Should Polygamous Marriages Be a Part of MMORPGs?

This is an article originally published on the Iron Realms website. It's republished here with permission from both the author, Sid Jennings, and the editor, Tony Celentano.

Recently I overheard my son and his friends discussing someone named Kody who just obtained a fourth wife and a sixteenth child. Since turning thirteen he’d been known to dabble here and there in Iron Realms text games, so of course I logged into the one my son plays to HONOURS KODY and re-read HELP MARRIAGE. Obviously I’d missed an update, right? Wrong! Imagine my surprise when he wasn’t talking about a fantasy MMORPG, but real life!

TLC’s popular polygamous reality series, Sister Wives, tracks the life of Kody Brown and his multiple marriages. After perusal of a few different websites on both the television show and the concept of polygamy in general, it made me would polygamy affect characters in the games produced by Iron Realms? Is it something that would be a welcome change compared to how marriage is currently handled? Would my character even be involved in a polygamous relationship?

Polling MMORPG Gamers

In researching information for this article, another author and I approached different characters, randomly selecting four males and four females in each of the five games for a grand total of forty different ones. After explaining our purpose and asking their permission to use their answers to compile information here, we proposed the following questions:

  • Is polygamy a feature you would like to see in games produced by Iron Realms?
  • If allowed, would you become involved in a polygamous marriage?
  • Would you become involved in a polyamorous relationship?
  • Have you ever been involved in a polyamorous relationship?

As you can see from the results charted on the above line graph, males and females were pretty equal about whether to add polygamy as an option for virtual couples in Iron Realms games. However, a few more females than males were willing to become involved in a polygamous relationship. Why? Jealousy was the number one reason males gave for avoiding multiple marriages. Despite the stereotype that females are the more jealous gender, males were quick to own up to their feelings of possessiveness. As one Imperian male character stated, “No way in hell. I want to be the only man in my wife’s life and I’m pretty sure she doesn’t want me taking on more wives.” While none of them came out and said it, I’m pretty sure none of the males questioned relished the thought of multiple weeks of PMS, either.

The questions also explored polyamorous relationships, which currently can -- and often do -- happen within games, including the ones produced by Iron Realms. Twenty more percent of males than females admitted that they would become involved in a committed relationship that included a third-party. However, less than half the females interviewed confessed to having actually done so. One Achaean female explained, “It boils down to the fact that I really haven’t found anyone my character loves enough to share that kind of relationship with. I’m sure it would be super intimate but it would take a lot of trust between the three of us to be anything more than a glorified threesome.”

Wait..MMORPG Polygamy Isn't New?

Polygamy certainly isn’t new to Iron Realms. In 1999 Achaea experienced its first multiple marriage, between the characters Gijan, Snow, and Anniara. Discussed on the forums in 2006, and the thread explored excellent points on the topic. How would it affect honors lines? Would it be similar to how marriage works now, which is slightly different in each game, or would it require players to buy a special artifact -- like the ones available in Achaea that hide a character’s divorce record or age.

Besides the technical changes that introducing polygamy would require in Iron Realms games, there are also social ramifications to consider. Rou, a character in Aetolia, thinks it’s a good idea, because “It would create more opportunity for diversity, roleplay, and interpersonal relationships.” There are also downsides to the idea. Besides jealousy rearing its ugly head, the potential also exists to turn straight and narrow bloodlines into complex spider webs linking players between various families.

It’s obvious that the potential for polygamy within Iron Realms text games exists, but to what extent? What other pro’s and con’s can you think of that weren’t mentioned here? Your comments are welcome in the space below. And don’t forget to add your voice to our poll!