While marriage is not something to be entered into lightly in the real world, it seems the same can be said about in-game worlds.
After registering a spike in in-game break-ups in the North American version of its free-to-play Facebook and iOS MMORPG MapleStory, publisher Nexon America found that 75 percent of the 26,982 in-game marriages performed in 2010 were annulled at players’ requests.
While significantly easier than doing it in real life, the in-game marriage process doesn’t exactly come cheap; each in-game marriage in MapleWorld costs players $25, and requires an official process, beginning with an in-game engagement quest that both parties must accept.
Once engaged, players must purchase a cash shop wedding ticket–once the ticket and the engagement ring are presented to an NPC, players can set a date, send out invitations, and make a gift wish list. Once the couple is married, both players receive a wedding ring–a coveted in-game item that boosts a player’s statistics.
However, it appears that the lengthy and troublesome process of ending an in-game union did nothing to deter 75 percent of players who annulled their MapleStory marriages in 2010. In order for players to undergo an annulment in MapleStory, individuals must pay 500,000 mesos (the in-game currency), and give up their wedding ring. They must also wait at least 10 days after the annulment before marrying another player.
When Nexon America surveyed the MapleStory community to find out the reasons behind the high break-up rate, what the publisher found was a lot of unmitigated heartbreak.
“I was young, naive, and thought I had met ‘the one’,” said one player. “She asked me what I wanted in MapleStory for my birthday, and I told her that the only thing I could ever want was for her to marry me.”
“Then I got a call from my best friend, saying that someone was on my account, dropping all my items. It was her. Less than a week later, we decided that we needed to sever all ties between us, and we had our marriage annulled. I haven’t talked to her since.”
This led the publisher to revamp the marriage system in the game, leading to a significant drop in break-up rates–from 75 percent to 46 percent in the last year in North America. The publisher also hired Los Angeles-based family and marriage therapist Athena Carrillo Lee to deconstruct the psychology of player behaviour in relation to in-game relationships.
“Some players might forge online partnerships because they see it as advantageous, the way someone might marry for money,” Lee said. “Others, who are playing in order to socialise, might forge partnerships, because they wish to flirt, romance, and marry, as these are certainly social activities.”
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