And then she's gone.
She was the air that you breathed, the water you drank, the creature who - in a whirlwind of flesh - turned early nights into early mornings. Now she's the toxin pumped into your gas chamber, the sand on your tongue and the nagging memory of that thing with their lips on your bare skin, which you know you'll never feel again.
What do you do? What can you do? You are broke-up. You are Ex. That is, ex-human. Your life is over.
It's time to build a new one.
Where to start?
You flip through the record collection, playing whatever makes you maudlin or angry or dramatizes your misery into something cinematically meaningful. You slob around, burning through entire DVD boxes of your favorite series while having chocolate conveyer-belted into your bedroom, or go the other way and tidy your house to the state of perfection. Turn similar puritanical instincts on your body, and try and get into shape to show her what she's missing. Drink or drugs? Sure - after all, vodka will never leave or hurt you. Pull on the comfortable coat of boiling misanthropy. Start writing emo-kid poetry ... actually, no, it can't be that bad.
Or you could pull out the right videogame.
We don't tend think of videogames as utilitarian things, designed to perform a useful purpose. They're mostly just "fun." But that misses that fun is a purpose, too. Where there was a dull sense of boredom, there now exists a blessed and amusing distraction, and even that's putting aside the hugely varied forms of fun which games can offer. Some find their home drunk on a Saturday night (fighters, sports games, SingStar, etc). Other games work best hungover on a Sunday afternoon (Civilization, Baldur's Gate). And, following that logic, some games must work particularly well when you're trying to avoid taking a set of nails and hammering them into your eyeballs, just so, for a single blessed second, you could feel pain unconnected with The Absent One.
I hadn't really thought about how videogames worked in this context until the year when a certain young lady and I were involved in a course of mutually assured destruction. In the 12 months covering our affair, we split up five times. We spent the majority of our time circling each other, as if we were stuck in a pit of our own making and involved in a knife-fight to the death. Before we had realized we could climb out any time we wanted, we got plenty of practice in Intense Splitting Up. So I ended up listening to a lot of early Nick Cave, drinking a lot of red wine and playing a lot of Planescape: Torment.
It just made perfect sense. Yes, it was a brilliant videogame - unarguably one of the greatest roleplaying games in the canon - but it was more importantly the right brilliant videogame. And years after the fact, thinking back more coolly on those days which became known as the "Evil Kieron period" among my long-suffering friends, I began to see exactly why.
Taking these realizations, I asked around, looking for other's experiences from break-up games. A lot of what others were looking for mapped exactly into what made Planescape: Torment so appealing.
First, it isn't hard. You've had your self-worth cut off at the knees and you're left dragging yourself around, leaving embarrassing bloody emotional smears everywhere. Last thing you need is to be left staring at the "Play Again?" screen in something as brutal as Ninja Gaiden. You need to succeed, no matter how meaninglessly, to start rebuilding confidence.
Notably, this includes social interactions, especially with Sheena-Easton-voiced Tiefling Annah. Nihilistic in Northampton recalled his similar time with Troika's broken masterpiece, Vampire: Bloodlines. "[It was] full of heartbreakingly broken women who you could, at 3:00 a.m., be convinced were actually really flirting with you. And you realized their powers of seduction were working on you, on some level, because your immersion in the game and stints of playing it way beyond tiredness, because you had nowhere else to go, and nothing else to do, meant you were open to even that level of artificial suggestibility."