The Monday after Baldur’s Gate 3 came out, I signed on to work prepared to eat crow. A week prior, I had confidently told a co-worker there was absolutely no way I’d be playing the RPG. Now, I had to swallow my pride and admit I was wrong. Two things happened in the interim seven days that caused the 180: First, I saw that you could throw children so hard they splatter blood. Second, I realized I didn’t have to play the game alone.
My husband plays a lot of games, but before I started working at Polygon two years ago, I had barely touched one in over a decade — an exception to this being when my husband let me drive the Batmobile in Arkham Knight and I screamed the entire time because it was going too fast for me to control. My reflexes and dexterity are simply too shit to play most games. However, the turn-based nature of Baldur’s Gate 3 means it’s easy for my husband and me to play together without me having to touch the gamepad outside of the occasional dice roll. As it turns out, Baldur’s Gate 3 is the perfect couples’ game.
Since we play Dungeons & Dragons together, my husband and I share the value of being true to our characters above all else. Beyond that, we have completely different approaches to Baldur’s Gate 3. His gaming style is to either click the first option that sounds reasonable (read: boring) or completely overthink the situation by trying to figure out the “right” option. Meanwhile, I’m motivated by two things only: giving in to every dumb impulse I have, and trying to get every character (but especially Astarion) to fuck our drow Druid.
Our clashing interests and play styles have turned out to work in surprising harmony. I’m not a big fan of open-world games because I get easily overwhelmed by the breadth of options. But with my husband manning the controller, the responsibility of figuring out our next move is lifted from my shoulders. I can weigh in on which fork in the path to choose, but when I’m at an utter loss of what to do next, he confidently charges forward without hesitation. And when it comes to tasks I personally find mind-numbing (like sorting through our inventory to figure out what to trade for an upgraded weapon), he handles all the logistics without complaint. All I do is sit back and try to convince him to lowball the seller, since that’s what Astarion would do.
In turn, I like to think I keep things frenetic and bring some much-needed levity to our game. My husband can be so focused on making “good choices” and furthering the narrative that he can forget to do things just because. Does shoving an enemy after every single action in combat serve a purpose? No, but it’s funny to watch them fall on their ass. Would freeing the caged goblin inside the tiefling refugee camp get us into trouble my husband would rather avoid? Of course. Do I want to do it just because? Of course. Even when we were finally romanced for the first time, this man still tried to play things safe, warning me against trying to dom Lae’zel out of fear we’d turn her off completely. I won that debate, though not the roll. But hey, our Druid still got laid, so I stand by my choice and will continue to insist on rolling to dom whenever given the option.
There are some pain points, of course, like when he chooses an action without consulting me or accidentally loots an ally’s corpse after battle, prompting the dead person’s friends to murder our entire party. But things like this are precisely why playing as a couple is so great. You will never catch me grinding or repeating large swaths of a game unless I absolutely have to — and even then, there’s no guarantee. In high school, I lost my Kingdom Hearts save file and just never played the game again. So when we had to redo that battle because he thoughtlessly defiled the wrong corpse, I got pissed, sure, but then I got to walk away while he redid the combat on his own. And it’s not like I always abandon him in these times of need; I’m not completely heartless, after all. Just last night, after our entire party was brutally murdered because I insisted we drop a crate on a random person for funsies, I stuck around to redo the fight — albeit giggling the entire time as I tried to see if we could kill an enemy by using Mage Hand to hit them with a dismembered leg.
My co-workers Nicole Clark and Mike Mahardy wrote about how Baldur’s Gate 3 can be your angel or your devil, but in playing together, my husband and I get to be both. I know I’d never be able to make my way through the game fueled solely by my own chaos and id. I need my husband’s sensibility, strategy, and willingness to grind when I’d otherwise give up. And he wouldn’t have half as much fun playing if it wasn’t for me encouraging him to shit-stir, take risks, and pursue sexual dalliances with more vigor than I do finding a cure to our illithid infection.
When people talk about finding ways to add spice to your marriage, I don’t think they mean coming together each night to smite your enemies and convince a bloodsucking rake to be your third — but maybe they should! I’m not going to try and say that the way my husband and I play Baldur’s Gate 3 is reflective of our relationship and the ways our complementary oppositions make us stronger. It’s not that serious. But Baldur’s Gate 3 has given us a new way we can relax together and connect — with each other, and hopefully with Astarion one day.