405 Video Games: How Final Fantasy VII Destroyed My Relationship
2000 was an amazing year. It was the beginning of the new Millennium, I'd finished college and I'd finally found someone misguided enough to go out with me.
It was also the year I finally bought a Playstation. Sure, I was over five years late to the party, but it was the first time I'd held down a steady job and pulled in a significant salary. Unfortunately, this is where everything started to unravel.
I'd been gaming since my dad brought home the Game and Watch version of Donkey Kong in the 80s, and had eventually upgraded to the SNES, Megadrive and Mega CD (shudder) via the Gameboy. My girlfriend didn't realise how seriously I took videogames, as I'd long since put my consoles to rest in mothballs to concentrate on my A-Levels. But now, here I was with a brand new toy, and 6 years of AAA titles to catch up on.
It was fine at first. I played a couple of evenings a week, completing the awful Star Wars Phantom Menace movie tie-in, getting crushed by the rage inducing Abe's Odysee, and dabbling in Resident Evil. It was good fun, and I still managed to make time for my missus.
My first mistake was renaming the characters after people I knew. Tifa was named after my girlfriend, Barrett after my best mate, and Red XIII after the family dog. Then came Aerith. How was I to know she'd become a major love interest in the game? So, like all dumb 17 year olds, I named her after one of my female friends that I'd had a crush on since I was 12. In my defence, I was almost positive that Tifa was definitely going to be the love interest in the game. But there was just something about Aerith…
Now, when I first started playing FFVII I had no idea how much time it would take for me to plough through it. The first clue should have been the number of discs. Playing through on those first three Blockbuster hire days, there was no way of knowing how deep it would suck me in. I'd barely even explored Midgar before I had to take it back to the video shop.
Then came the day that Blockbuster had a sale to get rid of their hire stock. Naturally, I had to pick up a copy.
I wonder what my girlfriend must have thought as I battled wave after wave of repetitive materia monsters, drinking in the epic story and cheesy dialogue long into the small hours of the morning. Midnight soon gave way to 4 in the morning, when I would finally save the game and creep upstairs, trying not to wake up my long suffering other half. It never worked. She always knew where I'd been, and what I'd been doing, lost in my other world, hunting down Sephiroth.
This carried on for quite a few months. We barely went to bed at the same time, and she'd long since given up on waiting up for me. She was 18, drop dead gorgeous, and crazy about me. And I was cheating on her with Playstation.
The arguments became more heated. She started openly mocking me about the amount of time I spent gaming in front of my friends, and understandably so, became concerned that our sex life was suffering due to my obsession with "that bloody game".
Then Sephiroth killed Aerith. Luckily, the Internet wasn't quite the spoiler machine that it is today, so I had no idea it was coming. I hadn't prepared, I hadn't even levelled her up all the way. All I knew was that she'd left my party, and when I finally caught up with her in the Forgotten Capital, that androgynous sword-wielding bastard stabbed her in the back. I'm not ashamed to say it (but maybe I should be), but I cried. It was 3am, I'd dedicated my life to this game for the last 8 weeks, and Aerith was gone. There is no good way to explain to your girlfriend that the reason you're upset is because the character you'd named after your childhood friend (that you obviously had a crush on) had died.
There had to be a way to get her back. But there wasn't. I spent the rest of the game teetering on the edge of hope that Aerith would suddenly reappear, clutching the Holy materia, ready to save the day. But it didn't happen. But I had to know. So I kept on playing.
It will come as no surprise that my girlfriend eventually left me. I'd like to say it was all because of Final Fantasy VII, but let's not kid ourselves - I was 17/18, this was my first proper relationship, and the gaming was just one of many things that poisoned our coupling. Spending more money on the Playstation than I spent on her Christmas present was probably a mistake.
Now, I'm 30 and I'm still playing games. None have hooked me quite as much as my first foray into Midgar (Fallout coming a very close second), but I can still easily stay up until long past 2am immersed in a post apocalyptic universe, or exploring Liberty City. Luckily, I found a wife who's sympathetic to my gaming habits. She is without a doubt the worst gamer I have ever had the misfortune to see pick up a controller, but she doesn't care. She's not into playing video games. She likes to watch, and loves to follow the story of whatever I'm playing. It's her equivalent of a soap opera. And if she ever thinks I'm playing too late into the night, she has ways of letting me know.