Coupling: Eleri & Scott
How many times have you watched a movie or/and television show to see that one person in the relationship is viewed as either ‘nerdy’ or ‘geeky’ and the other ‘normal’? Oh, that lonely geek wishing for love and understanding from the so-called normal person.
In these interviews we are more on the side of celebrating the couples who share the beloved hobby of tabletop role-play. Some got the other into the hobby, others met through it, some still play, others don’t, some role-play together and some rarely do so but share a mutual love of games.
Why touch on this? Because sharing something you love with someone you love is how we can share time with one another. It’s a conversation piece, a way of bonding and possibly further understanding one another.
Seth and I often role-play together. There are a lot of ways in which both are different, but this is a hobby that we both share and love for the same or different reasons. I tend to be curious about how other couples view the hobby.
In this series we interviewed different couples and how they manage to separate their love for each other and the love for the game.
Because love is never having to say you’re sorry or explaining to your beloved in front of the party how to be a better GM.
FIRST, OUR INTERVIEWEES:
Hi, we are Scott and Eleri Hamilton. We have been married 13 - 14 years (depending how you want to count it - we had a wedding a year before we had a legally-binding marriage). We have three kids, two of which have a genetic syndrome called Smith-Magenis Syndrome, which leads to developmental disabilities.
We are active members of the Myst videogame fan community, and Eleri helps run the yearly gathering, Mysterium. We also self-published Unwritten: Adventures in the Ages of MYST and Beyond, which is now available on DriveThruRPG.
How long have you been playing games individually?
Scott: I started playing very young, when the brother of a friend of mine was playing and had to keep us busy one day. I ran into Villains & Vigilantes as a kid as well. But I didn't really get into it until I was a teenager, when I got a bunch of the early TSR games: AD&D, Star Frontiers, Marvel Super Heroes, etc.
Eleri: I've been gaming since my youngest son was born, and he is about 25. So I've been playing tabletop games off and on for about 2 and a half decades, and then video games starting in the early nineties. Primary adventure games like Myst and the LucasArts games.
How long have you been playing games together?
Eleri: Pretty much since day one. We met online in an Internet chat room (IRC) and games were one of the things we first talked about. Once we were in the same physical location, we played games all the time, everything from tabletop games, to LARPs, to video games.
Scott: Gaming has always been a big part of our lives, and our older kids have both become gamers of various types as well.
What are your favorite systems?
Scott: I like a lot of systems (I have more than 30 GB of gaming PDFs that I've bought over the years, plus shelves of books). I'm a big fan of indie games. I love Fate, and I am looking forward to playing systems like Cortex+ and Powered by the Apocalypse. I have a serious soft spot for Mage: The Ascension. I also really liked In Nomine, and Over the Edge. I love the settings of Eclipse Phase and Unknown Armies, though I'm not too hot on the systems. I love old GURPS books, because they are both entertaining and more informative than many textbooks I've read.
Eleri: I kinda grew up on classic D&D, because that is where I started. I really like In Nomine; I like the d666 mechanic and it is a game with a good layer of humor to it, even on serious topics. I have gone through all of the World of Darkness - those are fun. I am less likely to look at the rules systems and look at the story background over all. I just deal with the rules when they come up. I would like Shadowrun if it wasn't such a pain in the ass to play.
Do any of you GM/DM?
Eleri: I tend to want to write plots for stories and games and have other people run them. I am not very good with mechanics, so I often want other people to handle that part of it.
Scott: I have GM'd a lot over the years, often because it is the only way to play some of the games I am really interested in. I get burnt out on it a bit, but I keep coming back into it. Like a moth to a flame... I really enjoy world building, so I tend to focus on that.
How do you make it clear that you are not playing favorites when players know or find out you’re a couple?
Eleri: Usually by f**cking with their characters more than anything else. You just have to be very clear through the game play and talk about things if we need to.
Scott: I don't think it has ever actually come up.
Eleri: Occasionally someone has said we have an unfair advantage in Apples to Apples or Cards Against Humanity because we know each other so well - that's the only place I could really see it.
What are your feelings when someone expresses romantic interest in your significant other’s character in game? If this is okay- how do you let your players know this?
Eleri: Woo hoo? We're polyamorous, so this is not a problem. I don't think it even occurs to us that this might be a problem. I can't imagine feeling threatened or upset by it.
Scott: I'd be surprised if anyone who gamed with us would consider it an issue.
What games do you enjoy playing together the most?
Eleri: We do a lot of two-player board game stuff, like Innovation. Finding two-player games is a challenge (game designers, are you listening?). We play adventure games on the computer together, usually with one of us at the controls and the other providing color commentary. It works out pretty well, since we think just enough in different ways that we can play off each other's strength. We were invited to do focus testing for Myst V specifically because they wanted to see how people played it together. We play MMOs like Guild Wars 2 together. We also play Ingress, the augmented reality game from Google (Enlightened all the way.)
Scott: In terms of tabletop gaming, we tend to play whatever catches our attention. We did Vampire, we did In Nomine. We had a lot of fun with Feng Shui, because any game where you can take out a mook by slapping them upside the head with a big fish is fun by definition. We enjoyed running alpha games for Unwritten, and co-GMed one of those.
How often do you discuss games with each other?
Eleri: Every single frakking day. There are conversations about games happening every day. Sometimes we manage to get several games (and seemingly unrelated topics) into the same conversation.
Scott: We're gamers at our heart, and like I said, so are our kids. They get pulled into the conversations as much as we do. In a way, you could qualify our ethnicity as 'gamer' more than anything else.
Are you able to separate personal feelings when gaming?
Scott: When gaming? Yes - we understand that characters and players are different things. We get into intense conversations when developing games, but that is a strength I think.
Eleri: Occasionally there is "You are just messing with me because I'm your wife" or later "I can't believe you did that to me!" But we've never really had hurt feelings over a game. Like Scott said, we get into some strong discussions around the philosophy of gaming, but nothing really bad.
What do you feel like you’ve learned the most about your significant other by role-playing together?
Eleri: The sheer amount of detail that Scott can put into things. The amount of details that he can put into characters, backgrounds, plotlines - that impressed the hell out of me. And coming up with unique characters, storylines, etc. He's not the type of GM that plays the same type of character or runs the same type of game. What tropes he does fall into, he applies creatively. It's not like gaming has revealed any deep dark secrets, though. His gaming self is much less quiet and reserved than his day-to-day self.
Scott: Eleri's creativity astounds me on a regular basis. She's constantly coming up with things that never would occur to me. Watching her in RPGs has taught me just how well she can come up with ideas on the fly, and how well she can 'perform' in the acting sense. She has a dramatic flair that adds a lot to a game, I think.
What games do you recommend couples playing if they wanted to start gaming together?
Eleri: Unwritten! ... But seriously. Dresden Files is a good one for couples, especially if you use the Paranet Papers, since there are ways to play a team. Feng Shui would be good for couples, since it is just straight out silly fun. But, any tabletop RPG out there is perfectly fine as long as both people are interested in the genre. Some games like the World of Darkness games might be a little harder for couples at first because there is so much back-stabbing in the setting.
Scott: Shared interests are really important. You don't want to game together if it is just a chore for one person.
Do you have any advice for couples who want to game together?
Eleri: Just do it. If you can't find a gaming group, start one. Find little ways to game together, even if it just 'Hey let's make up a couple characters' or 'if we were going to run a game, what would we do?'. Don't assume just because you are a couple that people aren't going want to game with you. There are a lot of couples out there (even those with kids) who want to game with people.
Scott: Remember that character and player are different - because my character betrayed you to the Imperial Guard doesn't me I am betraying you. Talk a lot about things (you should be doing that as a couple anyway). Bring up issues to each other early rather than later. And remember that while you can and want to game together as a couple, you don't always have to. It's okay to like different types of games and even be in different gaming groups at times.
What has been your most memorable role-play moment so far?
Eleri: Smacking someone upside the head with a fish, in that Feng Shui game we mentioned earlier. I don't even remember all the details, just that he'd sent a bunch of bad guys after us and I got an awesome roll. I'd crashed into a fish cart earlier and I grabbed a big fish and started slapping mooks with it left and right. It was beautiful.
Scott: I'd say it was a Dresden Files game where Eleri was playing a character with the High Concept: "Eris's Best Friend". We came up with a power where she could call on Eris's power to help with a random roll on a list of powers. Over one combat, she used bolts of molten Jell-O, a large squeaky hammer with an aura of power, and Breath Weapon: Swarms of Locusts. It was a crazy session.
Eleri: Oh yeah, I'd forgotten the Jell-O bolts. That was snazzy.