Extra Punctuation: Why No Couples in Games?

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Arren Kae:
Apology for snip

I'll agree with your POV, it doesn't seem like the reason a guy would play a game, as they don't get off on the whole relationship thing as much as girls do. The magic in a start of relationship maybe a bit more, but the maintenance of one hardly, I'd imagine. Hence why Sims games just aren't too popular with the blokes. So maybe that's why it isn't explored too much, and not nearly as much as in Bioware games.

I still think Enslaved had a little bit of chemistry, execution well or otherwise, it had a firm handle on the plot progression. A bit of a surprise when

Pity you didn't finish the Witcher 2 also Yahtzee, there was some real interesting mechanics in place there, which you even had control of in terms of what kind of relationship you had with Triss and how much she means to Geralt (kinda wished I went with her now in the first game for some continuity instead of Shani, but Shani was so much hotter).

But yeah, I'm also getting tired of revenge and such for loved ones being used as a plot device, hardly pushes my buttons anymore unless it's done reeeally well. Heck, even Dead to Rights: Retribution had a dramatic moment when

. And that games about as brainless shoot-kill-maim as it gets, yet it didn't seem out of place in the plot as much as Dom and Maria.

How could Yahtzee not mention Anju and Kafei from Majora's Mask?

Actually, he's probably never played it, since he mentioned OoT3D was his first run through Ocarina of Time.

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.

I saw it done once and only once and that was in Jade Cocoon 1. It actually had a good depiction of a young married couple each doing their best to help with saving their village. But if you didn't spend a lot of time on long, long, yes I do mean long sections of dialog spewed out by various villagers instead of cheerfully fighting monsters you could miss a lot of the plot. The second Jade Cocoon was awful and made girls into cheerleaders (literally) for the boy characters who "had to get stronger".

So if you would like to see a VERY good approach to the relationship idea in a game and can handle some pretty old graphics I would recommend checking out Jade Cocoon. Brigidine might have actually had a few characters that were committed to their fight and to one another in the game's side stories as well. But it wasn't played up much, and I don't blame them since it wasn't the game's main focus. It did lend a richer texture to it though. Dragon Age is trying but still gets into the "killing off Bambi's mother" mode in both 1 and 2. And Bioshock Infinite already has a girl set up for getting killed from using her powers. Hmm. Do you know of any where the guy gets killed instead? :/ I really hadn't thought about that aspect. But I have to agree with your Aeris issue. For all the effort they put into her death scene, it wasn't very gripping because you didn't feel much commitment between the characters. I am wondering what Thief 4 might bring with the young female apprentice.

no mention of things like harvest moon/rune factory where one of the usually required tasks is (a PG) courtship and marriage? well i suppose those relationships do drop off a cliff after you've heard everything they can say, plus the wife doesn't add a big change to most of the games. she can pretty much be ignored in all of them. maybe that is a good place to start though. how can you expect a game like gears of war or Mario to have a meaningful relationship when a game that's supposed to make/have one doesn't?

and for all the fan-fiction, there is little evidence to show Mario and Link would ever get a relationship from anyone. they play up the Mario-Peach tie, but for all we know he lives with his brother and is only friend-like with Peach. and the only Link I've seen that had a reasonable shot at a relationship was the one in twilight princess, because he was already close to Ilia, and (i gathered)returned to the village. all of that is speculated though, because they have never really geared the games to show Mario or Link do all that for the girl. they do it because they are the good guys, and because its right. maybe that's the mark of a good selfless hero? i know some don't like the idea =D

I don't think all of these games need relationships, but the ones that attempt one should at least try for a meaningful one that doesn't always end prematurely or tragically.

Spoilers for both The Darkness and Brutal Legend ahead:


Noble Cookie:
Final Fantasy VIII had the whole Squall-Rinoa thing, what about that?

All though I suppose it's stupid how Squall goes from not giving a shit about anyone but himself to loving this girl he's just met, I don't get that.

But I mean, they really loved each other.

But it was more than that, if you really want to get into it.

ye you ninja'd me on FFVIII all through reading that post this game was in my mind.

also yes there probably wasnt need for the spoiler but just incase there are people who havnt played FFVIII and want to in the near future :P

Healthy relationships don't have cover-based combat. There's your problem.
Alright, but seriously, here are the two big things I think prevent complex relationships from being made part of a game:

1. The current big AAA money makers demonstrate game makers worldwide that you don't need a compelling narrative and that sticking with general clichés and recipes is completely fine. On the other hand, whenever someone is listing positive examples that break out of gaming clichés, it's often from games that went down the drain or were made by developers that went bankrupt at some point (poor Looking Glass).

2. It's always a risk for the developers to flesh out character or set them in important relations with the main character because somehow it's stuck inside devs' heads that the player is only able to immerse themselves if they pretend to be the character, so the protagonist has to be as bland as possible and any relationships arbitrary so players don't have to care and can focus on the cover-based combat instead.
(I do really dislike the pacing of cover-based combat, sorry.)
Yes, this is also the kind of developer that thinks Americans can only understand Americans. No, I don't think we have any other option but amputate.

3. Think about a number of games where you have a female companion that's a teeny tiny bit human. Now subtract the number of games where the community didn't find them annoying. Now subtract the number of games where the female companion's sole point isn't showing off a part of the female anatomy or do porn star moans.
The gaming industry is so focused on copying each other and making dull sequels we forgot to hire writers apparently. When was the last time you were actually conflicted to pull the trigger? When was the last time a villain had actual character development that didn't lead to sudden redemption or joining the team?

The worst part is that it actually works. I'm looking really forward to Deus Ex 3, especially the stealth and story, and it didn't even bother me the love interest is used to be the revenge motivation AGAIN. And I really don't see the character falling in love a second time during the game or do anything else but uncover conspiracies, shooting bad guys, and taking revenge.

Well, you never seem to read responses Yahtzee but I'll point out that there are JRPGs that depict exactly what your talking about. If you look back at games like say "Thousand Arms" or the more recent "Agarest War" titles, these games both include ongoing romance plots/dating sims along with the RPG adventure stuff. Of course it's a no win scenario because chances are any game that included what your talking about would immediatly be shredded by you for being "creepy" and a form of entertainment for nerds who have never enjoyed any kind of female companionship IRL.

To be honest I also think your missing the point that most games are about stuff happening. A deep relationship starting makes a good "happily ever after" ending to explain what happens with the hero when it's over. A dedicated adventurer, or someone intending to take down an uber bad guy (or group of them) is quite probably going to want to avoid seriouis romantic entanglements, family raising, and other assorted things until it's safe to do so. I mean if by definition you feel the need to spend nearly every waking moment questing towards some purpose, your not going to be able to reliably stay at home with the wife and kids. Some people aren't douchebags and wouldn't make that committment knowing that couldn't honor it, and game heroes tend to be noble on most levels, and that kind of goes along with it.

Now granted, heroic fantasy only covers so much ground, and that's the fuel for games. That genere is used, because it works for the core experience people want. It's also important to note that in real life people can, and do commence relationships, including gamers (Lol!), the point of gaming is to vicariously do things you can't do IRL. It's about the pursuit of unreality in order to get away from reality. As odd as it might sound, your more likely to take a real girl out on a date, than say fight aliens with futuristic weapons.

At any rate, my suggestion is to look towards the dating sim genere if this is what interests you. You know, games like the one that Japanese guy apparently married. There are also a few hybrid games I mentioned, and if you can get past hypocricy in screaming "creepy" for doing what you want, they are okay, but I don't think anyone has ever gotten the idea to "click" properly and that's why you see less of them.

I think the odds of seeing a game seriously developed along these lines and succeeding is roughly on par of seeing high quality, mainstream game titles released with hardcore lesbian bondage romance/sex/love scenes for pervs like me. >:)

Oh and one other one. In "Alpha Protocol" two out of three of the potential love interests are likely to live to the end of the game. Who, if anyone, is waiting for you in your boat at the end is one of the variables in the game. The romances here being dependant on building relationships due to selecting the right kinds of dialogue options at the right time. Now granted, that doesn't sound like a lot, but consider the current technology. It's not like we have virtual "designed to be seduced" AI programs or anything.

Another exception to this rule is the Uncharted series. Drake's relationship with Elena has evolved quite a bit over the course of two games and given that she's wearing a wedding ring in the trailers for Uncharted 3, it look as if they might now be married.

Some of the best relationships are found in the two games I always banter off about.
Aquaria and Sword of Mana.

Aquaria has the love interest as an interesting plot device, given it's themes of loneliness. It gives the main character some intelligent (non murderous intelligent) company and provides visual cues to their relationship even down to idle-animations of them holding hands, looking into each others eyes, etc.
Of course this love interest is used in a kidnapping, but the kidnapper is a jealous god who wants the main character for itself, so that again is motivated by some form of love.
All in all, solid relationship-based plot.

Sword of Mana goes an interesting path of almost characterising the villains better than the protagonists. It lets at least six relationships play a major role. Of course the main hero and the main heroine have the hots for each other, but during a separation of the main characters, both of them reunite with old lovers, and the heroine even finds new one in addition. The main villain's parents' relationship play a vital role in the backstory, and the villain himself falls in love.
Here the relationships are used to convey two themes: "Every one is human" and "There are bigger concerns than your personal happiness."
The main characters act as normal humans would, they have a variety of love interests and don't find the "one and only." The villain is made human by his relationship to such a degree that you actually feel bad about killing him (he's not the real baddie anyway.)


It is a bittersweet message that the journey often matters more than the goal.

I need to get a girlfriend.

I've gotta say, I'm starting to enjoy these segments more than your videos. Your arguments are extremely well voiced; Extra Punctuation updates have definitely become one of the highlights of my week.

some decent visual novels and rpgs "i don't call them jrpgs or wrpgs" have pulled this off but it's something that's just really hard to do. Most of the time it's your typical b-love romance or just forced relationship along the way... I will not list any because I am sure some of you have trolled or flamed the titles already but I will say one thing, being the perv that I am even love plus scares me.

Whenever I think of relationships done wrong in video games I always think of Indigo Prophecy. Here's a game aspiring to put story and character development first. It takes a great deal of effort building up these (supposedly) interesting, fleshed out characters, such as Carla Valenti, a strong-minded police detective. And then what does it do in the final act? SPOILER: It has her fall in love (for no apparent reason) with the male protagonist, who she just met five minutes ago, so that it can push them into an unnecessary and genuinely creepy sex scene just before the final scene.

What might have been a passable story with better-than-average characters is completely derailed by the developers compulsion to insert some kind of requisite romance.

I really fail to see what Yahtzee's harping about. Yes, action/shooter games have little to no plot. We all knew that already.

However, in better games, the relationship (either explicit or implied) really drives so much of the plot.

Starcraft: half of that universe's entire plot is driven by two people: Kerrigan and Raynor. Namely, the latter's love for the former, and the former's status as a hero->fallen hero->central villain->anti-hero on path to redemption (in HotS). Just about everything Raynor did was driven either through love for Kerrigan, or out of a sense of loyalty to Tassadar for saving his ass on Char after he chased Kerrigan out of love.

Final Fantasies: 8 has been mentioned, and I've played VII and X (and XII). X was driven around the fact that Tidus had the hots for Yuna. X-2 was driven around the fact that Yuna had the hots for Tidus and wanted him back (not out to avenge a personal slight, but she just wanted him back). VII was the interplay between Cloud and Tifa. Yes, Tifa was his love interest--he's just really craptacular at expressing his desires. He met Aeris for the first time in the game, she wouldn't screw off when he said women should just stay in the kitchen, and then she goes off and gets herself killed. Tifa was Cloud's pal from childhood. Then she grew tits. The rest is history. XII utterly fails because there's next to no important relationship in it. Vaan and Penelo are completely empty characters there just to market the game to teenagers (Basch was supposed to have been the lead character), Ashe doesn't really love anybody living and just wants her kingdom back, and Balthier is a side character despite being the Han Solo of the game.

Legend of Dragoon: Two separate love stories. Two and a half in fact if you count Dart's dead mother (Haschel's daughter?). Rose/Zieg/Claire and Dart/Shana. The game is more or less driven around Rose guiding Dart around because he's like his dad, and Dart loves Shana and goes nutso over her the whole game, in which she's more than a princess to be rescued.

Fate/Stay Night: once you get into VNs, you realize the different paths are usually about which female the male lead falls for, yes?

But of course, if you look at God of War, Gears of War, Diablo 2, DotA, etc. etc. etc., you realize that the plot in those games sucks.

We knew this already.

Yahtzee Croshaw:
Extra Punctuation: Why No Couples in Games?

Yahtzee wonders why there are no functioning relationships in games.

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So, you've officially run out of interesting things to bitch about, right? Seriously, Mario and the Princess? What do you want to see, a hardcore sex scene every time he rescues her? I know you must understand that the Mario games are firmly entrenched in the world of fairy tales and children's stories, where the beautiful princess rewards her handsome rescuer with a kiss on the check and later they get married and live happily ever after and have seven sons and seven daughters. Mario games are not about romance or sex, they are about a guy jumping over chasms and on the heads of walking mushrooms. You might as well be lamenting that the there's no romance in Dr. Suess books, that the Cat in the Hat didn't fuck Horton after he heard the Who.

I know you're just taking the piss, but bringing Mario into this article was either desperate, thoughtless or both. It makes your good points so marginal that no one can really take anything else you say seriously.

It's just all about not f*cking up the screentime of the heroes. Who needs a pan brandishing female when you got a gun-wielding f*cknugget to do the job.

Yeah, it's rather bland, but the people got to accustomed with this kind of depiction of relationship that you can't simply give them another kind of view on this topic. It would burst their button-pressing, tons of dude murdering brains.

Damn, I watch too much Yahtzee, right? XD

But yeah, the time is ripe for deeper interactions with the opposite (or the same, whatever drives the story) sex. It would give games a different kind of flavour. Not a better one, mind. It's just about variety. I don't like to eat bread all the day. I would get upset with it. Sometimes it has to be potatoes ... or noodles ... or something completely different. *explodes in a burst of flames*

Think of it like this. Being in a relationship fucking sucks usually. Most people are trying to escape from their shitty problems, why let these problems follow them to their virtual realities.

And then she'd start nagging you if you didn't make the right moral decisions in-game. Like if you have to either to punt a puppy in order to get a free machine gun or give out lollypops to kids and only get a golf club.

She'd never let you hear the end of that one.

Plus it's hard to tip strippers when your gf is standing next to you.

One of the few JRPGs I truly enjoyed is Lunar: A Silver Star Story for Playstation, and a large part of that is due to the attachment I developed for the characters. Its starts off with the protagonist and his love interest having obvious feelings for each other. You're also given plenty of time to acquaint yourself with the character as she accompanies you for a significant portion of the game before becoming otherwise engaged. Besides being thoroughly developed and likeable, she is also the most useful character in the party (the healer), her loss effects you both emotionally and strategically.

Lufia 2 (a prequel to lufia 1) has an interesting spin when it comes to couples. Two of the main characters actually get married mid game and also have a baby. At the end they end up dying, but the baby survives. This was quite original, especially back in the SNES days...

For me personally, i think the best game for depicting this kind of relationship, romance, love-interest etc. is Final Fantasy X. The way in which Tidus and Yuna grow throughout the game and how they react to each other and their actions was done really well in my opinion. The way he reacts to Seymour proposing to Yuna and how she decides based on the people of Spira not her own happiness are interesting story-mechanics. It wasn't always obvious who the love-interest for Tidus would be from the beginning, as there are options to flirt with other female characters "You're more my type Lulu" as a multiple-choice option and Rikku's seemingly increased feelings towards Tidus as the game progresses. I will say that FFX-2 is pretty much all about founding a way to bring Tidus back as in FFX (spoiler alert, but seriously it's been long enough now) Tidus is actually a 'dream made real' by the Fayth, so when they are freed towards the end, the dreaming ends and therefore Tidus 'fades away'. But in all honesty, FFX-2 was a bad game overall and was really only created to continue the story from FFX.

Also, the relationship and chemistry between Squall & Rinoa in Final Fantasy 8 is worth noting.

"Therefore, the "heroes" taking these courses of action are not in the least bit motivated out of love for their stricken spouses. They are seeking to counter a slight made against them personally, the destruction of one of their treasured possessions. It's an ugly macho white-knight justification for committing appalling acts of violence. "

I mean no offense to Yahtzee but I don't think that revenge is about someone who has taken "personal offence" by their treasured "possession" being killed & thus in need of satisfying their hurt ego... I also don't think it's grief due to the loss of a loved one which makes them seek some sort of closure for their tragic loss in the form of revenge.
It's about righting wrongs. I think it triggers a moral issue, about whether that person who killed his wife, will kill someone else... and therefore the right thing to do would be to kill that murderer.
Thus its not about closure or satisfying ones own ego, but justice. That is the all encompassing conscience of ours that can't abide by seeing murders (or rapists/pedophiles) walk free only to do it again. Killing evil is a tough, dangerous job that very few people would commit to, & even fewer have the actual characteristics necessary to be good at that sort of thing.

I'm not saying Kratos has a strong moral conscience, (he does have a lack of fear, and very little regard for his own personal safety which makes him a tough if not reckless killer), along with lots of anger/revenge for motivation... it's his own fault she was killed after all. But if it wasn't, like in Dom's case or almost every other case where revenge is concerned you understand that its got more to do than selfish desires. It's about Justice.

But anyway, back to the whole romance topic theres 3 main problems here:

1. Relationships require time to cultivate, and video games leave very little time for it because it's to busy throwing you into the gameplay.
* But like Yahtzee said, theres ways to put it in with the action, like a couple that fights side by side, helping each other, giving them a chance to talk, and show their actual chemistry together. This would make the player care about them & understand their characters.

2. Happy couples have no real conflict and that's not interesting. Therefore having all the jealousy/envy/fighting for affection, the things before a relationship starts is more interesting (presumably), I think established relationships can be interesting because it can make us care.

3. Believable romance is incredibly difficult to write and the games industry, at least, still has the excuse of, alot of the time, not been written by professional writers.. or having the writers content get cut up to shreds by game designers before it gets put in game, which can happen when there's time constraints involved.

I do feel that there's a great example in the Mass Effect series.

It starts off a bit oddly - one alien crewman essentially develops a fangirl crush on the protagonist. But that can actually unfold into a healthy, mutually-supportive relationship. It's especially nice that they get to go into battle together, which reinforces the whole partnership element.

It's probably the least sexual of the lot, given that she constantly wears an opaque helmet that she only removes off-camera. But the characters make up for it with their interactions, ranging from suggestive banter in front of squadmates, to knowingly-optimistic planning for a future they know will probably never come. It actually got me all nostalgic for the earlier days of my own relationship.

That all came to a head in the ending of ME3, in which the protagonist has to go sacrifice himself to save all organic life and stuff. The goodbye scene, with its heartrending voice acting, moved me to the brink of a single manly tear.
It even swayed me to pick the only ending that -didn't- unambiguously kill the protagonist, just to keep alive the possibility of their having a happy, peaceful future together.

BioWare made me care so much about these two characters' future together that [SPOILER] wiping out an entire robotic civilisation off-camera seemed a small price to pay. And that, I feel, excuses all manner of bugs and shitty mechanics.

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