Sunday, 30 August 2009

Relationships in Games

I read an interesting article today and it got me thinking about some of my own experiences in gaming.

The article relates to sex in gaming and how it’s portrayed as a reward rather than an addition to a relationship. Now I won’t discuss it word for word for you, because let’s be honest... if you’ve heard one rant you’ve pretty much heard them all. Anyway the article discus’s the recent game Mass Effect (I haven’t played it) which after making correct dialogue decisions you can be *rewarded* with a pg-13 sec scene. Now in the comments there’s the usually shift between the decay of moral society to girls be hoes anyway, but I wanted to go over my own experiences of game relationships.

Now I’ll remind everyone here that when I play a game I tend to... add more things to it using the power of imagination. Now don’t jump the boat and say “He thinks these girls are real!” Of course I don’t... I just yearn for a good romance story once in awhile.... which to be honest most games can’t pull off.

I think the first time I did this was while I was playing the first Neverwinter Nights, a role-playing fantasy game. Now the story was pretty straightforward and didn’t involve a romance for the players character at all, but you could hire a henchman to help you on your journeys. That’s when my character met the girl. A travelling bard with magical powers, they went from good partners to flirty to an unsaid love. Now my character had no way of knowing if she felt the same way, and thanks to all the danger they faced on a daily bases he had no time to find out. Then we reached the end game... finally the villain was un-masked and his lair discovered... but there was a danger that once they entered they would never leave. So my character did what he thought was right.

He left her behind.

This added nothing to the game itself, none of this romance actually happened (Although she was a bit flirty in her actual conversations) and by leaving her there I actually lowered my chances of successes significantly... But it made sense, I could tell that’s what my character wanted to do. So as he thought his way through horrendous hordes it wasn’t just about saving a city... it was about protecting the one he loved.

Now that was a good story.

I actually did it again when Neverwinter Nights 2 came out but it went very differently. Now all the characters were new, even the one I played so it could go either way. Now my character was a normal farm boy pretty much... but as a world of mysteries and magic opened up before him he met a rather perky thief girl. Honestly I think he had a crush on her at the very beginning, but it would only be later that he’d realise his feelings (Like whenever she got in trouble, or gave a silly but fun idea everyone else was against). But see it gets complicated cause there’s this other girl. No there’s no clue whatsoever she has feelings for you, she’s rather aloof and unresponsive, but as you learn more about her... the hints begin to drop. She’s en elf so she lives a long time right? Turns out she’s been watching you since you were a baby, and I realise with horror that she’s the crazy stalker girl my mother always warned me about (Hehe).

Now even though her feelings are a bit clear, my characters heart already belongs to another. Now he says nothing to either one, cause they sort of have a very important mission ahead of them, and he tries his best not to lead the other girl on. But then the thief girl disappears.

Now I can’t exactly remember how it went down, but I believe we didn’t find out she had been kidnapped until late in the game (I suspected it). But this sort of left my character... I like say vulnerable... you’ll see why. Now picture this, you’ve finally gathered an army to set against the apparently un-killable enemy... If there not stopped here then everyone in the country could very well die... That’s alot of pressure right? ... So when the other girl basically pours her heart out the night before everything goes to hell... what do you suppose he did?

I’m afraid he buckled. He slept with her. She was so relived afterward and let her heart gush out, giving him kissers and calling him her ‘love’.

But... He didn’t love her back. I felt horrible after this, and knew.... knew it could only get really really awkward later on.

Luckily there wasn’t alot of time he could brood over this cause it was epic fight time. So after defeating some hordes and reaching the villains lair we actually find the thief girl there. Now the bad guys controlling her and is going to make her kill us... But I wasn’t having that, and thanks to their strong bond she’s able to brake free and rejoin the gang. The bad guy then goes to a few of your companions trying to get them to turn against you, and while I did lose two... I wasn’t really that connected to them.... and they were kinda douchbags anyway. So no big loss there.

The battles finally over and the big beast is defeated, but the building begins to fall apart, and at the end... its unsure who made it out alive and who died...

Now thanks to the expansion pack I actually got to learn what happened to some of the characters. To my characters relief the thief made it out alive... but the other girl... she died protecting me from falling debris...

You have avoided awkwardness!
You got hit by shame! Critical hit!

Yeah... I felt kinda like a complete douche for feeling better about the thief’s survival then I felt bad for the other girls death... gripping stuff. If it makes you feel better at the end he basically gets no one and has to be a warrior *forever*. If you’re not happy with that, let me just say his fate could have been far far worse.

What’s interesting is that in the game there is no romance possible between you and the thief girl, and you’re clearly supposed to have a relationship with the other girl only. But come on... crazy stalker girl? Or a girl who likes to go out and have fun (and steal things)?

See how you deal with these situations in games depend solely on the player, the designer might have a clear idea how it’s supposed to go... but with a little imagination you can make it far more compelling and interesting then they were ever willing to make it. Do I see sex as a reward? No, I see it as a natural part of a deepening relationship... and something full of deep shame, Hahaha.

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