The other night, Jena and I held each other, something amiss, though for the life of us, we couldn’t identify what. Who would have thought, days later, that the answer would be video games?

Our lives have been somewhat “different” lately. I’ve acquired a slew of part time and freelance jobs that now take up most of my time, my house-husbanding taking its first backseat in… well, ever. Jena is also busy at work, and upon arriving home every night, spends hours studying for the GREs, preparing for her future. And on top of all this… is something I’ll get into in a future blog post. For now, let’s say that we’re in the middle of a diet, the most difficult I have ever experienced in my life, and the phantoms of what we had been needing have never made us feel farther apart.

So we started falling into a routine when the dust of the day settled. I would play Overwatch with friends while she read. Before, video games were a solo activity for me. Or at least, a solo activity I shared with Jena. Overwatch, a game based on teamwork with friends, is a very different experience for me. As a game that’s reliant on interactions with others, it has done wonders for my neuroses when it comes to working with others. I credit a lot of my ability to work in a team in my new job to my practice with Overwatch. It has been a hugely positive experience in my gaming life.

And yet, playing it had created a rift because of how foreign this kind of gaming was to the connection Jena and I shared.

Jena had always been reading or playing her own games as I played mine, but she often found the soundtrack to that time being my solo-play experiences. I may have been playing alone, but we still played together. I was not on my headset interacting with others, but just her, watching over my shoulder and pointing out things I missed or cheering me on at the destruction of another obstacle in my way. And it was a norm. It was a comforting escape that wasn’t sex; it gave our life a normalcy. Everything else in the world could wait because we were on our own satellite of fantasy, orbiting, but still off planet. It’s hard to go back sometimes, with our other priorities pulling at us. Not to mention, with the allure of Overwatch being my flavor of the month(s) in gaming, our private satellite has had maybe a few too many visitors.

Still, the other night, was down for maintenance and the two of us were too fried from our own responsibilities to pick something to do, even cooking dinner. Instead, we tried out the new PS+ games. And I do mean we, as I forced Jena to play Badlands, a game featuring an adorable set of silhouettes dying repeatedly. It was a somewhat challenging co-op for her, but her previous Bloodborne training had paid off, and after a few hours of that and Lords of the Fallen (or as I’m going to call it, Dumb Souls), we felt a return to normalcy. The thing that has been shockingly absent for some time now. Maybe since…  I can’t even remember. Maybe since Overwatch came out, actually. But it was a return to our private sanctum, as if we never left, that made the world feel less scary for a moment. It was just normal. Our normal.

Tonight will probably see a return to Overwatch, especially with Jena studying late (or maybe not; L’Shana Tova, everyone). I wish I could cheer her on as she studied, but my racket is more distracting than not, so I will keep my comments to the headset. But I think I will try to give Overwtach a more background placement to the foreground of my game playing. Especially with us now full steam ahead on Badlands, I think a normality, even when we haven’t been actively craving it, would be good from now on. A sense of return. Because sometimes, playing alone is the only way we feel like we’re together, and when we play with others, we’re apart.

And at the end of the day, I’d rather feel that even if I have to go it alone, I have someone behind me cheering me on.