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Romance in Video Games

themocawthemocaw Registered User regular
edited December 2007 in Games and Technology
So Robert Heinlein once said that true happiness comes from "Loving a good woman and killing a bad man." Video games seem to give a lot of the latter, not much of the former: probably because it's societally encouraged to get married and have kids in real life, but not so much so to kill people, even bad people.

Even so, games tend to do romance really frikkin' badly. You got your Japanese "love-sim" games which tend to have the same insipid plot (Faceless Gary-Stu male protagonist hits on and scores (to varying degrees) with various incarnations of stereotypes), or the more laughable romance subplots from RPGs, which tend to revolve either around "look at these beautiful people being beautiful together" or "The main character is in love with this girl because the plot says so."

Honestly, the only games I've seen so far that did romance in any way effectively were Baldur's Gate 2 and Final Fantasy VIII. Even BG2 wasn't perfect because, ya know, the girls tended to be a bit irritating at times. Aerie was a whiner, Jahiera was just mean, and Val-whatever, although fun, was a bit bleh. But the romance was done well nonetheless because the relationships had a plot beyond "Hey, I'm falling in love with you because the plot says so and/or you brought me nice things." There was an actual story there.

Final Fantasy VIII did it well too, but not Squall and Rinoa. Squall and Rinoa were bleh. I'm talking Laguna. Laguna's story was awesome. First because he never got with the obvious love interest: he and Julia never got together, which is where it looks like it's headed at the beginning of his story. And then there's Raine, whose story was awesome mostly because they weren't hormone ridden kids: they were grown-ups with grown-up concerns. That was pretty refreshing.

Thoughts? Am I wrong? Am I right? Or am I wasting my time thinking about stuff that has no real bearing on real life? In before "OMG GET A GIRLFRIEND U LUSER."

themocaw on
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    XagarathXagarath Registered User regular
    edited December 2007
    Baldur's Gate 2, Planescape: Torment, Ico and Tsukihime do it well.
    That's basically it.

    Xagarath on
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    CherrnCherrn Registered User regular
    edited December 2007
    The Mass Effect romance is pretty laughable. At least the one with Liara - three conversations and you're in the sack. The love scene was pretty well done, though.

    I don't think any videogame romances have resonated with me. Although Deionarra in Planescape was a very compelling female counterpart. She wasn't as important to the plot as the NPC romances, though.

    Cherrn on
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    Sharp10rSharp10r Registered User regular
    edited December 2007
    Remember fable? I'd love to see that, with plot development with the woman, pull my heartstrings and make me care about protecting her, keeping her around, and coming home. It'd be interesting, if I had to tell the wife when to expect me back from a certain mission, and depending on the trust built in the relationship, she would either be mad I was late, or gather some villagers or something to come look for me and back me up if I was late. *shrugs* You're right, it's rarely been done right in a game.

    Sharp10r on
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    BlackjackBlackjack Registered User regular
    edited December 2007
    Yuri and Alice in Shadow Hearts 1 were done pretty well.

    And I know this will get a lot of flak, probably, but I really liked the development of Tidus/Yuna, too.

    Blackjack on
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    KhavallKhavall British ColumbiaRegistered User regular
    edited December 2007
    Video game romances fill the horrible void in my life that comes from my inability to get any real relationship.

    Khavall on
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    XagarathXagarath Registered User regular
    edited December 2007
    Blackjack wrote: »
    Yuri and Alice in Shadow Hearts 1 were done pretty well.

    And I know this will get a lot of flak, probably, but I really liked the development of Tidus/Yuna, too.

    My problem is that they were a romance between two characters that you watched, and failed to involve the player.
    Hence the 4 I posted.

    Xagarath on
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    The_ScarabThe_Scarab Registered User regular
    edited December 2007
    I want Will Wrights battlefield romance game from a few GDCs ago.

    at least i think it was will wright.

    The_Scarab on
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    fkn creepfkn creep Registered User regular
    edited December 2007
    Romance in video games: embarassing for all involved. Just stick to letting me pop people's heads off, devs, unless I also get to kill my significant other ala GTA.

    fkn creep on
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    LewiePLewieP Registered User regular
    edited December 2007
    ICO taught me how to love again.

    Edit: Added "again" for historical accuracy.

    LewieP on
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    namelessnameless Registered User regular
    edited December 2007
    I said something about this in the Mass Effect thread. Although I greatly appreciate the fact that the game included a "lesbian" alien/human romance, I generally found those subplots to be kind of lacking in development. If you're going to make it part of the story (and I think it has its place in an RPG--I mean if it was me in space, I'd sure as hell be trying to sleep with someone), at least make it somewhat believable. I get it, Sheperd is a Spectre and is super charismatic. Great. But just because I listen to you yammering on about your family you want me to bone you now? Too bad relationships don't work like that in real life...

    ...or do they?

    Dammit I need to play Planescape I guess.

    nameless on
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    ThelloThello Registered User regular
    edited December 2007
    Xagarath wrote: »
    Baldur's Gate 2, Planescape: Torment, Ico and Tsukihime do it well.
    That's basically it.
    Uh, Ico doesn't really have any romance in it unless you figure "guy holding girl's hand" is romantic.

    There has never been, at least in what I've played, a well-written romance. The industry has not really reached that point, and most attempts have been pretty crummy ala Mass Effect.

    Edit: To be fair, Planescape's is okay simply because the rest of the game's dialogue is so well-done, but it still shoehorns it in regardless of your decisions.

    Thello on
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    XagarathXagarath Registered User regular
    edited December 2007
    Thello wrote: »
    Xagarath wrote: »
    Baldur's Gate 2, Planescape: Torment, Ico and Tsukihime do it well.
    That's basically it.
    Uh, Ico doesn't really have any romance in it unless you figure "guy holding girl's hand" is romantic.

    There has never been, at least in what I've played, a well-written romance. The industry has not really reached that point, and most attempts have been pretty crummy ala Mass Effect.

    Edit: To be fair, Planescape's is okay simply because the rest of the game's dialogue is so well-done, but it still shoehorns it in regardless of your decisions.

    Romance is all Ico is.

    it's just, y'know, implied.

    Xagarath on
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    cj iwakuracj iwakura The Rhythm Regent Bears The Name FreedomRegistered User regular
    edited December 2007
    For a game that was reputedly 'focused' on love, I thought VIII was awful in that regard.

    Xenogears and FFIX had better 'love' stories than VIII did.

    Odin Sphere has some good segments, but it's highly dramatized, so it's not for everyone.

    Overall, I think FFIX, mainly for having the most heart-warming ending ever.

    I would say Digital Devil Saga 2, but...
    Gale and Angel is more like Romeo and Juliet.

    cj iwakura on
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    FantasyrogueFantasyrogue Registered User regular
    edited December 2007
    I'm still peeved at Baldur's Gate for making Anomen the only romance option for female characters. Anomen.. seriously? Well, atleast he gets better later on.. and he hasn't got a dead wife and/or dead (or alive) kids hanging around in his past somewhere.

    Maybe it's because I'm a woman, but I appreciate a romance subplot. It's an extra dimension one can add to a story if done well. I'd like to see it be a bit more involved, make you care for this character (make it have an impact on parts of the story). Sadly, the way many games do it, I end up caring more for npcs that are my friends than the potential romance npc.

    Fantasyrogue on
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    BlackjackBlackjack Registered User regular
    edited December 2007
    cj iwakura wrote: »
    I would say Digital Devil Saga 2, but...
    Gale and Angel is more like Romeo and Juliet.
    Except they kill each other instead of themselves.

    Blackjack on
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    themocawthemocaw Registered User regular
    edited December 2007
    Good point. Bioware seems to have a history of having some really bland male love interests: Carth, for one, and the above-mentioned Anomen for another. Haer'Dalis, now he would have been a fun guy to have as an alternate love interest. His interactions with Jahiera and the rest of the party had me in stitches.

    themocaw on
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    FlavabeanFlavabean Registered User regular
    edited December 2007
    Oh man you guys, this thread reminds me of the awkward relationship with your girlfriend in Shenmue

    "Ryu...Hello..."
    "I'm busy."
    "I understand...bye...ryu."

    Flavabean on
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    DrunkMcDrunkMc Registered User regular
    edited December 2007
    Blackjack wrote: »
    Yuri and Alice in Shadow Hearts 1 were done pretty well.

    And I know this will get a lot of flak, probably, but I really liked the development of Tidus/Yuna, too.

    Def. Yuri and Alice. It was so good that it made two so god damn fantastic because of his regret. And still one of the best endings in a video game ever.

    DrunkMc on
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    themocawthemocaw Registered User regular
    edited December 2007
    Flavabean wrote: »
    Oh man you guys, this thread reminds me of the awkward relationship with your girlfriend in Shenmue

    "Ryu...Hello..."
    "I'm busy."
    "I understand...bye...ryu."

    Or Rose from MGS2

    "Jack, I'm pregnant."

    "Thanks, honey. That's really what a guy in the middle of a delicate covert operation to save the free world needs right now, more weight on my shoulders and things to worry about. Why not tell me my mom has cancer while you're at it?"

    themocaw on
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    Local H JayLocal H Jay Registered User regular
    edited December 2007
    Blackjack wrote: »
    Yuri and Alice in Shadow Hearts 1 were done pretty well.

    And I know this will get a lot of flak, probably, but I really liked the development of Tidus/Yuna, too.
    FLAK.

    But i think the KOTOR relationships were interesting, insofar that i actually felt bad when i killed the alien chick.

    Local H Jay on
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    JihadJesusJihadJesus Registered User regular
    edited December 2007
    You know what's really sad? In the best love story I can think of in gaming to date, half of the coupling is dead the entire time.

    God I love SotC. I need to get a functional PS2 and play it again.

    JihadJesus on
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    UncleSporkyUncleSporky Registered User regular
    edited December 2007
    Mario and the princess: the greatest romance ever told.

    UncleSporky on
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    RialeRiale I'm a little slow Registered User regular
    edited December 2007
    Blackjack wrote: »
    Yuri and Alice in Shadow Hearts 1 were done pretty well.

    And I know this will get a lot of flak, probably, but I really liked the development of Tidus/Yuna, too.
    FLAK.

    But i think the KOTOR relationships were interesting, insofar that i actually felt bad when i killed the alien chick.
    I love that the player named Tidus Baboon in that clip.

    And yeah, in my opinion FFX was one of the worst romance (or heck, even people interaction) subplots I've seen in a game. Maybe it would have been better with the japanese voices. Man, so many awkward moments that were supposed to be 'heartwarming'.

    Riale on
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    HenroidHenroid Mexican kicked from Immigration Thread Centrism is Racism :3Registered User regular
    edited December 2007
    Y'know what truly deep video game romance is?

    "HA. HA. HA. HA. HA."

    Edit - Son of a bitch, beaten. But I was funnier.

    Henroid on
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    BlueBlueBlueBlue Registered User regular
    edited December 2007
    I hear there is romance in WoW.

    BlueBlue on
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    reVersereVerse Attack and Dethrone God Registered User regular
    edited December 2007
    Max Payne 2 was pretty good about the romance.

    reVerse on
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    KageraKagera Imitating the worst people. Since 2004Registered User regular
    edited December 2007
    If I had to choose one romance that affected me more than anything it would have to be Cloud and Aeris from FFVII. I mean, I CRIED WHEN AERIS DIED.
















    I'm just kidding. God, could you imagine?

    Anyway, Xenogears probably had the coolest romance of all in my opinion, I can't really think of any other game that had characters I cared about as much. Gabriel Knight and Grace Nakamura from the GK games and the main characters of Silent Hill 2 for honorable mentions.

    Kagera on
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    HenroidHenroid Mexican kicked from Immigration Thread Centrism is Racism :3Registered User regular
    edited December 2007
    BlueBlue wrote: »
    I hear there is romance in WoW.

    Cyber love is the only kind of love. "eat me out plz"

    And yes, I was told that on an RP server. I don't think they appreciated me playing dumb for the next ten minutes.

    Henroid on
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    RookRook Registered User regular
    edited December 2007
    I think Neverwinter Nights 2 had some interesting ideas. Although, the male love interest was the most laughably awful thing ever. Mask of the Betrayer had some pretty dreamy characters.

    Also, first page and no-ones mentioned Alyx Vance?

    Rook on
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    BlackjackBlackjack Registered User regular
    edited December 2007
    Rook wrote: »
    I think Neverwinter Nights 2 had some interesting ideas. Although, the male love interest was the most laughably awful thing ever. Mask of the Betrayer had some pretty dreamy characters.

    Also, first page and no-ones mentioned Alyx Vance?
    The Druid lady isn't much better.

    My kingdom for Sand and Neeshka as options.

    Edit: I am also of the opinion that any player chosen romance should be available for any and all genders.

    Blackjack on
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    KageraKagera Imitating the worst people. Since 2004Registered User regular
    edited December 2007
    Blackjack wrote: »
    Yuri and Alice in Shadow Hearts 1 were done pretty well.

    And I know this will get a lot of flak, probably, but I really liked the development of Tidus/Yuna, too.
    FLAK.

    But i think the KOTOR relationships were interesting, insofar that i actually felt bad when i killed the alien chick.


    Which alien chick? Juhani or Mission? Because I remember having Mission's wookie friend kill her when I went bad side and even though she was annoying as hell it did make me feel kinda bad.

    But then I got to kill Carth at the very end and that made up for it all.

    Kagera on
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    Steel AngelSteel Angel Registered User regular
    edited December 2007
    themocaw wrote: »
    Good point. Bioware seems to have a history of having some really bland male love interests: Carth, for one, and the above-mentioned Anomen for another. Haer'Dalis, now he would have been a fun guy to have as an alternate love interest. His interactions with Jahiera and the rest of the party had me in stitches.

    HK-47's impersonations of Bastilla and Carth in KOTOR2 are a wonderful illustration of how shallow the romantic element was in that game. Having decided that Revan was male and evil during KOTOR2's prologue, many, many hours later I was treated to HK-47 synthesizing Bastilla's voice and the line "I hate you and everything you stand for. Now kiss me!"

    Steel Angel on
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    I found that tilting it doesn't work very well, and once I started jerking it, I got much better results.

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    KageraKagera Imitating the worst people. Since 2004Registered User regular
    edited December 2007
    Henroid wrote: »
    BlueBlue wrote: »
    I hear there is romance in WoW.

    Cyber love is the only kind of love. "eat me out plz"

    And yes, I was told that on an RP server. I don't think they appreciated me playing dumb for the next ten minutes.

    Back in the early days of SWG I remember someone with a female avatar offering to 'cyber' with my male Twi'lek for 25,000 credits. I thought it was ridiculous but then I rolled a female character and people would tip me thousands of creds for dancing in the cantina. Way more than anything a male dancer would get at least. Then there'd be gifts sent to me and that's when I decided to delete that character, it was getting creepy.

    Kagera on
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    UncleSporkyUncleSporky Registered User regular
    edited December 2007
    Henroid wrote: »
    Y'know what truly deep video game romance is?

    "HA. HA. HA. HA. HA."

    Edit - Son of a bitch, beaten. But I was funnier.

    Yeah, you have a whiny-voiced numbskull and a breathy, wishy-washy dork, and they have small talk about five times on the worst subjects and suddenly it's ROMANCE

    Of course the game is fun, but anything that tried to be cute or endearing was practically scarring. I can remember like five scenes right now that were just terrible and seared into my mind forever.

    UncleSporky on
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    VeritasVRVeritasVR Registered User regular
    edited December 2007
    Kagera wrote: »
    Anyway, Xenogears probably had the coolest romance of all in my opinion, I can't really think of any other game that had characters I cared about as much.

    This is my opinion as well. The story between Fei and Elly was pretty amazing, and thus became the only romance in a video game that I actually cared about.

    VeritasVR on
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    ChopperDaveChopperDave Registered User regular
    edited December 2007
    JihadJesus wrote: »
    You know what's really sad? In the best love story I can think of in gaming to date, half of the coupling is dead the entire time.

    God I love SotC. I need to get a functional PS2 and play it again.

    Word.

    I hate pointing to a FF game, but I think Balthier/Ashe was handled pretty well. Not in your face, sometimes even pretty subtle - you have to look to their mannerisms and speech around each other in the few character development scenes you get. At the end of the game it does suffer a bit from "In case you thickheads missed the understated build-up, we'll make it obvious for you!"-itis, but it still works pretty well throughout. I especially like how he couldn't get the girl because of social/political barriers, knew it, and did the next best thing he could for her, all before she even realized how she felt about him. It was a good arc.

    Can't think of any good video games where the romantic element is integral to the game/plot besides SotC and Ico, though. Most of the time it's just a tangent, absurd/silly, or both.

    ChopperDave on
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    Kate of LokysKate of Lokys Registered User regular
    edited December 2007
    Here's the trouble with romance in video games:

    Different people find different things attractive.

    Graphical appearance, voice acting, and personality (as shown through scripted dialogues and reactions) all combine to create a fairly distinct impression of each character, assuming the game is more detailed than, say, an NES RPG. And that impression will be a little bit different for everyone who plays the game.

    It's hard enough for game designers to come up with protagonists that characters can identify with. I mean, that's a problem all on its own, really, and it tends to be dealt with in one of two ways: either they let the player determine as much about the character as possible (name, appearance, etc, as in games like KoTOR or Baldur's Gate), or they go to great lengths to define the character ahead of time: "Look, you're this spiky-haired emo guy with a gunblade, it says that right on the box, if you don't want to be him don't buy it."

    But coming up with a romantic interest that people care enough about to bother going through the, uh, proverbial dialogue options with... that's really, really difficult. Bioware tried to work around it with multiple romance options for male characters in BGII, with some success - if you thought Aerie was a limp-wristed whining Barbie doll (like I did), maybe Jaheira's "don't fuck with nature or I'll gut you like a fish and feed your viscera to needy wolverines" schtick would appeal to you more (which it did). Otherwise, the romantic interests are just blanded down to the point of maximum compatibility, like Carth, or left deliberately understated and implied.

    Romances work in movies and books because the viewer/reader isn't involved in the story. They aren't asked what the characters should say to each other, or where the hero should go next, or how to react when the party runs into a scripted ambush. Instead, they can just watch and enjoy, trusting the actions and expressions of the characters in the narrative to tell them how to feel. Oh, Slab Hardchest feels his breath catch in his throat every time Belle D'Amour walks in the room? OK, he's either allergic to her perfume, or they're going to end up in the sack, so I should be rooting for the latter to happen. But when a character I find grating has been whining at me all fucking game about how torn-up he is about his past relationship, then comes out with "Oh wait this is the part where I confess that I love you, [CHARNAME]!", I profoundly fail to be moved by that.

    tl;dr: romances in games can occasionally work if they're handled with exceptional skill, but by and large, they suck because one player's wet dream is another player's shrieking harridan, and not just in the physical senses. When you're actually playing the role of the protagonist, you just can't make yourself fall in love with [obvious romantic interest] if they're not your type, and there are too many types out there for companies to reliably cater to everyone.

    Kate of Lokys on
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    BlackDoveBlackDove Registered User regular
    edited December 2007
    Don't know, I thought the romance in Metal Gear Solid 1 was pretty good, between Snake and Meryl.

    And also, realistic, due to it not being there in MGS2 due to Snake's drinking and general disregard for anyone else in his life. But the whole "love blossoming even on the battlefield", on a basic short term basis, I thought worked very nicely.

    In the confined space of the mission, with the set rules and limitations, the mutual care for a comrade having chance to be something more (as it turns to move there) and the dual endings with you as Snake breaking or not breaking during the torture defining whether love will endure for another round, I found really great.

    They did have a lot of help from the Family Psychiatrist, Psycho Mantis though.

    Dunno, maybe it was just me. Thought it was done well.

    BlackDove on
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    ChopperDaveChopperDave Registered User regular
    edited December 2007
    I think what makes Ico and SotC in this regard is that you really know nothing about either character, besides that they care deeply for each other. It's convincing even in its simplicity, and allows the player to come up with his own story and reasons for why the two are involved with each other. In turn you, as the player, get really involved with the characters and the quest, both because you are controlling the action and because you have sort of vicariously placed yourself within the lead. It's a cool effect.

    ChopperDave on
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    UncleSporkyUncleSporky Registered User regular
    edited December 2007
    The best romances in video games are

    a) the understated ones between minor characters wherein the romance is not their primary focus (Steiner and Beatrix in FF9 is a favorite example of mine)

    b) when the romance is in the background and more about everyday love than the falling in love part. Like watching a married couple who clearly care about each other a great deal.

    UncleSporky on
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