Let me be clear: I don’t give much of a flying V about Valentine’s Day. Not that I don’t like romance or anything, I just don’t see the need for a specific day for me to proclaim my love for someone. But, in the interest of love and – let’s be honest – sex, I thought it appropriate to write a few words about love in video games.
Love, sex and all manner of relationships have been present in games from the beginning; Mario and Peach, Wander and Mono, Geralt and Yennefer, Femshep and Garrus (Any other choice is wrong.). Whilst some games present a singular canon love interest, many of the major franchises from the past two decades, from Final Fantasy to Dragon Age to The Witcher, has presented the player with a plethora of romantic interests, allowing for both hetero and homosexual relationships, as well as inter-species romantic conquests. Bioware has steadily mastered its romance and relationship procedures over the years, allowing everything from a casual romp on the table to a relationship that lasts an entire trilogy, mirroring what it’s like to have long-lasting relationship in real life – or perhaps the lack thereof companionship.
Games such as Dragon Age: Inquisition and the Mass Effect trilogy by Bioware present the player with a variety of companions that you can romance, though they are occasionally limited by your gender; Femshep has a distinct lack of long term relationship options, for example. This allows you to flirt with literally anyone and anything, fulfilling your polygamy-driven dreams of the black hole where your heart should me. I am currently trying to romance the eyepatch off Iron Bull in DA: I, whilst simultaneously trying to get Cassandra, Vivienne and Sera on board. The same could be said for Geralt in The Witcher 3: I romanced both Yen and Triss until I finally decided on Yen mid-way through the game, but I still shagged literally every other female character I could for the remainder of the game. There are brothels in the game, after all. But don’t try and romance Triss and Yen at the same time all the way to the end of the game because they will literally tie you up and you might die. Hell hath no fury…
Casual sex and non-labelled relationships are a common theme, too. A lot of the earlier FF games had relationships and love implied, but no real “action” or affirmation takes place; it’s down to the player’s interpretation. Then you have more obvious scenarios, like where Jack jumps your bones in the cargo hold of the Normandy and Broshep is not even a little bit mad. Consider for a moment, though, relationships like those that exist between Joker and Edi, and Cortana and Master Chief. OK – Edi has a physical robot body – but a relationship between a corporeal, human lifeform and an AI exists, whether there is a literal statement of love or any defining moment to cement that fact. I suppose it’s down to whether the player considers the AI to a purer intelligence than its name suggests and that they can feel love, or whether they are feeling a second-rate simulation of love so can never truly “love” anyone back.
But I digress: For me, relationships of any means enhance the plot of most games and they can often feel empty without them. Whether it’s a bromance, a polygamous mess or an endearing, long-lasting partnership, these relationships allow games to connect with us on a deeper level than cinema or television can. They reflect our insecurities, wants and needs; they allow us to act out fantasies, as well as develop a real connection to characters and plots. The Shakarian romance in the Mass Effect trilogy is probably one of the truest representations of love I’ve seen in any medium. There’s the friendship and getting-to-know-you stage, then the shameless flirting and sudden admission and realisation of “Oh Shit! She actually likes me!”. Then the god-awful stage of realising you might be a bit shit at sex and that you need to up your game, especially if it’s a cross-species liaison. But what I think is the most “real” aspect of the relationship is the genuine nervousness and fear that comes from Garrus, intertwined with sheer admiration and adoration for Shepard. You can see plainly that he loves her, body and soul, until the very end and it is a joy to watch him overcome those nerves and become the sniper rifle-wielding, pun-making, badass Turian we all know and love. And if you don’t know him, then you should be spending your V-Day watching the Femshep and Garrus romance videos on Youtube.
Valentine’s day extra for the ladies: Bathtub Geralt.
Who are your favourite video game couples? Comment, like and subscribe.