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Soaring divorce rates splinter MapleStory matrimony

Divorce. It’s no laughing matter, and certainly not an issue that should ever be taken lightly. One day you are questing together in Crimsonwood Keep, slaying enemies while stealing glances at one another. The bond is there, the feelings, the passion. It’s not long before you wind up in Peach Blosson Island inviting all your friends to your wedding. It’s the happiest day of your virtual life. But while most would assume the fairytale ends with the couple living happily ever after, that simply isn’t the case.

Last year in North America, players of Nexon’s massively multiplayer online role-playing game MapleStory tied the knot in 26,982 in-game marriages, performed with a price tag of $25 per wedding. Now, while it may seem that spending real-world money to get married in a virtual one is the sad part, don’t be so heartless–because it gets worse. The real tears start to flow when you learn that of those virtual marriages, 20,344 (75 percent) went on to be annulled later at the player’s request.

With such an increasingly high annulment rate, Nexon sought the help of its massive community (supposedly over 100 million worldwide) to see if it could make sense of all of this. MapleStory player Tyler, 20, from Vancouver, B.C., was kind enough to share his heartbreaking story:

“I was young, naive, and thought I had met ‘the one.’ 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.”

After the ceremony, things took a turn for the worse for our virtual Romeo:

 “She started saying that I wasn’t the person she fell in love with. That I had changed and that I didn’t seem to care about her anymore.”

Hell, even the virtual sort, hath no fury like a woman’s scorn, and Tyler soon found that his inventory was compromised.

“I got a call from my best friend, saying that all of my items were dropping. 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.”

But sadly, Tyler wasn’t the only computer Casanova to experience heartbreak in the unforgiving world of MapleStory. Seth, 19, from Colorado Springs, Colorado tells his tale:

“My former Maple spouse and I started off great; going on party quests together, boss runs, training, helping each other become better Maplers. Then I realized after a while that she was only out there to get free things off of me and we got in this conversation where she admitted to this accusation, so I decided I would have to annul our Maple marriage.”

In the real world we have stringent laws that prevent people from recklessly getting married on a whim. It’s not as if there is a place where morality and values cease to exist, and couples are allowed to get married by a man dressed up as Elvis, or take part in a ceremony where your spouse is dressed up as a Stormtrooper. OK, maybe there is, but MapleStory has paperwork too.

Paralleling the real world, a couple must undergo an official process in order to get married in MapleStory. First, they get engaged. This calls for players to complete a quest, which rewards an engagement ring. Players can then use that engagement ring to propose to his or her virtual sweetheart, requiring the other to accept in order to become engaged.

Once the engagement is official, players must purchase a cashshop wedding ticket and present it to an NPC. The couple is then allowed to set a date, send out invitations (oh who to invite?!) and make a gift wish list. The real prize (other than the wedding night of course), comes in the form of a wedding ring, a desirable in-game item that awards unquestionably strong statistics.

But as we’ve learned, it isn’t always sunshine and rainbows in the land of MapleStory. So what then when the sunny days are gone and the clouds start rolling in? In order for players to undergo an annulment, individuals must pay 500,000 mesos (MapleStory’s in-game currency) and part with their wedding rings. Players must also wait at least 10 days after the annulment before marrying again.

While MapleStory is known for its in-game marriage system that delivers sizeable benefits for those getting married, the harsh reality of divorce is always near. MapleStory producer Crystin Cox prefers to look at the bright side though, “While it looks like our players break up at a much higher rate than people do in real life, at least our players are not on the hook for alimony. Couples who break up are not required to split up their loot, virtual pets or any enchanted items.” No word yet on whether Nexon will implement any mandatory in-game marriage counseling down the road, but one can only hope they won’t let their virtual world deteriorate like ours.