3 Ways Games Avoid Telling Love Stories & We Don't Notice It
I know it seems like they don't, but they do.
I wrote earlier that this was likely because it's really really hard to tell a decent love story. But the more I see games avoid it, the more I notice it. And the more it looks like game developers are hoping I don't notice. Kind of like when two people are alone in a room and one breaks wind. You both know it, and you both know you know it. But one of you is silently begging the other to pretend not to notice how much they stink.
Like when two people are alone in a room and one breaks wind. You both know it, and you both know you know it. But one of you is silently begging the other to pretend not to notice how much they stink.
Games have developed a lot of coping mechanisms to avoid depicting deep romantic love. Which sounds like something they should talk to someone about. In the meantime, let's review what they're busy doing instead.
Love Story Avoidance Tactic #1
Leaving it up to the players.
*Customization in ESO: You can change your hair, but not your haunted, angry eyes*
Games like Mass Effect or Saint’s Row 2 are particularly versatile in that you’re allowed to create your own character. This allows you to be whomever you want, but while we all know how to be single, not all of us are aware of what it’s like being in a committed relationship. Long-time single game players might not know that open boxes of tampons release Sarin gas if you put them under the sink instead of leaving them in an opened box next to the toilet.
I don’t want my Shepard to be a pacifist any more than I want to see Ashley Williams reminding him that their anniversary is coming soon and he’d better think of a better present than the Assault Rifle upgrade he got her last year.
Limits on character customization aren't specifically bad; in Mass Effect, you can choose to be the noble hero, the bland hero, or the anti-hero. Being a pacifist just isn’t in the cards - and that’s ok. I don’t want my Shepard to be a pacifist any more than I want to see Ashley Williams reminding him that their anniversary is coming soon and he’d better think of a better present to give her than the Assault Rifle upgrade he got her last year.
Love Story Avoidance Tactic #2
Focusing on terrifyingly dysfunctional relationships.
*Don't answer - it's a trap. Like that time she asked 'does this dress look good on me?'*
"She nails your cat to the mailbox and calls your job to tell them you’re sick with a bad case of herpes."
Catherine… (or Katherine, which ever) completely fails to capture a healthy relationship, instead it’s a warning away from pursuing relationships all together. This game is the Kobayashi Maru test for those considering dating.
On one hand, you’ll be punished for deciding to date a crazy girl when she whips out the crazy and demands that babies be produced as a remedy to all your woes…
On the other hand, you play through the other way and are punished for telling a crazy girl you’re not interested. That’s when she nails your cat to the mailbox and calls your job to tell them you’re sick with a bad case of herpes.
Not only does the game teach you that crazy new love is bad, it also teaches you that no females can be trusted. Your level headed lady friend will punish and hate you for everything you do with the crazy girl, whether you get involved with her or not.
I can only assume the developers were trying to create a game to discourage relationships all together, perhaps to keep gamers sitting at home, lonely, consoling themselves by playing more video games.
Love Story Avoidance Tactic #3
Completely avoiding romance all together.
*I'm only holding you because you make a good living shield.*
Games like Bioshock Infinite have actively implanted plot points into their story to keep males and females from getting together. Things like a gigantic age gap, as with Bioshock Infinite and the Last of Us. Others make all female characters evil or otherwise romantically involved. That’d be your Metal Gear Solids, and your Batman games. And my personal favorite, the ‘I’ve got shit to do’ syndrome; for games like Resident Evil where no one even thinks about a relationship - not when there’s yet another outbreak of the somehow still uncured disease that’s been destroying the world for 20 years now.
I'm not buying it anymore, and neither should you.
All of those tactics are stepping around the problem like a hot dog that fell on the sidewalk. No one feels any obligation to pick it up and eat it when there are so many other people walking around - but one can’t help but notice that this remains one of the few genres of stories that haven’t been successfully turned into a game system.
Though I AM still awaiting the playable musical comedy. Perhaps it's simply easier to make Call of Duty again when exploring new ground seems like something that should be better left up to creative types. And we certainly don't want THOSE people making our video games.
Tags lovestoryvideo game writing