Love, Actually?

Dysfunctional relationships are part and parcel of modern life. In fact take the time to watch five minutes of any reality TV show, and you might not only begin to wonder if the concept of ‘Love’ is still alive in the 21 Century, you may struggle to understand how we can bear each other enough to procreate. Of course, as watching five minutes of a reality TV show could also lead you to ponder whether life itself is worth living I suggest you just take my word for it.

Video game characters sadly seem to suffer from similarly tortured romances. No longer is the princess being in another castle the barrier to a meaningful relationship; nowadays they have actually have psychological impediments to true happiness. Games are doing their part to dispel the fairytale images of love-at-first-sight and ‘the one’ and instead choose to foster our own deep-seated fears, repressed desires and inadequacies. Here I will take a look at some of the most prominent kinds of flawed relationships in gaming. It is unclear just how much influence these bleaker, more complex images of relationships will inspire in the minds of the young and impressionable. But for those planning for the future who wish to embark on a lucrative career I strongly suggest marriage guidance counseling.

The Codependents

These guys can’t get by without each other. And I mean that in the least flattering sense. Utterly devoid of independence, without their significant other hovering at their shoulder every waking moment of the day they would struggle to survive. But fate has a curious sense of humour when it comes to the codependents. Take the Prince and Elika for example. They make the odd couple look like chalk and a slightly different shade of chalk. He, a filthy but charming rouge, and she a cold ethereal princess.

Destiny aside, they are rationally speaking a poor match. A closer inspection of the prince would likely reveal enough donkey hair to stuff a mattress, some flecks of vomit after a heavy night out and plenty of DNA from the young prostitutes he cheekily alludes to throughout the game. As for Elika, well I have to admit that my knowledge of royalty from small principalities and kingdoms is fairly limited; but judging from my one source on the matter, the 1988 Eddie Murphy movie ‘Coming to America’, she has never had to take a bath alone, let alone dress herself. But as the witticisms and ripostes fly in their sparkling dialogues, it is hard not to root for this most unlikely of couples. After all, had these codependents never met, it certainly would have been a far shorter game. Without the helping hand of Elika the Prince would have plummeted off the first cliff he came to like a lemming attempting a long jump record. She on the other hand would have been recaptured, and spent the rest of her miserable existence bathing in milk and eating truffles while her father slowly morphed into an extra from a George Romero movie.

So despite the fact that the Prince is no doubt a disease riddled lothario (I’m guessing that in the period of time the game is set in contraception is rather rudimentary), Elika has to rely on him to survive. She should remember, there is no ‘I’ in team… but there are two in syphilis.

The Bromantics

Ah, the love that dare not speak its name. Bromance has existed in gaming since long before the detestable phrase was coined. You could go back to Bad Dudes for a glimpse at one of the most iconic bromantic games, but personally my fondest memory has to be from Contra 3. The first time my brother and I discovered that holding both shoulder buttons made the two bandana wearing, wife beater vest sporting, muscle-bound Arnie and Sly look-alikes adopt a masochistic pose was a historic moment. They stood there, legs akimbo, crotch thrust at the screen, arms held aloft in triumph carrying twin machine guns as the city burned to the ground around them. It was so brotacular that me and my brother high fived each other. Then, being British, we were so ashamed of this flamboyantly American display of exuberance that we shook hands to erase that act of impropriety.

Nowadays the obvious successors to the title of ‘best bromantic buddies’ clearly belongs to Messieurs Phoenix and Santiago. But their bromance has been documented by so many others that to add more conjecture would be meaningless. Nonetheless I will simply state that video games now have their Maverick and Goose. No prizes for guessing which is which.

The Self Lovers

Narcissists have always been some of the most interesting characters in any form of fiction, and gaming has more than its fair share. Frankly we could just put a picture of Bayonetta here and be done with the topic.

However when it comes to truly the greatest ‘self lover’ character in gaming, who could stand a chance when put head to head with the incorrigible Travis Touchdown? Scrap that, no one in the history of anything ever is a more brazen self lover. Whilst many repeatedly profess admiration for their own beauty (take a bow Vega), just how many people do you know who gain their powers from the most blatant act of self love? Playing as Travis, charging up his lightsaber is an action that is likely to be so familiar to men playing the game that they will probably grab a box of tissues after doing so as a muscle memory reflex. By the way. if your answer is that you do know someone who gains power from self gratification, I suggest that you never converse, make eye contact or come within several miles of that person. And if you want to reference obscure anime, I would recommend against doing so. For the sake of the internet.

The 90210s

Ah, Dragon Age. It turned into an episode of Dawson’s Creek, didn’t it? As a classic passive-aggressive psychopath I love to be loved. So in Dragon Age I buttered everyone up with compliments, listened to their very lengthy and angst ridden problems, and blew all my cash buying gifts in order to buy their affection. By the end of the game I had a camp site full of so much sexual tension and jealousy that dropping in a crate of vodka would have resulted in an orgy of epic proportions. Whilst I was only sleeping with Morrigan, it had gotten to the point where if I had a conversation with half of the party members it would result in a ‘It’s her or me’ ultimatum. Keen to avoid losing valuable allies at the climactic point of the game I would walk nervously through the stony silence of the camp, avoiding eye contact. The only thing I could do was shuffle up next to Sten and try to chat to the world’s least talented conversationalist, confident at least that he wouldn’t try and tongue me.

And before I move on entirely from that little drama, for a game with such a sophisticated conversation system, multifaceted characters and hard moral decisions that can affect the course of relationships it is slightly jarring that, contrary to what The Beatles sang, love can be bought. I was the most reprehensibly goody two-shoes, milk drinking and baby kissing gimp of all time in Dragon Age. I always tried to do the right thing. When I broke wind choirs of angels sang and pine breeze scented air freshener was released. And Morrigan hated me for it. Loathed me. Every word was drenched in sarcasm, every quip barbed with poison. But gosh darn it, I saved up every last trinket I could find, threw them all at her till she loved me and nailed that superficial hoebag. Score one for the good guys.

The ‘Holy Crap We Have Been Married For 30 years And All The Passion Has Gone From Our Relationship’ Romance

This generation has brought about one truly seismic shit in the nature of video game romance. It used to be all about the fantastical, the extraordinary, and the impossible. You could save exotic princesses and steal a kiss! Soar through the sky with a voluptuous beauty beside you! Enter a whole new world, you might say.

But now with the mighty power of the PS3 and Xbox 360 you can watch a movie silently with your girlfriend in your apartment! (The Darkness) Help lay the table for lunch! (Heavy Rain) and answer important phone calls when you are in the middle of more important and interesting things in order to discuss your relationship! (Grand Theft Auto 4)

Who knows what the next generation may hold; but with the power of Natal I’m hoping it involves accurate reading of body language. Then, finally, my dream of the New England WASP simulator might finally prove feasible. Fingers crossed.

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Written by Stevie L.

Stevie Lim is a man in Japan.

2 comments

  1. Rikard /

    I could be crude and suggest yet another; the “Don’t Tell Your Mummy About What We Do” Couples (Ace Attorney, Professor Layton, etc). But that would be stupid and soil a perfectly well-written article. Incredibly funny and observative!

  2. Robert L. /

    Hilarious. Loved the bit about Dragon Age especially.

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