It is fair to say that videogames have something of a penchant for death , but what emergent medium doesn’t? It’s a facet of life by which humans have been fascinated since the dawn of time – brutal images painted even on the walls of prehistoric caves and stories of viciousn’Pconquests celebrated by Vikings.
Yet there’s a flipside to this bloodstained coin. We’re also fascinated by the antithesis: love, creation and sex. Movies and literature have these aspects of the human condition more or less nailed down, but barriers such as technical limitations, the Uncanny Valley, and the industry’s ‘immature’ stigma mean videogames aren’t quite there yet. But we’re trying.
Mass Effect is one game that attempts to accurately capture the connection that occurs in a developing relationship. There’s an element of choice involved: you can pick the character you’re most interested in and learn their history, their personality, and what makes them tick. It culminates in one of gaming’s most mature approaches to sex, one that’s not gratuitous but rather grounded in the love and character development that preceded it. Unless Fox News is to be believed, of w- course, in which case it’s a sordid scandal designed to corrupt children’s minds.
From Mortal Kombat to Manhunt to God Of War, videogames have mastered the art of violence over the years, easily capturing the spurt of blood from a severed artery of the lifeless tumbling of a decapitated head. That’s the easy part. A far more daunting task is effectively portraying the touching subtleties and ambiguous emotions born of love. ‘co manages to do so without the benefits of advanced technology, its minimalist style conveys Ice and Yorda’s bond through simple yet poignant animations. The environment’s lonesome aura only serves to reinforce the lead characters very tangible union.
The Sims 2 is life in microcosm: babies are born, they develop personalities, they feet happiness, pain and sadness, they get jobs, they grow old, and they die. Maxis must be commended for filling this chain of events with limitless scope for possibility and the telling of stories, particularly the emergence of love. It’s incredibly touching, for example, seeing two childhood friends find each other again in adult life, their attraction blossoming into all-out romance. Yes, The Sims boils the complexity of emotion down to numbers, but it still conveys undeniable warmth in the interaction between its characters.
METAL GEAR VI. SOLID SERIES
Whether or not Kojima is a good storyteller depends on the player. Some find his incessant use of cut-scenes and convoluted plot digressions unnecessary annoyances, white others enjoy the grand symphony of his character-driven storylines. Those who fall into the Latter category will surely agree that Kojima’s template offers plenty of scope to explore the theatrical individuals. The fatherly romance of Snake and Meryl, Raiden and Rose’s unsure commitment, Otacon’s unrequited love for Sniper Wolf, the bond between Big Boss and The Boss. In many ways, Metal Gearis an exploration of love and the infinite number of forms it can take.
FINAL FANTASY VIII
The ill-starred relationship of Cloud and Aeris is the one most garners remember – those who played it hurt as much by the death of the young flower girl as the protagonist himself. Yet this love was a smaller part of a larger story, Final Fantasy VIII made love its very thematic essence. Mass Effect may allow a degree of choice in its development of romance, but FF VIII mastered its telling through set narrative. Squall and Rinoa’s romance is an epic story, Squall repeatedly saving her from the likes of evil lizards, the depths of outer space, and sorceresses prisons.
HALF LIFE 2
Probably gaming’s greatest will they-won’t-they relationship. Gordon and Alyx’s budding romance is forever hinted at yet never referred to directly. It’s mentioned in passing by other characters, Eli Vance saying, with a wink, that the pair should “do their part” now the suppression field’s gone down. It’s more subtly referenced through Alyx’s facial expressions – her worried features and concern for Gordon’s safety in times of peril. When she’s impaled in Episode 2you feel Gordon’s pain, experiencing the shock of someone you’re attached to having her life put so abruptly in the balance.
Love may not immediately spring to mind when you think of Star breeze Studios’ adaptation of The Darkness. Rather, it’ll likely be eating the hearts of your enemies and skulking in shadows. Yet there’s tenderness to the game evidenced in its opening chapters. When visiting his girlfriend Jenny, hit man Estacado sits down to watch To Kill A Mocking Bird, Jenny cuddling up next to him on the couch. It’s a wonderful snapshot of human affection, one you can allow to linger until you command Jackie up from the sofa, and one that makes the game’s events all the more shocking.
PRINCE OF PERSIA
The Prince’s headstrong arrogance always manages to rub his female companions up the wrong way. Ubisoft’s reboot of the series captured this dynamic better than ever, with Elika and the Prince attracted to and irritated by each other in equal measure. In particular, Elika, who is regal, poised, and dignified, is often frustrated by her own attraction to the Prince, a gruff, rude and impetuous man. It’s love Indiana Jones style and all the more refreshing for it.
BALDUR’S GATE II: SHADOWS OF AMN
A precursor to BioWare’s attempts at crafting interpersonal relationships in Mass Effect, Baldur’s Gate also allowed complex romantic interaction with the characters that populated its world. Each is wonderfully individual: the vain and boastful Anomen; the authoritarian Jaheira with her superiority complex; Viconia De Vir, persecuted because of her race and fated to be burned at the stake. The childish yet intelligent Aerie offers a romance that will continue into the Throne Of Bhaal expansion, in which she will give birth to the protagonist’s child if you play your cards right.
Now, we’ve done some pretty tough things in our time. We’ve prevented an ancient race of robots from destroying the universe, we’ve fended off a Daedric invasion, and we’ve survived battles with 16 towering colossi that loomed over our heads. Yet none of it compared to the emotional turmoil we experienced when faced with one simple task: euthanize the Weighted Companion Cube. After all we’d been through, the trials and tribulations we’d experienced, and the cube’s undying enthusiasm to assist us in any way, throwing the little fella into the emergency intelligence incinerator felt like the most unfaithful thing we’ve ever done. Sorry, Weighted Companion Cube. We miss you.