Love and Monsters

GVL Photo Illustration / Eric Coulter

GVL Photo Illustration / Eric Coulter Love

Mark Maycroft

Whoever said video games won’t get you anywhere in life never met Amanda Rzucidlo.

While attending the University of Maryland in October 2004, Rzucidlo came across a web series called “Red vs. Blue,” based off the video game series Halo. The series became a viral hit on the web and spawned a role-play forum for users to create and manage characters in a Halo setting. It was in the Halo universe that she first met a man who would change her life.

“I held her at gunpoint,” said Grand Valley State University alumnus Nick Fiore. “That was our first interaction – I held her at gunpoint.”

The two began to regularly converse on MSN instant messenger. Rzucidlo admits now she may have stalked Fiore in the early months of their relationship.

“I would get out of class and sign on and start doing my physics homework,” she said. “Every so often I would check to see if he was on. If he was, we’d talk. If he wasn’t, I would go back to homework until he was.”

While neither would admit it, they were falling for each other, and they continued to grow closer. Finally, while watching the Super Bowl in February 2005, they discussed dating.

“I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do,” Rzucidlo said. “I wasn’t looking for a boyfriend, but that’s when things happen – when you don’t expect them.”

Fiore said he remembers the conversation, but the date is a point of disagreement between them.

“I just say Feb. 14,” he said. “She knows the exact date, but the romantic in me likes the 14th.”

Fiore said he knew the couple had “something there” from the moment he saw Rzucidlo’s picture.

He grew up plagued by frequent nightmares of mythical monsters, and in his dreams, a woman rescued him. The hero from his childhood was Rzucidlo, he said.

“When I saw her picture, I had to stop. It was her,” Fiore said. “If you check the logs, there is like a 30-minute gap where I just couldn’t say anything.”

In August of 2006, they prepared to meet for the first time.

“He invited me up to visit,” she said. “I had extra money because I had a good-paying summer internship, so I came up to Michigan for the weekend.”

Fiore’s parents had gone out of town and his brother went away to summer camp. No one in his family knew about Rzucidlo’s visit.

“I stepped off the plane, and we both stopped. And for the first time, it was real,” she said. “He looked at me and said ‘You’re beautiful.’ Then we hugged and kissed, it was incredible.”

When Fiore’s family found out about the weekend the two had spent, they were less than pleased.

“I don’t know who told them,” Fiore said. “But when they did, my dad took a book of poems he had bought for me called ‘The Road Less Traveled,’ and tore it half lengthwise. I thought my dad was going to kill me.”

While Fiore’s family served as an obstacle, it also helped keep the couple together.

“We weren’t going to let them win,” he said. “I wasn’t going to let what they say dictate my relationship.”

The couple tried to see each other once a month, so each saved money for flights when they could spend time together. Rzucidlo remembers a hectic travel experience in 2006 when she tried to fly to Michigan for Fiore’s birthday.

“I had a layover and I missed my flight. Then I find out the next flight is booked solid, even standby,” she said. “I was running around the airport with $200 trying to buy someone’s seat. I was frantic. Finally, the flight attendant just let me on. When I stepped on the plane, everyone applauded. It felt like a movie.”

In 2008, Fiore applied for transfer from Grand Valley State University to the University of Maryland. His acceptance letter never reached him.

“To this day, I don’t know if I got in,” he said. “My mother took the letter and told me I didn’t get in.”

Later that year, Nick grew more frustrated with his parents and moved into an apartment with a friend. He had to sign a lease, which meant he was legally tied to the apartment for a year.

“I couldn’t wait that long,” Rzucidlo said. “He asked me to move in, so we took a weekend and loaded our cars down with as much of my stuff as we could.”

On Feb. 6, coincidentally Super Bowl Sunday, the couple celebrated their sixth anniversary. They plan to marry within the next three years, when Rzucidlo graduates from Full Sail University.

“She’s the reason I still play Halo,” Fiore said. “If it weren’t for what this game did for us, I wouldn’t keep playing.”

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