In 2008 I played audience to one of the most touching, heart-warming exchanges I’ve ever witnessed in my otherwise apathetic, Generation X lifetime. Though to begin with, we should probably go back to 2006 so that you may hear the full story. I’d like to introduce a good friend of mine that you’ve probably heard me mention in various articles- Thomas. A brief attendee of MCHS alongside myself, the two of us built up a friendship based almost entirely on our mutual enjoyment of Yu-Gi-Oh and Fullmetal Alchemist. While anime was the source of our friendship, that’s a story of companionship separate from this one.
To be frank, Thomas has always been something of a wishy-washy, apologetic nobody. I don’t mean to sound harsh, but that’s a pretty accurate description. Romance was basically a distant mirage for poor Thomas. Now, because I don’t want him secretly hating me over this, I’ll move on to his story. It all started with a little game called ‘Gaia Towns‘.
Bored out of his mind during the summer drought of video game releases, Thomas decided to turn to an online, avatar-based simulation game called ‘Gaia Towns‘. His little, anime-styled avatar, affectionately nicknamed ‘Tom’, made a place for himself on the Gaia server. It was there that Tom began collecting flowers, garbage, spare coins, and whatever else he could find and sell on the ground in Gaia Towns. Eventually Tom gathered enough coins to have a few cool accessories- including a cape, top hat, and cane. Thomas was quite proud of Tom.
However, Thomas felt something was missing. While idling in a random corner of Gaia Towns, Thomas was chatting with a few strangers and mentioned his desire for a monocle for Tom. To his surprise, one of the strangers suddenly gifted him the item he so wanted. The generous individual? A girl with Panda ears. While thanking her for the gift, Thomas learned that her name was Sally and that she was an avid gamer from the Memphis area- our hometown.
Thomas would spend the rest of 2006 chatting with Sally on Gaia Towns, AIM, and through e-mails. The two rarely spoke on the phone, but still they grew very close. During that time the pair decided to branch out and play other online games together. With school a constant headache for the two, the occasional online game was all they could muster for interaction. It was at the onset of winter that the two decided to try Second Life together. Neither was particularly thrilled, but they used it as a means of communication, interaction, and for the thrill of enjoying each other’s company. At the end of the year, Thomas decided to pick up a Nintendo Wii and a few games as a Christmas impulse buy. Little did he know the impact this would have on his future.
During early 2007, Sally was merely a good friend to Thomas- someone to relieve his stress and listen to him. By mid-2007, things were a bit more serious. Thomas had talked Sally into having her father purchase her a Wii with the promise of online games they could play together. With the release of Wi-Fi enabled Mario Strikers Charged, an Arcade-style soccer game with Mario characters, Sally and Thomas all but dumped Second Life. The two played the Wii exclusive late into the night together- loving the over-the-top gameplay and addictive multiplayer. Thomas, already a soccer fan, soon got Sally into the sport with a little help from Mario.
The lack of voice chat in Mario Strikers Charged prompted the two to call each other on the phone while playing. The friendly, competitive atmosphere of the game coupled with their already well-developed friendship caused a deeper relationship to culminate. Within a month of playing the Wii online together, the two decided they were officially boyfriend and girlfriend. While I didn’t get to talk much to Thomas during this time, I can say without a doubt- it was the happiest I’d ever seen him.
Near the end of 2007 the two completely left behind Gaia Towns and Second Life in order to play Mario Strikers Charged and two new Wifi games together- Battalion Wars 2 on the Wii and Animal Crossing: Wild World on DS. The two had no graduated and were spending every minute of their free time playing together.
The new year brought a troubled Thomas to me. He was losing confidence in the possibility of a future with Sally. While a tomboy, Sally was a cute blonde with a very approachable, generous personality. She was the sort of girl you meet and made you realize you didn’t want to chase after some chest with legs- you wanted to settle down with this down-to-earth woman and be content for the rest of your life. Thomas, luckless and plain, feared he’d lose her before long. It was about this time that my favorite video game of all time, and the solution to Thomas’s problems, would release. March of 2008- Super Smash Brothers Brawl released for the Nintendo Wii.
Thomas, myself, and Sally all played SSBB pretty frequently- our face-offs would last late into the night. The speed advantage was mine with Sonic, Sally held all the firepower with Samus, and Thomas mixed things up with the Pokemon Trainer. It was a very fun period that allowed Thomas to relax and settle into his now serious relationship with Sally. Later the two would add Mario Kart Wii to their pool of online games.
Sally and Thomas were nestled in a rotation of Mario Strikers Charged, Battalion Wars 2, Animal Crossing: Wild World, Mario Kart Wii, and Super Smash Brothers Brawl. They spent whatever free time they had on the phone, playing video games, or occasionally visiting the Memphis Zoo and Overton Park together. It was December 25th. Christmas day, that Thomas unveiled a masterfully crafted surprise for Sally.
After returning home from church, Sally discovered the blue light flashing on her Nintendo Wii. She’d received a message and a Super Smash Brothers Brawl custom stage from Thomas. Opening the message on her bulletin board first, she found this written by Thomas-
“Worked really hard on this stage- please give it a try right away and let me know if its any good.”
The game was already in her Wii and Sally was curious about the stage Thomas had made. Soon she’d booted up SSBB and was loading the stage for a quick Free-For-All. It took her a minute or two to notice as gradually she explored more of the stage and caused the screen to pan out, but eventually she realized there was a message written in stone blocks… It read:
“Will U Marry Me?”
Shocked and overjoyed, Sally grabbed her phone to call Thomas. To her surprise, she heard his ringtone go off in the very next room. Moments later, Thomas entered with two gifts for Sally. The first was a copy of Animal Crossing: City Folk for the Wii- the second, a small diamond ring. Sally’s gift to Thomas that year? A tearful ‘Yes’.
The two have moved in together and have been roommates for a little over a year now. They haven’t yet gotten married as they’re waiting to save up money on a house. The two have grown inseparable- a closer couple is hard to find. Both are convinced they never would have gotten so close without the video game medium to guide and deepen their friendship. Building up their teamwork in co-op missions on Battalion Wars 2, friendly competition in Mario Strikers Charged, and living their own little simulated lives together in the Animal Crossing world- all of it has culminated in a meaningful, loving relationship.
These days the two have added Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Smash Up, New Super Mario Brothers Wii, and Marvel Ultimate Alliance to their line-up of games. Sally, a huge fan of the Ninja Turtles and Marvel comics, has been ecstatic over the chance to share her childhood passions with Thomas. A love so deep and a bond so strong would not exist without those two Nintendo Wiis or the video games that they played.