Featured image thanks to appatary8523
Romance in video games are something of a mixed bag. Some are incredibly poignant tales between characters you get emotionally invested in. Others are merely a shallow game mechanic. But regardless of actual emotional depth, the inherent awkwardness of building romance through gameplay mechanics leads to some pretty strange stuff. So, in honour of Valentine’s Day, as well as my deep sense of cynicism, I present to you: 5 Warped Lessons of Love I Learnt from Video Games.
5Love is Cheap (Dragon Age series, Star Wars: The Old Republic, other titles)
They say you can’t buy love. And yet, this is exactly what you do in several video games. Never mind that your personalities are completely antithetical and your love interest is actually all kinds of puppy murdering evil. Unless you’re the canine killer and they’re the good one horribly aghast at your choices. Do you know how to win them over? Buy them stuff.
Shiny objects can apparently build or restore relationships quite easily. Granted there are elements of truth to this and it could be somewhat applicable to the real world, but still it seems to work out absolutely perfectly in video games. As opposed to righteous indignation at the bribery, or you being taken for a sucker, or you discovering that your easily bribed love interest oddly enough isn’t the sort of person who you’d want to pursue a meaningful relationship with. It’s a deeply cynical way of portraying emotional interactions.
4Vegas Weddings all around (The Sims series)
The Sims would have us all think that love can strike at any moment and with quite frankly terrifying speed and efficiency. You’d think that marriage is something that you build up to. Slowly, over a lengthy period of time. Not so for the Sims. Two conversations, a particularly raucous joke and a tickle fight are all that’s needed for one Sim to determine that the other is nothing short of someone they could spend the rest of their life with.
Do you know where else that kind of logic flies? When you’re near blackout drunk and hanging around an area where marriage celebrants work more like drive through fast food joints.
3Two (or three, or four, or five) timing is completely ideal (Persona Series)
One of the key attractions of the Persona series is the Social Link system. Not only do you befriend, or woo side characters, but it also causes you to power up. Although this does raise an interesting moral ambiguity. Are you actually interacting with these people because you care? Or are you doing it because it leads to some great power bonuses? Either way the series pretty much encouraged you to be a scumbag and seduce ALL the love interests in order to power up.
Considering there’s several love interests per game, that’s quite a lot of two timing. What’s especially dodgy is that it’s only with Persona 4 Golden, i.e. the most recent iteration of the series, that actually tries to make you feel bad for being an absolute rake, and I do mean that in profligate sense. Until then, it was encouraged, if not necessary to roam about like some kind of deadbeat dad.
2Eugenics for fun and profit! (Agarest series, Fire Emblem Awakening, other JRPGS)
You know there’s something dreadfully wrong when you’re playing a JRPG where there are multiple generations of characters and you start thinking to yourself… Hmmm, how do I breed the most excellent offspring? Because seriously, that’s a pretty cold and clinical way of looking at things. Pairing off your characters like domesticated animals in the hopes that their children will develop all the best traits and abilities of their parents? Like some manner of dog breeder? That’s all kinds of creepy.
Fire Emblem: Awakening was a superb game, but it was pretty difficult. How many of you actually decided to get involved in some light eugenics to help even the odds? Try to develop the best children with the most useful abilities and skill sets? You don’t think about it, but it’s very weird. They never call it that, but I’m sure if someone enthusiastically told you; “this JRPG has a selective breeding system” you’d be freaked out.
1Indecision = Threesome (Jade Empire)
However all of the above odd lessons pale in comparison to one romance subplot in Jade Empire. Silk Fox and Dawn Star, two of the love interests for a male lead will compete for his affections. What can you do? Stall em. Avoid the issue. Don’t pick either of them. Maintain the love triangle as the status quo! And through a series of unlikely events, indecisiveness, which has got to be one of the less attractive qualities you’d be looking for in your significant other, somehow manages to result in the two women just giving up and deciding to share you. They just decide, when it comes to love triangle: screw it. Both conceptually… And literally. Like one of harem fantasy wish fulfilment anime or something.
…Clearly video games has something of a skewed perspective on romance.