Gears of War is one of my favorite game series of the past 15 years. It features white knuckle action, bombastic set pieces, and more depth and character than you might expect from a game that has you curb stomping and chainsawing monsters in half. While much of the success that the series has seen over the years can be attributed to the fantastic multiplayer modes, I’ve always been much more of a campaign kind of guy. The story of Marcus, Dom, and the crew battling against the Locust horde has always been what’s kept me invested in the series. And while the games are obviously perfect for those who enjoy epic, single player adventures, for me Gears of War has always been about playing co-op with my wife.
My wife Cristina doesn’t play a ton of video games. She did own a PlayStation when we met but she typically only plays a couple of games over the course of the year when something new really strikes her fancy. Mostly what she’s drawn to are experiences that we can play together like Rock Band, the LEGO games, or Overcooked (although she will tackle a single-player game from time to time). She generally isn’t interested in shooters and she definitely doesn’t go for games that are ultra violent or gory, so I wouldn’t have expected something like Gears of War to be up her alley. It was quite surprising then when she somehow got hooked on a game full of explosions, gunfights, and blowing up Locusts into meaty little chunks.
The original Gears came out in 2006, the same year that she and I were married. I don’t recall why she decided that this of all games was something that she wanted to play together, but we would sit on the couch together after work and blast our way across Sera night after night. The game really encouraged players to work together, laying down covering fire for each other and reviving each other when you went down. I believe it was one of the first co-op games that we played together and I can still remember the two of us taking on General RAAM in that final boss fight. We made a great team, and it took us awhile, but we eventually brought him down. If I hadn’t already been in love with her, this would’ve sealed the deal.
Gears of War 2 was released in November of 2008. We were now a family of three as our first daughter was about 10 months old and we were discovering the challenges of finding time for gaming (or anything else) with a little one keeping us busy all of time. The great thing about kids that age though is that there are plenty of nap times to be had, so we would sneak in some game time in between changing poopy diapers and getting vomited on. I know what you’re thinking, but no… parenting isn’t as glamorous as it sounds. It’s hard enough when you’re a new parent to find time for anything, much less playing video games, but we somehow managed to make it through the game.
When Gears of War 3 arrived in September of 2011 we had just had our 2nd child. If I’m being honest, these were some of the most stressful times of my life. Having one kid can be tough, but having two pushed us to our limit. We were sleep deprived, cranky, and barely scraping by financially with two kids in daycare. It was tough to find the time (or money) to spend on video games, but it was times like those when gaming was the most important to me. Being able to spend some time with my wife and forget about all of the stresses and troubles of the real world, even for a short while, was incredibly important. It may sound weird to some, but those moments when I could sit down and play games with her helped me to get through some of those challenging times.
As the kids have gotten a little older our lives have become a bit less stressful and we have some more time in the evenings to play while they’re entertaining themselves or are over at a friend’s house. In that time we’ve tackled the spin-off title Gears of War: Judgement and the introduction of the next generation of heroes in Gears of War 4. Now the latest chapter is here with Gears 5 and we’re once again spending our nights on the couch together, sipping wine and chainsawing monsters in half. The new game features refinements and additions that bring something fresh to the tried and true formula. The game, like a good relationship, has benefited from shaking things up a bit.
Playing through Gears 5 the way we have been isn’t ideal in a lot of ways. Covering video games for Mega Dads means that it’s important to try and get our opinions of games out there as soon as possible to take advantage of the release hype, but finding time when my wife and I are both available (and awake enough) to play is tougher than if I were to just stay up late and marathon the game solo, so we’re going through it more slowly than I normally would. Also, playing split screen doesn’t exactly do this gorgeous game justice on my giant 4K TV, but these minor quirks are worth it to be able to experience the game together the way we always have. I wouldn’t want to play it any other way.
It’s obviously not essential for couples to enjoy the same hobbies, and there are plenty of things that she and I enjoy that the other could care less about, but being able to sit down and experience Gears of War together has been such a joy over the past decade and a half. The series has been there since just about the beginning of our relationship and has been a source of fun through all of the ups and downs. When it can be tough to carve out time for a proper date night, it’s great to be able to escape to the family room for a little “mom and dad” time. I’m lucky to have a co-op partner who has my back both on the battlefield and in real life.
As the old saying goes, “the couple that slays together, stays together”.