*Author’s note: Gaming handles have been slightly altered.
The popular myth that people who dabble non-professionally in the internet are introverts seems to go to die at gatherings like South by Southwest. Following the first night’s events, I found myself traveling on the Austin light rail with a group of fellow participants. In a jammed car, we trekked out of the downtown area and away from the safety of the convention center.
Along the way, the captive audience was subjected to a love story, which I will now share. It begins with a woman complaining about the healthcare in Texas. The woman, we’ll call her Empress Zahn*, had moved down from Washington State–where a state-run healthcare program vastly reduces medical expenses–to Texas, where Rick Perry is governor and some of the best medical facilities in the world exist.
The man–we’ll call him Zinc Dragon* was a Texas native, son of an Estonian Jewish family that had emigrated from Poland. Zinc Dragon kvetched about how his family’s name had been butchered upon arrival in America.
When Empress Zahn finished her healthcare tirade, the inevitable question came: Why did you move to Texas? To marry Zinc Dragon, of course.
Empress Zahn and Zinc Dragon are two gamers (hence the names) that met while playing in the Final Fantasy 11 on the internets.
“Final Fantasy 11 is not your normal online game,” the empress explained to a skeptical, but suddenly hushed crowd. “We did missions together, we’d go fight monsters together. I led missions and he [Zinc Dragon] was one of my subordinates.”
At this point, we looked to Zinc Dragon–bespectacled and ponytailed–who nodded quietly, like any good subordinate does. We had to know: How did the relationship turn romantic?
“We were very involved in the game,” the empress said. “One day, he asked me to marry him by typing it out in the game. I asked him [Zinc Dragon], ‘Do you mean you want to marry me in the game or in real life?’ He said ‘in real life.’ So I asked him if he could at least ask me over the phone.”
The crowd sat rapt while the empress paused a beat.
“So he called. I took two suitcases down to Texas and never left.”
Empress Zahn and Zinc Dragon have since “moved on to new games,” explaining that they just finished up the popular game Sky Room. Together, they have eight cats, a mother and her five kittens that they saved, an orange tabby, and one cat that the pair found at the fair. Only two of the cats are feral, it was noted.
A few passengers who had to get off the train at their designated stops did so with great disappointment. When the empress finished, the crowd said nothing.
“I’m going to start gaming tomorrow,” one woman declared.