EDITOR’S LETTER: Happy Valentine’s Day, nerds

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Jewelry? Candy? Flowers? Nah — a three-month Xbox Live subscription, copies of a couple games we can play together, a headset and a controller. That’s gold.

Trust me. This Christmas, I bought my girlfriend an Xbox One, and it’s the best gift I’ve ever given.

No, I’m not suggesting you run out and buy a console for bae on this, the commercialist-est of relationship holidays. What you should do, though, is consider letting your significant other into your world if he or she isn’t already a part of it. The results (cue Upworthy font) will ASTOUND you.

Relationships break down into a few categories: things you and your partner agree on, things you don’t agree on, and that odd gray area you haven’t discussed yet or that are “your thing.” For example, crafting is my girlfriend’s “thing.” I’ve never done it, never really had a vested interest in it and couldn’t picture myself doing it. Gaming was my “thing.” Heather (that’s the girlfriend) never played games, didn’t like the blood and shooting and didn’t see many opportunities to play that involved things other than killing stuff.

Heather now lives in Easthampton, Massachusetts, while I finish up my masters degree at the University of Missouri in Columbia. I’ve dated long-distance before, and as many will tell you, it’s difficult no matter how prepared you feel. We’ve had our ups and downs. There have been times both of us thought it wouldn’t work.

Kenarthi's Roost, one of the first areas available in the Aldmeri Dominion storyline. | Courtesy of Zenimax Media Inc.

Kenarthi’s Roost, one of the first areas available in the Aldmeri Dominion storyline. | Courtesy of Zenimax Media Inc.

But then, just when it seemed like we were struggling to connect over the phone, we found something that let us talk and have fun and seem as if we’re in the moment with each other, even from nearly 1,250 miles away.

Our game of choice: Elder Scrolls Online. But I didn’t realize the learning curve for console gaming was so steep. So, early on, we mastered:

  1. Moving in a straight line. I took for granted the fine motor skills it takes to control a character’s body with one hand and its point of view with another. I’ve played games since I was 6, and I’ve been around dual analog controllers for about that long too. Heather had no such experience. Trying to cut precise turns, let alone battle hordes of enemies, was an early struggle, but an obstacle we got past within a couple hours.
  1. Menus. There are so many menus! And though I understand and appreciate and can navigate said menus in seconds thanks to my experience with the game, they are overwhelming as hell to anyone who hasn’t played. I, again, took this for granted and was all like, “What do you MEAN you can’t find your inventory?” A month and a half later, she has all of that down, though she does still get lost from time to time. Just Saturday, we enchanted some gear and crafted clothing together. It was, in the weirdest way, exciting and adorable.
  1. The Xbox itself. From Netflix flare-ups to Live shutdowns, gamers know how frustrating temporary service stoppages can be, and troubleshooting those problems is aggravating too. Now imagine doing it without knowing that kind of thing happens all the time.

Heather’s changed the way I play, too. She does this thing where she says, “weeee” every time she jumps off a ledge — and it’s absurd enough that I’ve started doing it, too. I’ve gotten nicer to non-playable characters in the game, too, which includes saving wrongdoers sometimes instead of dishing out hack-and-slash retribution at all times.

This Valentine’s Day, I have a staff meeting with some of the Fangirls, a streaming tutorial for a few more of them and, after all that’s done, I’m going to Netflix & Chill with my 1,250-mile-away girlfriend. We’ll play ESO, and we’ll laugh, and we’ll kill some virtual wolves or bears or something. And we’ll connect in a way we never thought possible, all because she took a chance and tried doing something just for me that in a lot of ways turned out being for us.

Don’t worry, Heather — I’ll try to do some crafting with you, too. Just don’t get too frustrated with me. I suck at using scissors.

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