swap photos for months, making WoW something of an anti-Tinder. Eventually, Pierce flew from California to see Susana in North Carolina. “It was natural,” he says. “The way we joked around, it was almost as if we’d known each other for years.”
Pierce admits that it was “very, very fast” for him to move, in the same year they met, across the country to live with Susana. But they adapted quickly, in part because WoW had taught them how to communicate well. At their wedding in 2011, WoW friends outnumbered family; Pierce’s best man, a WoW buddy he had never met, flew in from Canada, and two of Susana’s bridesmaids were from the game.
“It’s amazing that we all share this one thing,” Pierce says, noting that WoW was a source of constancy in his life growing up. His family moved frequently, and friendships were easier to sustain online. He and Susana have tried other games, but the pull of WoW always wins out. “This is how I met a lot of good friends,” she says. “Those strong relationships bring us back.”