I met a man playing Mafia Wars online, and followed him to Australia
Louise Ivory moved across the world to marry a man she started a virtual gang with
Louise Ivory and her husband Matthew Hartwig: ‘If you love someone that much you would do anything, you would cross many rivers and many oceans.’
When Louise Ivory lost her job in 2008, she started playing Mafia Wars online as a way to fill her time. Little did she know it would lead to long-distance love, and a move half-way around the world to be with the man she started a virtual gang with.
Ivory had been working in travel agents in Dublin and her hometown of Thurles in Co Tipperary for almost ten years when she was made redundant. Mafia Wars was a new social network game, which allowed multiple players join up online to form gangs, to fight or rob other clans, and complete missions. Ivory was good at it and joined a Mafia Wars Facebook group, where she got “picked up” by a player in Australia - Matthew Hartwig, a father of two living in Perth.
“The cheeky bugger messaged me one day. I can’t even remember what he said but we got chatting,” she recalls.
“We messaged on and off for about a year, before it developed into phone calls, then Skype.”
As the relationship developed, the pair formed their own gang - the Tigers - which grew to more than 4,000 members around the world.
“She was the Godmother and I was the Godfather,” Hartwig says.
“We had battles with clans all over the world, and people used to ridicule us for our relationship. It made us more determined, we’ll meet one day, we’ll show these people.
“We got to chat for a long time, about each other’s family and friends, we went through highs and lows. She was still dating when we first met and so was I, and we had horror stories about our dates and we would compare. We really got to know each other.”
Two years after that first message, Hartwig spent all his savings on a plane ticket to Ireland. He came through Arrivals in a t-shirt and shorts, in the middle of November.
“She thought I was crazy. It was so cold there. We got in the car and drove to the nearest pub, had a drink together. We had talked so much on camera, it was so surreal; we couldn’t believe we had finally got to meet. It felt like winning the Lotto.
“It was my first time out of Australia. I was scared. But if you love someone that much you would do anything, you would cross many rivers and many oceans. I travelled half way around the world to meet the right girl.”
After Hartwig’s three weeks in Ireland, their bond was solid. Louise was devastated when he had to leave.
“I remember telling my parents when I came back from the airport that I had just said goodbye to my soul mate,” she says.
Shortly after Hartwig landed back in Perth, he sent Louise a message, asking for a Skype call. On camera, he got down on one knee and asked her to marry him. She said yes.
They married in Thurles in June 2011, and the following month, Hartwig, Ivory and her two sons, then aged six and eight, flew to Perth to join his two sons. She had never been to Australia before, but it’s a country she now calls home.
“What’s not to love? We get blue sky every day, gorgeous beaches, not much rain or snow. It was a very big change for the boys, but it was a good time to move them. They have both fitted in really well, they love it here. Australia is home now.”
The couple had two more sons of their own, now aged two and five. They run their own successful landscaping business, and own a boat, a caravan, and quad bikes, which allow them to live a very “outdoorsy life”.
Do they still play computer games?
“No, now the kids do it and we are fighting to keep them off it,” Hartwig laughs.
“We got past level 10,000 (in Mafia Wars) which was quite an achievement in the game, but we gave up then. It gave us a chance to spend more time in real life, with our kids and our business.”