Extra Punctuation: Why No Couples in Games?

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What about those incestuous dickheads from Assassin's Creed Brotherhood as villains with a relationship? It's even used to good effect in the game's plot.

Yahtzee, if you need one NPC relationship that actually matters, here's one:

Anju and Kafei.

That is all.

I'd like to think that some of the dragon quest stories did relationships a lot better. The best part of hand of the heavenly bride for me was that you could really get a feel for one of the female characters and get to know her awhile before you even choose to marry her and if you didn't like her you have two other women you can choose from and you can spend the whole rest of the game getting to know them. I guess you can say mass effect did it pretty well too the sequel just kinda messed it up a bit the plot convenience that it was.

Well, there's the fact that relationships are complex and difficult to correctly depict.

And...nobody ever went broke assuming the target audience is the stereotypical basement dwelling male with, shall we say "issues" regarding the opposite sex.

Kind of unfair to go after Kratos in that way - isn't that the point of his character? Of course he's going about his whole revenge-quest in the wrong way and for the wrong reasons; It's because the whole thing is his fault anyway but he can't admit that to himself. No, Mrs. Kratos doesn't want him to be a power-hungry murder machine (she flat-out tells him so), but his entire story is based around the fact that he's always been an asshole, and he hasn't learned from his mistakes. I thought it was refreshing to have a game where the main character never has that magical epiphany where he finally turns his life around.

Counterpoint: By this logic, why is Kane and Lynch so awful? Discussion for another time.

Anyway, on topic, there are no normal, healthy relationships in games because normal, healthy relationships are based on time. I can't develop a meaningful relationship with a digital person in the 10 hours it takes to complete a shooter, or even the 40 hours it takes to complete an RPG. I barely have time to get to know my own character, much less his love interest.

Lost Odyssey, Kaim and Sarah. A thousand years of memories lost and found.

This is something I have been banging on about for some time too actually. Not so much the "stable relationship part" (so I will be adding that to my repertoire) but the no relationship for the npc's (I mean the other people of your party when you have one). I remember Khalid and Jaheira being married in the first Baldur's Gate game but I had to play DA2 before I saw another romance that did not involve the player. DA2 actually did a good job of fleshing out the relationships between the other characters in general (I was particularly intrigued by the odd friendship between Aveline and Isabela).

It is a shame. Why can't other characters hook up if the main characters eye does not go onto them? I always thought Alistair and Leliana made a nice pair. Leliana might be a bit much for him but I am sure he would grow with the challenge.

As for Hunted: The Demon Forge. I completely agree with Yahtzee. If the 2 had been shown to be involved in some way I think it would have lent itself a lot to feel of the story and the game in general. The banter would have been more fun, E'laras comments about Seraphines attire would make more sense and lines from the characters could be loaded with much more gravity, emotion and innuendo. To be fair I kinda liked the "workman"-attitude the 2 protagonists have towards each other (but if that is the relationship they are suppose to have wouldn't it make sense for themto wear more armour?). I would rather have had the romantic and sexy banter. A nice contrast to the slaughter, murder and death going on. Perfect to give that surreal vibe.

When we are playing games we are already playing exceptional or atypical characters. Why not also play an atypical relationship?

- By the way honey. Remind me we need milk. *snaps neck of assailant
- Didn't we have a full carton in the fridge. *Loose a few bullets over cover*
- Naw. It went bad. I think SOMEONE forgot to close the fridge door last night. *Goes into cover and glares at husband*
- ... sorry.
- Make it out of this alive and I will forgive you... maybe.

I think that would rule. =)

ShenCS:
And yet this problem exists in all other media as well. And they have no excuse seeing how they've been around for so much longer. The answer to this problem is really, really simple. Happy couples have no real conflict and that's not interesting. Also, believable romance is incredibly difficult to write and the games industry, at least, still has the excuse of not always being written by professional writers.

Then don't tack it on in an action game. We don't need brooding protagonists motivated only by vengeance for a dead lover, or gawky losers fighting for a pretty blonde trophy. There are plenty of other ways to motivate a protagonist. Otherwise, it's just like the tacked-on romances in most action movies: the only point of the love interest is to establish the male protagonist as not-gay. And love interests as beards for homoerotic subtext in action stories is lazy and kind of offensive.

Princess Rose:
One reason I spend so much time playing Bioware games is because Bioware actually lets you have a relationship - and even then, the relationships are often kind of shallow. No matter what other faults one might have with it, Dragon Age 2 actually does a really good job of establishing and developing a relationship between Hawke and whomever the player ends up with. You might not like the choice in characters, but if you do, then that relationship is well developed.

This. I understand people's other problems with DA2 but I have no patience for people who say DA2's writing was horrible. It had a few issues (that I feel were imposed by the gameplay devs) but it's some of the best game writing I've ever seen.

Prof. Monkeypox:
I had an idea for a game (which never got past the very early planning stages)- about a husband/wife mercenary team taking up odd jobs to make a nest egg to raise a family. They'd both use gun play, but one would be a fast gunslinger and the other would be a heavy weapons wielder- and the player would switch between the two styles by jumping between them as needed.

It's kind of a stupid idea- but the fact that I thought it was super original means I must have subconsciously noticed the absence of that kind of relationship too.

The basic concept sounds similar to Simon R. Green's Hawk & Fisher stories, which are fantasy stories about husband-and-wife town guards in a fantasy city. It's like a buddy cop series in a Dungeons & Dragons-esque world with a married couple instead of two heterosexual life partners. Although your idea is more like Army of Two without the homoeroticism.

Although if you go back to The Song of Roland, you also have the female knight Bradamante and her Saracen lover Ruggiero.

You're going to love BioShock Infinite, Ben.

Don Reba:

Exactly right. Except, did you just spoil Witcher 2 for me? :)

Whooops, there might have been a small spoiler. Sorry about that. :)

I'll edit my original post for the safety of other readers.

Although you make good points Yahtzee, I must add something that really annoys me when it comes to relationships in games and other mediums. I actually think it's a bad idea to start the story with the characters already in a relationship. It's too often used as a poor attempt to try and give the protagonist motivation without any real effort on the part of the writers. You've talked about this yourself before if I'm not mistaken. Too many games start off with "these are the people you are supposed to care about, help them!" I hate it. Just because these characters have some kind of connection that we are told about doesn't make me give a damn about them. Getting to know the characters is what makes me care, but when they do this it just feels lazy and the protagonist's motivation feels empty and pointless.

Persona games. 3 and 4.

Although this one is a bit unrealistic - while you can't date two girls (or guys in PSP version), you can have all of the potential love interests as "I love you, Protagonist" by the end.

...Even the female robot in Persona 3: FES.

snowman6251:
What about those incestuous dickheads from Assassin's Creed Brotherhood as villains with a relationship? It's even used to good effect in the game's plot.

Holy crap thanks for reminding. I was like "Oh, so they are doing each other, he's her King and she's his Queen... THE HELL THEY ARE SIBLINGS?!"

And when do you want to establish the Relationship? Should it be a 120 Hour Game that you complain about or would you rather have a stupid AI partner ''lover'' to complain about. This doesn't seem like the kind of thing where anybody could please you.

LOL nice article right here

gotta say I agree on many points (won't say which ones but...)

dangoball:
Hm... Thinking of couples in games, Baldur's gate comes to mind. In BG(1) you practically start off with a married couple of Jaheira and Khalid which caries over to BG2 and by that time you have motivation to care for Khalid and understand Jaheiras need for revenge. And if you romance her, it actually carries over to ToB!
Other nice romance in BG2 was Anomen. At first I thought he's a douche and little in the head, but after romancing him I realized I kinda like the fella.
Oh and there are romances between NPCs even without Player interaction! Aerie - Haer'Dalis, and my favorite Edwin - Viconia :)

Indeed not just Jaheira, all of them carry over into TOB. I mean, with Aerie you can have a friggin' baby, which takes up a permanent slot in your inventory. Relationship continuity all about this house.

Princess Rose:
No matter what other faults one might have with it, Dragon Age 2 actually does a really good job of establishing and developing a relationship between Hawke and whomever the player ends up with. You might not like the choice in characters, but if you do, then that relationship is well developed.

I agree! Dragon Age 2 did a great job with the relationships/romances between characters. It wasn't just Hawke either.

One of my all-time favorite video game couples is Aveline/Donnic from DA2. They have an entire romance arc and can end up in a really awesome, happy marriage. Through party banter you even get to hear about their relationships with other companions as a married couple. It's part of what made the game rich.

Bostur:
Happy couples don't risk their lives to save the world, they stay home to make risotto and erh.. watch the cartoon network. It's not interesting as a plot device, there is no McGuffin. The perfect story relationship is one of deep love obstructed by outside forces. Thats why Mario needs to rescue the princess all the time, and...

And for the same reason game protagonists are rarely parents, unless the kid has been captured or killed. You don't go out and risk your life when you have a partner and/or kid at home unless you have no other choice. Now sometimes setting up a "no other choice" situation can be interesting, but then you're likely to be apart from your loved ones so it will have little impact on the story.

Co-op games are starting to make a comeback but doubt this will improve the situation - most people don't want to act out a romance with their gaming buddy.

KDR_11k:

Speaking of which, didn't Red Dead Redemption feature a married guy whose family is still alive? That's a rarity right there. Meanwhile Relic takes it a bit further with a gruff dude who killed his wife (as well as everybody else on the planet) for heresy and believes he did the right thing.

Well Marston was on a quest to save rescue his family; yet there are a few missions of mundance farm/family stuff. Also the fact that he doesn't cheat on his wife with the numerous whores or rich farm owner who so has the hots for him; fits with the whole will shoot anyone and do anything for family thing.

So in conlcusion John Marston started with typical trope of a relationship and went on to subvert.

Now onto what you called a Relic example. Now I have to correct you here; killing your familiy because you think they might mabye be heretics happens ALL THE TIME in 40K; if you don't do it then your the heretic and should expect your wife to kill you.

Nintendo Power put out a list of couples:
(in order from 1-12)

Pac-Man & Ms. Pac-Man
Mario & Princess Peach
Solid Snake & Meryl Silverburgh
Crono & Marle
Billy Lee & Marian
Link & Zelda
Neku & Shiki
Sir Arthur & Princess Prin Prin
Viewtiful Joe & Silvia
Fox McCloud & Krystal
Travis Touchdown & Sylvia Christel
Sonic & Amy Rose

Zhukov:

Also, dare I mention the ME2 DLC Lair of the Shadow Broker? I found the ongoing Shepard-and-Liara relationship in that to be surprisingly endearing.

I too enjoyed this on my first play through (Male Paragon got with Liara in ME1 and stayed true to her all the way through ME2) but then when I played as any of my other characters (as in the ones not in love with the blue babe) you just have a chat and talk about your latest flame!

The problem with videogame relationships is that they are fundamentally different from the way that we form relationships in real life. Game relationships all have to fall within the bounds of specific coding written into the game, from the pre-rendered conversational choices of a BioWare character to the scripted LI's of games like Uncharted.

Human relationships are more spontaneous and variable-filled than games can effectively manage at this time, and I think only true AI's in virtual reality settings, with variables such as eye contact, effective interest understanding, etc. can effectively mimic human relationship interactions. Even the animatronic "girlfriends" that Japanese scientists are turning out these days have coding written into them. It's a step in the right direction, but we've got a long way to go,

I'm sure that style of virtual relationship building will come one day. For now, let Yahtzee bitch and moan about simplistic and unrealistic relationships. He's merely stating the obvious, but that does not mean that you shouldn't enjoy the current relationship style that games have. The fanaticism of Talimancers is an excellent counterpoint to Yahtzee's gripes.

Personally I don't think that the white knight situation is necessarily a bad one. It is, however, an overused one and does seriously lack proof of a meaningful relationship, the care and affection the two characters are supposed to feel for one another largely meant to be taken for granted. I think there is romance in the idea that someone's willing to risk their lives for another, it just needs to be better established how much the two characters mean to one another.

Yahtzee is right that all too frequently relationships between a protagonist and a love interest is either shown in its immediate beginning or at a sudden and tragic (though seldom surprising, at least to the player) end. Say what you like about the Mummy series of movies with Brendan Frasier; at least it shows how his relationship with Evillan stays stable, they marry and have a son who's grows up into an intelligent and emotionally stable kid.

It's that sort of relationship I think games could stand to develop. Rather than -end- with the protagonist and their love interest acknowledging their feelings for one another, have the romance develop earlier on. Rather than have a sudden, instant oh-I'm-so-in-love-with-you moment right at the end, have a BUDDING romance at the beginning. The protagonist could be supported by his love interest or could be the one doing the supporting. They could even trade on and off in a genuinely balanced relationship, helping each other fight their battles, in some cases perhaps literally.

As much as some folks may not like the ideas of sequels, it would be a useful plot device for them. If two characters are shown having a long-term relationship, its evolution can become an incentive to play the next game in a series. Perhaps ending with one character contemplating if they should propose marriage in the first game, then partway through game two, they actually pop the question.

Video game character's relationships could definitely stand to gain a bit more maturity and complexity. I don't think the whole white knight situation should be thrown aside entirely...but maybe we could stand to start exploring what happens AFTER they ride off into the sunset.

The only games that come to mind that included decent romances are the Final Fantasy games. 7 through 10. Granted theres not much in the way of existing relationships but at least I actually gave a shit about the developing love plots.

hawk533:
I agree that this lack of true relationships in video games is silly and it stops video games from being taken seriously as a medium. Your examples remind me of Aeris and Tifa in Final Fantasy 7. I could never tell which of them was supposed to actually be Cloud's girlfriend/love interest so I didn't really care at all when Aeris died.

I think I've yet to see a believable married couple depicted throughout a game.

Actually Lufia II did a great job of that. One of the women you met throughout your travels replaced your childhood girlfriend and they even got married and had a kid and lived a few years together happily before the game ended.

I think there are a bunch of heterosexual relationships in gaming among NPCs. We just don't care about them because there isn't a quest associated with them most of the time.

In pokemon HG/SS there are the family that run the Miltank Milk farm. They're a couple with 2 kids. they all raise Miltank; that is their life, and they seem rather content with that.

but main character love interests? ummm... I'd have to go with Twilight Princess. Link and Ilia seemed like they would be together eventually, only because they are about the same age and were childhood friends. It kinda just makes sense. They've known each other forever. When Ilia scolds Link and her father; the two of them have the same response to her, that was adorable. It was affectionate and endearing.

I am now extremely aware of the fact that I read visual novels. And as visual novels go, all of them depict some sort of relationship.

I guess I didn't notice that real gaming didn't have'em.

trollpwner:
"I need to get laid". Nice.

WAIT WAIT!! I need something so I don't get whacked for low content. Er....Great post?
I liked the couple in sands of time?

Yeah, that'll do. (No, I really did like it. The dialouge there was superb. Why did they fire whoever wrote that before making sequels?!?!)

EDIT: Ouch, Vamp! Not so rough!

You, just like the guy who mentioned Alyx and Gordon, are missing the point.
The point is that they're not a couple. They're people BECOMING a couple. That's what yahtzee's post said, that games are either about starting relationships or losing them (both of which happens in Sands of Time btw). But never about just being in one.

When I strain my mind to remember the last married couple I saw in a video game or movie, then the first thing that comes to mind is...

Holmes and Watson in Sherlock Holmes.

I think that's saying something.

Yahtzee Croshaw:
Fuck, I need to get laid.

Don't we all...

Locke and Celes from FF VI come to mind. Neither are necessarily the main character but both are characterized.

Squall and Rinoa in Final fantasy VIII and Zaidane and Dagger in final fantasy IX and Tidus and Yuna in Final Fantasy X

3 relationships that grew together over time the only one without a happy ending was Tidus and Yuna's

But Yahtzee, how can the characters start out in a relationship when one or both have them have AmNeSiA!!!!

What's that? Tsubasa Chronicles. Shutup you.

Anywho, yeah i gotta agree there are few times where they're in the middle of the relationship at the start and it stays that way. In anime as well (fancy that). Well Onidere i guess, but enough references few will get. Or maybe more would..../tangent.

The only real permanent "relationships" there tends to be is the "best buddy" character, possibly an animal. A number of times there would be some animal companion that is sentient and either talks or damn close.

But otherwise, I would like to see more relationships with even people that aren't the main character. One of my beefs with Mass Effect is that there's so little interaction because the crew. Hell, with you taken maybe the ladies start to look elseware. Or even just friendships and bickering more than the 2 scenes they threw in.

I guess they tend to like the formula of...random beautiful girl pops out of nowhere since it feeds your own imagination and dreams more.

Hmmm, this discussion reminds me of moviebob's superman discussion.

Banjo and Kazooie.

Or is that a bit too weird...

Cecil and Rosa from FFIV were in a relationship weren't they? I never got a chance to finish the game since someone stole my DS copy and replaying the entire thing again makes me a sad panda but I always got that they were together long term

Truly-A-Lie:
It's times like these I sit back and say God Bless, Persona 4. Granted the protagonist is supernaturally likeable and people are drawn to him almost against their will, but if I was hanging around with him as he carried out his mission in that game, I'd probably fall in love with him too.

I've also found Nathan Drake and Elena's romantic build up over the two Uncharted games really effective.

The problem with Persona 4's relationships was how they weren't part of the main game. I enjoyed them and they were done well in-and-of-themselves, but nothing in the main plot changed based on them. Tell Chie she looks sexy while dating Yukiko? No problem. Try to pair up with the girl you're dating in any situation that seems like you'll be pairing up with someone? Sorry, they'd rather go with Teddie. Get the girl you're dating to sit in your lap during King's Game? She's just as embarrassed as if she hadn't been dating you for 5 months. They don't even give you special goodbye if you were dating them!

I can understand that they wouldn't want to record that much dialogue, but even in the text only parts they don't add anything. Your final goodbye to everyone you maxed out is the worst. Your girlfriend(s) don't change their goodbye at all. They don't even tack an "I love you" onto the end of the text. Ugh.

(If you couldn't tell, this bothered me periodically throughout my 80 hours of Persona 4)

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