More Thoughts on Intimate Relationships in Video Games

We talked about this before, but there we looked at specific games and why intimate relationships couldn’t be too realistic, but today we’re going to look at a different aspect of it.  Today we’re going to question why complexities in relationships hadn’t really been seen before—pretty much now, actually.

In modern games like the Dragon Age series and a few others, the player has the option to enter into an intimate relationship with another character—complete with the nervousness at the beginning when the character feels something more for that person than friendship, the fumbling when feelings are expressed, the relief—even joy—when those feelings are returned, and the soul-crushing sadness when that love is taken away.

Most of the things that make up the roller coaster of a real-life relationship can be found in our games these days—so why hasn’t this happened before?  Why is it only in the last few years that intimate relationships are actually maturely dealt with?  I think a lot of this is that video games, themselves, weren’t seen as mature storytelling mediums until recently.

Look at Amy Rose from the Sonic the Hedgehog games.  For pretty much all of her existence, she’s been the “comedic foil” for Sonic, a pink, female hedgehog whose main goal in life is to “get” Sonic—and Sonic, of course, wants no part of it.  It’s a cycle of her doing things to impress him, him blowing her off, her chasing after him…

Or look at earlier, with Mario’s Princess Toadstool.  One could sort of say they had a relationship, since he went out of his way to get her back when Bowser got his hands on her.  But that’s still not any better than what we talked about last time—a relationship being nothing more than a thin reason for the protagonist to be in the situation the game puts him in.

This was considered all that was really “necessary”—and in some cases, already edging toward a “line” of what would be acceptable to show children (mind that games were firmly entrenched in the “just for kiddies” category at that time).

The problem with that is it does a disservice to the very idea of an intimate relationship—no matter what someone’s morals and ethics are, we have a few common threads in our beliefs about intimate relationships.  But more than that, we all share similar “starts” to a relationship—yet those were routinely denied gamers until only recently.

It rather defies reason when you think about it.  We had games like the Jurassic Park series, most of the titles for which were about a small group struggling to survive against bloodthirsty, intelligent predators.  That’s not exactly “kid-stuff” either, right?  Or it you really want an even more fantastical approach, take the Mortal Kombat series (and as we remember from our discussion on the Senate Hearings of ‘Ninety-Three, we know that was a cluster-frank).  Blood and violence out the wazoo—but that’s fine for a video game.

Why is that?  Why is violence—on its own and games featuring things like war stories and such—alright, but a mature take on relationships isn’t?  Well, that really goes into sociology and psychology, two sciences very much outside the scope of a video game blogging article, but even so, it’s something that should continue to be talked about.  Yes, it’s an old question, one raised for many years now—and it should continue to be raised.

Whenever we see our games treated with what one must in good conscience call hypocrisy, we must ask, “Why?”  Whenever we see our fellow gamers treated like they can’t “handle” one mature theme but should be fine with another, we must all ask, “Why?”

Some gamers have been asking that question for years already.  We need to keep asking it, and keep asking it until we get a satisfactory response.  Yes, this one aspect is changing, if slowly.  That change is welcomed, quite so—but hopefully it won’t be the last.  We just can’t stop asking questions.  We can’t stop trying to enact further changes.  Hopefully we can continue to get our games out of the kiddy section.


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