Community column: Gears of (love and) War

gears of war ultimate edition

Editor’s note: NAG writer Tarryn van der Byl is involved in a top-secret romance with Gareth Runnalls’ face. Except it’s not top secret at all, because they’re presently engaged to be married, like, any day now. In other words, they’re sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G for all the world to see. It’s SO GROSS because cooties, but also SO ADORABLE because d’aaaaaaw. Gareth would like to tell you the story of how they were always totally destined to meet. Or the story of how they play Destiny obsessively. Or something about Gears of War. I’m not sure – I might’ve misread his email. Anyway, go Gareth go!

Seeing the “READY TO PLAY” message on the Gears of War: Ultimate Edition on my Xbox gave me what I can only describe as the nerdiest internal giggle I’ve felt in a very long time. Sure, there have been many titles in the recent past that grabbed my attention, and warranted me spending time in their own fictional worlds. Without any name dropping, I have to state that they were all fantastic in their own right, and I don’t regret the amount of time I have sunk into all of them, BUT… they were not Gears. Allow me to elaborate just a tiny bit (a lot).

gears-of-war-ultimate-edition-image-3I was late to the console party… very late. The first console I bought was the Xbox 360 S, and it was bundled with the newly released Gears of War 3. The only reason I splurged the R3,500 at the time was because SARS saw fit to throw some of my hard-earned tax money back at me (tiger blood, baby!). At this point, I had been a part of the PC Master Race for about a decade and a half, but was itching to play with a proper controller, on a system designed to do nothing but game and chat. I was tired of my PC, I guess. And the PC was soon forgotten for extended periods of time.

Now, at this point in my life, a lot of things were going on. I got shuffled around at work (to the point where I felt like I was truly moving backwards), I asked my now ex-wife for a divorce, and I got to see very little of the cats as a result of this (that nearly killed me). I stopped eating properly because of the divorce, which resulted in massive weight loss, and a loss of vitality and energy too. I didn’t want to do anything… except play Gears. And in its own way, Gears saved me. I met a ton of people playing Gears, and my friends list is still mostly comprised of people I met this way. I had some truly supportive friends come over on the weekends and most weeknights, feed me some much-needed food, have long chats and play lots of Gears at the same time. I sunk WEEKS into the multiplayer, finished the game on Insane difficulty, and earned more MVP medals than I truly deserved.

“…in its own way, Gears saved me…”

But my life was changed in a MASSIVE way a few months down the line when I got invited to a game being hosted by NAG. I met some truly interesting people that night, most notably a pink Gnasher-wielding, one-woman army named Tarryn. Our evening devolved into a long chat about Unreal Tournament map packs, tips for great gibs, and of course… cats! We took an immediate shine to one another – it was true love at first gib! We played and talked like it was our last night on earth, EVERY NIGHT!

The TL;DR version is simply this: we’re getting married in a little under a month from now, we have a household that consists of four PCs, two Xbox 360s, two Xbox Ones, one PS4, mounted side-by-side TVs, and most importantly, three cats. We have a mutual need to break conventions, and in that spirit, we have ordered a Gears of War wedding cake, have purple Converse shoes that we are going to get married in, and will have Rock Band on standby as entertainment (we are also serving nothing but pizza and keg beer at the reception, because that’s how we roll).

To circle back, I look at the Gears of War: Ultimate Edition again on my screen, and in an instant, I get a flashback of all the things mentioned above, the good and the bad. The bad seems to fade into obscurity when weighed up against the good, leaving me with a barrage of fond memories, good times, mind-bending conversations, and one VERY special woman that truly gets me, and challenges me to try harder at everything. I feel good when I look at that icon. I feel… happy/content/fulfilled/eager/loved [and about to be gibbed in the face with a pink Gnasher – Tarryn].

I am living proof that you can find love in the strangest of places; in my case, it was pinned to the business end of a Retro Lancer [um, make that a pink Retro Lancer then – Tarryn].

– Gareth Runnalls

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