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These days, online gaming platforms are as regular a location to meet people as the workplace, school, or the gym. They are places where we meet likeminded people, where we can share our passions, forge friendships, and perhaps even meet someone who clicks with us not only in game, but in our hearts.
Love can bite when we least expect it, and that’s what happened to an Australian World of Warcraft streamer who goes by the handle HaughtyChicken, who will be turning 60 years old next year. In 2006, she was playing by herself—“killing wolves, I believe,” she said—when a lovely little gnome mage by the name of “Sheepdip” (known in HaughtyChicken’s community as Mal) showed up and began to help her. After playing together that evening, they began to meet up every time HaughtyChicken logged on. “Even though he was in California and I was in Australia, he would get up very early or stay up very long to be able to play with me,” she remembered. “I invited him into the guild I was in and we became both best friends and raiders.”
HaughtyChicken (right) and her husband Mal (left) posing at the site where they first met.
After a time, Mal invited HaughtyChicken to visit him in California. “Although it was a very brave thing to do, I felt it was a good idea; sometimes life can be too short not to try something new!” she said. “It was time I met the little mage who I had adventured with for so many months.”
HaughtyChicken married Mal two years ago in a private ceremony in California. “When we met in WoW, mages were your must-have helpers in a group. They take care of the group without you really noticing,” HaughtyChicken said. “My husband is very much like this in real life. He is one of the kindest people I know, and he extends that kindness to just about everyone he meets.”
Even after all this time, playing World of Warcraft together continues to be part of the solid foundation of their relationship. “Gaming together can help one or both of us when the outside world is stressful,” HaughtyChicken said. “As we get older, I think gaming gives us interesting challenges to talk about and review together. It is, alongside other things in life, an added opportunity to appreciate something fun together. The world outside isn't always fun; we make gaming together something that always is.”
Together, HaughtyChicken and Mal have curated a kind, inclusive Twitch community known affectionately as “The Coop,” where everyone is welcome!
The life of a professional Call of Duty League player is a busy one, but it’s important to make space for the people we love the most. This is true for Atlanta FaZe player Chris “Simp” Lehr and his girlfriend Jerika. “I remember being nervous when we first met,” Chris recalled. “The first time we met was going to an Applebees, just to talk and have some food—I ended up having one of the best times of my life. That was the day I knew she was going to be someone special to me.”
Professional gamers have to work hard and consistently be on top of their game, always striving for their personal and team success. For Chris, Jerika has always been there for him, through all the ups and downs that come with such a high-pressure schedule.
Chris “Simp” Lehr and his girlfriend, Jerika, at an Esports Awards event in Arlington, Texas, 2019.
“I love how well she understands me and how alike we are,” Chris said. “She’s basically the female version of me.” Both Chris and Jerika stream and are consistently supportive of each other via their social media channels. Through it all, they still manage to spend time gaming together. “Playing games together has allowed us to spend a ton of time together doing something we both love,” Chris said.
The connections that players create with each other both in game and in the communities that surround them can be just as deep, profound, and impactful as any created in more traditional circumstances. Whether players meet friends to play Overwatch regularly every week, group up to take on their foes in Call of Duty, or even quietly and slowly fall in love with their questing partner in World of Warcraft, human connection is what drives us to create, curate, and grow our virtual worlds.
And that is something worth celebrating—not just on Valentine’s Day, but every day.