"I don't really do online games."

Last year, when we weren't dating yet, my now-girlfriend told me this. We were starting to game together, and I suggested a bunch of multiplayer staples, but she didn't really seem interested. We dabbled in some Apex Legends, and I tried my hand at Final Fantasy XIV, but ultimately, we ended up having the most fun with co-op experiences.

In the year since, we've moved in and gamed with each other just about every single week. We've played through all but one of the Halo games, sunk entirely too much time into Avengers, and collected thousands of pieces of garbage loot in Diablo 3. 2020's been pretty cursed in every other respect, but being locked inside together has made for a lot of pretty amazing gaming memories.

Yet, up until this last month, she hasn't really changed her stance on online games. I like to think I haven't pressured her to try too much, outside of Apex and maybe giving Warzone a crack, because... I get it. Online games are stressful. They, more often than not, make you feel like a complete failure who will never succeed at anything in life. It's humiliating when some rando named ToejamMuncher sneaks up behind you and guts you like a fish, y'know? I get not wanting to play in that space.

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That said, online games can't make me hate myself more than I already do, which is why I've played Call of Duty for eleven straight years. Somehow, I find peace in the middle of the chaos, and catharsis in besting lobbies of anonymous teenagers. When I play these things, my blood pressure rises, my body twitches, and I feel short, intense bursts of extreme stress. It rules. I love it. But also, it's not for everyone.

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But my girlfriend, while sitting and watching me queue for games in Black Ops Cold War, is enamored by the proceedings. According to her, she hasn't touched one of these things since Call of Duty 3 on the 360, so it's fair to say it's all pretty brand-new to her - not to mention exciting. When she watches me play, she points out guys on the screen, cheers for my best kills, and heckles me when I screw up. It makes my quiet, tense playtime into more of a spectator sport, and by proxy makes it much more fun to keep playing.

However, while I was working yesterday, she decided to try out some of that fun for herself. In a somewhat sheepish tone, she said, "I'm going to try out Call of Duty."

I was shocked. Aside from watching me play, she'd kind of had nothing but disdain for the series up until that point. Which is, y'know... fair. The series functions as a slick recruitment tool for teens, and espouses some pretty poisonous worldviews in some entries, both of which are things she's even less okay with than me. Of all the games I dig that I would guess she'd try out, this one would be below the bottom of the list. Yet there she was, not having played one of these since before the original Modern Warfare, ready to drop in blind and see what happened.

And what happened was that she started curbstomping within a few matches.

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Now, I guess this is the part where I mention just how good my girlfriend is at gaming. This is the woman who's played Bloodborne so many times that she's lost count, who bested the gnarliest of secret bosses in Kingdom Hearts, and who powered through Halo on Legendary with me like it was nothing. She's no slouch, and has a level of hand-eye coordination that's honestly frightening. Point being, she's good - extremely good.

That said, I was in shock as I watched her pull off multi-kills, figure out the perfect timing for shotgun volleys, and master the art of sliding and shooting. Within an hour or two, she was already in the Loadout menus, tweaking and toying with her setup between rounds. She's a natural, and her average KDA is already around the same as mine, if not a little better after some matches.

But she has blindspots - little things she wouldn't notice if she hasn't been playing for over a decade. So I'll call out footsteps, peeks, campers, landmines, and anything else I noticed. I'll tell her to quickscope versus holding down ADS, and espouse the virtues of dropshots. However, that's... well, that's it. In terms of raw mechanics, game comprehension, and sheer creativity in how she plays, my girlfriend has learned stuff in a manner of days that took me years.

Seeing this didn't make me feel insecure or competitive, though - far from it. It actually reminded me why I fell in love with her in the first place, strangely enough. She's the type of person who says she's going to do something, then throws her all at it come hell or high water. If she wants to learn something, do something, cook something, make something, there's not a single thing in the world that will stop her until she's done it. When something breaks, she'll spend days fixing it instead of buying a replacement. When I said, "let's hang tapestries on the ceiling or something, it'll look cool," she worked with me to spruce up our entire basement with colored LEDS, hanging fabric, and huge colorful tapestries. I mean, she basically put together her entire PC (including its OS) from scratch.

That's just how she is. And I love her for it.

After my shift last night, I sat down on the couch - exhausted from several consecutive hours of research, writing, and editing. My girlfriend handed the controller off to me for a few hours, but soon, I traded it back to her for two games. Then she traded it back to me. And we just kept doing this until we got tired and went to bed at 2 or 3.

In the midst of this, I watched as she played. I cheered, gasped, yelled, heckled... all of the same stuff she had done over the previous week. And in those moments, I understood. I understood how fun it was to sit next to the person you love, the person you want to maybe spend your life with, and watch them shoot randos in the head in a video game. The joy of sharing each cool kill, the anger of getting spawnkilled, the frustration of whiffing shots, and everything in between. There's something special about not taking the game so seriously, and instead, having someone to cheer for and comfort you while you play. It makes the game that much more fun.

Happy anniversary, baby. I love you.

Next: Call Of Duty: Black Ops Cold War's User Score On Metacritic Is Brutally Low

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