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Couples that Trine together, stay together
by Joey Núñez

I am a big believer in the positive aspects of gaming. I’ve defended my hobby both in person and on the net, and I truly feel that videogames can have a palpable, positive effect on people everywhere.

Recently, I was pleasantly reminded of this fact, thanks to the little downloadable game that could, Trine. Trine is a PSN game (developed originally for Windows PC) by Finnish developer, Frozenbyte. In the game you take control of three heroes, each of whom have been bound together by the mystical Trine. As a result of the magic spell of the Trine, a knight, a thief and a wizard are forced to share one body, and must work together in order to traverse platforms, solve puzzles and defeat enemies. The main concept behind the game is that you can - and must - freely switch between any of the three characters, but can only control one of them at a time, forcing you to use your head and think about which character’s ability you need to get past a specific challenge.

Trine was one of the first downloadable games I ever purchased. The game enamoured me with its beautiful graphics and its old-school, 2-D platforming; plus, since the game allowed up to three players to play locally, I figured it would be a great chance to convince my boyfriend to join in on the gaming fun.

It’s been a concerted mission of mine to turn my boyfriend into a pseudo-gamer of sorts. I have had varying degrees of success. Fighting games he can manage, as long as you don’t force him to choose more than one character. It still surprises me that, to this day, when I play Mortal Kombat with friends and they choose anyone other than Zub-Zero, I had forgotten that such a decision was even possible. Shooters have also been a success of sorts, and we’ve logged hours upon hours playing Resistance - it has become quite evident that shooting aliens in the face is something that makes us a better and happier couple.

Trine was one of our earliest co-op experiences, and I kid you not, gamers, but that game taught me more about us and our relationship than I care to recall.

Before we go further into this, there are a few things you should know. I am not what you might call a 'patient' gamer. If you see me flipping a switch, grappling off a wall and double-jumping over a fiery pit onto a platform, I expect you to do the same. Damn it, how hard could it be?! You just saw me do it, didn’t you? I sometimes forget that not everyone has been doing this since they were five.

Case-in-point: my boyfriend. The poor shmoe owned a Nintendo with a copy of Mario Brothers a few eons ago, and that’s basically where his gaming-jedi training ended. And, although talented in many areas – the man makes a mean apple pie - when it comes to games, a fast learner he is not. As you can imagine, in a game in which three heroes share one body, throwing two gamers into the mix only confuses things even further. Co-operation and communication are key. The players, like the characters of Trine, have to find a way to share the three heroes and their abilities, and act in unison towards achieving their goal.

I think it was maybe after the fifth consecutive time that I plunged to my death, after my significant other conjured a box directly over my head with the Wizard as I attempted to manoeuvre over some platforms, that I very seriously thought it was time to reconsider this whole 'relationship' thing. "It’s just a game!" he protested. "Why are you so lame at this!?" I yelled. It didn’t take much more than that, and a full blown fight was on. Over Trine. Over a game. But not really.

Turns out it wasn’t so much that we were having trouble communicating during our Trine gaming session, but rather we were having trouble communicating in general. I was not only an impatient gamer; the fact of the matter was that I wasn’t a patient boyfriend. As for him, it became pretty evident that he was hesitant to follow my lead during Trine, because, in a lot of ways, he wasn't too keen on following my lead at all. We had run into a problem here; a puzzle of considerable challenge.

Here’s the thing though. We both wanted to make it work. We both wanted to beat Trine, so to speak. Trine became a metaphor for our relationship and its creases. So we took a step back. We took an inventory of what our strengths and weaknesses were, and reassessed that puzzle. Long story short, we beat that puzzle and kicked Trine’s ass.

A few days ago, we started playing Trine 2. Every now and again, a random box will be conjured directly over my head. And yes, many a digital death has ensued as a result of his inherent noobness. But he’s getting better, and I’ve learnt to sit back and enjoy it all. I’ve stopped trying to turn him into a fully-fledged gamer (sort of), and instead I've begun to enjoy the simple joys of gaming with my significant other. As a result, the yelling to laughing ratio has been flipped on its head.

Trine, and gaming in general, has not only helped my relationship, but has provided me and my boyfriend with a hobby that not only allows us to spend time together, but that forces us to work together as a unit, to communicate or fail, that gives us ample opportunities to help each other succeed and to share triumphs. And that's certainly not bad for a pastime that has a reputation for turning us all into a bunch of antisocial loners.

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- Joey Núñez

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