We’re not like our game characters… but we’ll live happily ever avatar
WHEN muscly Gunner entered the room, stunning size 8 Goddess was instantly smitten.
She started flirting, Gunner chatted back, and within days they were officially a couple.
With their movie star good looks and easy banter, they were perfectly matched and it felt totally natural for them to get engaged and plan the rest of their lives together.
Only it wasn’t real life they were preparing for — because these beautiful “people” met in cyberspace.
But once they had become engaged online, the avatars’ controllers — full-time mum Marie, 44, and forklift truck driver Jay Coulbeck, 41 — agreed to exchange real photos of each other.
It became clear both had created slightly flattering virtual images of themselves for 3D chatroom IMVU — but both liked what they saw.
They met — and have never spent a night apart since.
They are now married too.
Marie, from Rugeley, Staffs, said: “I was terrified when I sent Jay my photo. I was in love and he said he felt the same but I knew it was make or break when I sent it.
“Thankfully Jay said I looked beautiful.
Virtual hangout … avatars Gunner and Goddess in 3D chat room IMVU
“We were engaged online before he came to see me so it felt natural for him to stay — and he moved in that day.
“He was my dream man in IMVU and he has turned out to be in real life too.”
A mum to two grown-up daughters aged 21 and 16, housewife Marie had given up on love after a string of disastrous relationships.
She joined IMVU in 2009. Users create an avatar to reflect themselves and build a “virtual hangout” to meet and speak to friends. They buy credits to pay for virtual clothes and accessories.
Lonely and depressed, Marie had started spending more time on her computer.
She said: “I’d never been one for games or social media before. I thought it was a bit daft but I was low and it passed the time.
“My self-esteem was at rock bottom and the chatroom allowed me to leave that behind and be the person I wanted to be.
“I designed Goddess to be everything I felt I wasn’t in real life — slim, sexy and confident.
“I actually started to prefer my online life and was spending more time as Goddess than Marie.”
Some days Marie would spend up to 16 hours online as Goddess.
Then, in August 2010, Goddess clapped eyes on Gunner — and Marie was shocked by her real-life response. She said: “It sounds odd but I had a crush on an avatar. I thought he was gorgeous and he said the same about me.
“He kept coming into the virtual room I was furnishing and we soon got chatting.”
Marie said said: “My girls were laughing at me for having a crush on a computer character but I was having fun and it was exciting.
“Then Jay asked for my number and the first time I heard his voice it made it all real.
“I’d known him for two weeks but I felt he was my soul mate.”
They used credits to buy engagement rings for their avatars — then came the real-life photo swap.
Marie said: “I warned him I was a big girl. My avatar was a size 8 and in real life I’m a size 28 to 30.
“I had no idea how he would react. But Jay wasn’t Gunner just like I wasn’t Goddess, though I still found him really attractive. And he said he liked my picture too.”
The couple arranged to meet at Marie’s home in Staffordshire, 90 miles from twice-divorced Jay’s in Lincoln — but first they bought each other wedding outfits for their avatars and got married.
Recalling their first meeting, Marie said: “When he phoned to say he was outside I was shaking.
“I couldn’t believe this fantasy life was turning into reality.
“We’d been speaking non-stop for weeks but when I opened his car door I couldn’t talk. After the initial shock there were no silences and we were instantly at ease with each other.”
When it was time to go home, Jay couldn’t find his car keys so he ended up spending the night.
Marie said: “I helped look but secretly I was delighted. I didn’t want to be apart from him again.”
He was still there a week later — and it was then he stunned
The couple soon went shopping for a real ring.
Marie said: “I’ve never been married and thought those days were behind me. I was smiling from ear to ear.
“My parents were concerned when I told them I was marrying a man I’d met online. But once they got to know Jay they thought he was wonderful.”
After a year together, Jay and Marie married last September — this time in front of 50 family and friends and with Marie wearing a dress similar to Goddess’s gown.
Dad-of-one Jay said: “We haven’t been back on the game. Why do I need to now I’ve got her for real?
“We actually think the game is a bit silly now, but thank God we both joined or we would never have found each other.”
Marie added: “I created Goddess for a bit of fun and it changed my life. I wasn’t trying to mislead anyone with her appearance, as I never expected to really meet anyone from the game in real life.
“I never thought I’d find the man of my dreams in a computer game.”