There aren’t enough interesting games about people and the most intimate way they can spend their time: in a relationship. Very often, games are peripherally aware that people get together and very often, those steps toward getting together are sometimes charted in fumbling missteps that lead to pixelated lovemaking. It’s often pretty vapid and uninteresting. It’s also completely misrepresented.
Very often, the lady/man is at the end of the quest. Something to be won.
Sometimes, the lady/man is up front and you play the bad innuendo game all the way through.
But mostly, games want us to feel lust for the lady/man we’re after. They’re beautiful and sometimes eager and they feel no shame in being objects.
This isn’t the sort of game I’d like to see at all.
I’d like to see something with more substance.
Games That Get It Right
One game I’ve played gets it absolutely right: To the Moon is a complex, layered narrative that binds us to the protagonists through little things that we learn across their shared lifetimes.
As an example, we learn that Johnny loves pickled olives. We have no real idea of why. It’s just a layer in the complex lifetime that he lead with his wife, River. Much, much later, it’s revealed how that happened. And when we learn this, it hits us in an intense and emotional way. This is far more elegant and interesting than finding someone on the Normandy to conquer and go to bed with during the course of Mass Effect.
It isn’t quite the same, but Monkey Island has this thread running all the way throughout each game. It’s clear that Guybrush loves Elaine and that at the end of each adventure – or even during it – they will stick by each other regardless of what the evil Pirate LeChuck does to or with them. Naturally, this being a comedic series, it doesn’t take the sort of pains to show you the emotional twists and turns of their relationship, but obvious what Elaine and Guybrush feel for one another.
The final game I want to bring up before we talk about games I’d like to see [and which the industry would assuredly botch] is Passage. Passage is a short game – you can pick it up, play it and be done in five minutes. But during those five minutes, you choose your own path through passage – finding a wife is one of the things you can do. Growing old together is another thing that you can opt for. In fact, passage generally ends when your character dies. Passage is visceral and emotional and simple all at the same time. It encapsulates what we go through in this life.
A Book That I Would Like To See As A Game
A book that I love – and have read repeatedly, once a year since it came out is “The Fire Rose” by Mercedes Lackey. If you haven’t read it, it’s worth reading. If you have read it, you will recognize why I think this would be an interesting game.
The Fire Rose is set in 1905 – the middle of the Edwardian era. It is a mostly gentle spin on the Beauty and the Beast Fable in which the Beast is a rail magnate and the Beauty is an aspiring scholar. Rose is a great character – never a pushover, always interested in learning about the world around her and endearingly thoughtful, it would be a pleasure to enter the Beast’s castle and discover more about him – and fall for him – in a setting like this that uses Magick [as per the novel’s naming of the art] as an interesting backdrop.
Another great reason why this particular book would work so well this way is mirrored in To the Moon – there are lots of little incidental things that might be learned about this couple through spending more time with them than the book can possibly allow.
A Movie That I Would Like To See Done As A Game
One trope that has kind of vanished from our modern take on science fiction is the idea of a gentle alien visiting our planet and seeing the kind of horrors we subject ourselves to. There have been a handful of movies like this [the most notable last entry for this kind of thing was the bittersweet Paul – which didn’t really have romatic elements in it at all.] – as such, it would be amazing to see someone try and tackle the Jeff Bridges “Starman” in game form. [it would be even better if Jeff Bridges did the voiceovers in the game, too, but…]
Starman takes many different angles on the human race. Along the way, it deals with love as well. While it’s reading is a little on the simplistic side, it makes for an eye-opening few hours as we see ourselves through this gentle being’s eyes.
An Album That I Would Like To See Done As A Game
There are a lot of sappy love songs out there. And most of them only really go skin deep – they talk about falling in love, falling out of love, dealing withthe breakup. Some songs even have time for the protagonists to make up again and start over.
But very few albums truly cover the breadth and depth of a relationship from the time it starts to the time it dissolves. While Janelle Monae’s album[s] doesn’t necessarily do this, there is a lot of scope given the music already present for themes from those records to evolve into something interesting and dense that could be navigated as a computer game.
The ArchAndroid sequence of albums posits a future where androids exist and have feelings of their own. One such android discovers that she is in love with a human by the name of Sir Anthony Greendown. This sort of love is forbidden and she is destined to be scrapped. The music centres around this idea of the world and builds interesting soundscapes that are easy to simply fall into.
Of all the media I’ve listed so far, this is probably the easiest one to gamify, but anyone who had a hand in this particular project would have to try and steer clear of that temptation, because there is so much more to this premise than simply running away from Droid Control.
There’s a whole host of untapped potential for our game characters to have real relationships. It’s almost sad that we haven’t been pursuing this idea.