Can Romance Ever Really Be Done Effectively In Games?
I have always supported better writing, more complex storylines, and better developed characters in video games.
I support progression in those areas because I believe video games can aspire to more, can become truly artistic expressions in every sense of the word. However, when it comes to romance, I wonder if interactive entertainment is really the correct venue for that particular set of emotions.
Throughout the industry's history, we've seen some extraordinarily touching romantic scenes in games. In fact, one might argue that many of the most widely remembered and widely recognized have an element of romance to them, such as Cloud laying Aeris to rest in Final Fantasy VII. There are many other examples (the majority of which occurred in role-playing games, unsurprisingly) but all are mere glimpses; none quite manage to deliver a believable, effective human romance. I think the problem lies in the interaction; the inherent entertainment trait in gaming.
The problem is that even if developers and writers focus heavily on a romantic relationship, we will still spend most of our time playing. And there's little to no chance we're going to control the hug or the kiss or anything else; in addition to being limited due to obvious sexual content situations, it also wouldn't work. I really don't think we'll feel anything extra. Humans have enough trouble creating and cultivating intimacy...separation and detachment via electronics with only a controller in our hands probably won't be very effective.
And even if it is, our attention must return to the core gameplay. That interruption, which undoubtedly involves immersion in something completely different (perhaps even 100% opposite if it's all about action and death), really hinders romantic progress. It's why you really can't develop a beautiful romance in an action movie; it's why they're typically cliched and boring, or at the very least, stilted and bare. It just doesn't work. Furthermore, because the majority of our games involve some sort of action, developers will only be given a very rare opportunity to explore the depths of romance and love.
The project would have to be just right. Maybe only Quantic Dream's games would give us the best chance. After all, I think Heavy Rain was by far and away the most emotional title of the generation, because it really made us feel on a level all normal adults can appreciate. It made the love between a father and son a focal point and that really did work. But romantic love is different and if you didn't notice, the relationship between Ethan and Madison wasn't nearly as fleshed out. I think that's because Quantic Dream knew their limitations; they knew they couldn't have two very different love-based relationships work with the same intensity.
Anyway, at this point, I still say love outside the realm of reality is best depicted by the written word. Games can try, of course, but I can't envision much in the way of true success.
7/9/2012 8:54:27 PM Ben Dutka