HE was a dashingly handsome warrior: tall and broad shouldered with a square jaw.

She was a midget gnome-like creature with green hair and extremely large ears.

When Andurus and Branwen, aka Paul Turner and Vicky Teather, met it was not love at first sight.

But although they make an unlikely pair – in the online world which they both inhabit, anyway – they fell in love and are now getting married: in the real world.

For anyone whose understanding of computer games doesn’t extend far beyond Space Invaders, alternate reality games such as the one that Paul and Vicky first ‘met’ in can seem like a different world – which is, of course, what they are.

The games don’t necessarily have a goal-orientated set up, which you play until you win.

They offer a chance to become a different person – or even a different creature – and live out a virtual life which bears no relation to your day-to-day existence.

The game that Paul and Vicky encountered each other on was Final Fantasy XI, which they have both been playing for around five years.

It allows players to create their own character which can get a ‘job’, and either become an adventurer or live a simple life, fishing, making craft items and even live in their own online homes which they have ‘purchased’.

Players may choose to go into battle together or live peacefully side by side, chatting and making friends online.

When Vicky, 28, from Southampton, and Paul, 25, from London, first met in the game they were both in relationships.

They struck up an online friendship but weren’t romantically interested in each other.

“We were friends, we weren’t looking for anything more,” says Vicky who is studying computer and video design at Solent University .

“I play the game to meet people, because I want to talk to them and have some fun.”

They were both surprised and amused when a number of people coupled up within the game but it didn’t seem to be something that people were transferring into the real world and this coupling up in cyberspace didn’t appeal to either Paul or Vicky.

Ironically, it was when Paul, a software designer, got bored with the game and stopped playing it that their relationship began to blossom.

“As a woman you get a lot of people chatting you up on the game. It really annoys me. But with Paul, we just talked about normal stuff. When he quit the game I realised I quite missed him. I actually quit the game for a couple of months because he’d gone, so we ended up talking on the Internet via instant messaging and it progressed from there.”

Both Paul and Vicky’s relationships were failing and they began to realise that they had romantic feelings for each other.

Often couples have lengthy online romances that teeter somewhere between fantasy and reality.

Vicky herself had had an online relationship of sorts with a man who lived in America.

But she and Paul wanted to see if their online relationship could progress into the real world.

“We met up to check that the feelings we were beginning to have were real,” explains Vicky.

“We wanted to make sure it wasn’t a silly Internet thing. It was confirming our suspicions I suppose. Before we went into one of these silly things where you talk online for three years before you meet we thought we’d see if we felt anything in person.You can become attached to someone on the Internet, just imagining what they look like.”

Paul adds: “I’m always very sceptical of Internet relationships. They seem almost like make-believe, particularly in a game where you tend to like the avatar (the character that people create). A lot of the female characters in our game are overtly sexual, apart from hers. Because of that people often like the character rather than the person behind it.”

They began dating in January 2005 but because they were only able to meet up at weekends, the game played an important part in their relationship, allowing them to ‘get together’ in the week.

“It’s a nice way to meet up,”

says Vicky.

“For a while I was more used to seeing his avatar than seeing him. I’d get a warm feeling when I saw his character and think ‘that’s my boyfriend’.”

Paul proposed to Vicky a year and a half after they first met in person.

“We were on Weston Shore,” she says.

“He said ‘I don’t want you to be my girlfriend anymore’. I thought he was dumping me but when I turned round he was holding an engagement ring.”

Two of their friends from the cyber world came to their engagement party.

They are getting married in September and plan for Final Fantasy XI to continue to be part of their lives.

“I’d like to play together when we’re living together – the same as you’d watch TV or play a game,” says Vicky.

“I wouldn’t play if he wasn’t.”