Gaming · Subversion

Romance Options in Video Games

Gaming used to be a hobby for geeks, at a time when “geek” was an insult and not a label women threw around casually. Up to the early to mid 2000s, you would not have heard any woman addressing her friends with the words, “You are such a geek, Stacy!” To be a gamer, you had to have been a bona fide autist. Eventually, the people in charge of society realized that gaming made more money than music and movies combined, so geeks were out and degeneracy was in. One of the first big changes was in terms of stories. Instead of epic stories spanning galaxies or vast medieval kingdoms, it was more important to focus on who was banging whom in spaceships and castles.

I think that “romancing” entered gaming both in an attempt to appeal to a female consumer base and also because of women being involved in writing stories. Had women been around in the 1990s, the nameless hero of the first Diablo would have been busy shagging villagers, and the dystopian wasteland of Fallout would have been a mere backdrop for the sexual misadventures of the protagonist. I do not think that this is much of an exaggeration. Just look at how far Western gaming has degenerated over the years: the oh-so-fabulous Mass Effect primarily centered around interpersonal relationships, Geralt in The Witcher III gets sidetracked by one whore after another, and the party in Baldur’s Gate 3 is more concerned about getting it on with each other than pursing whatever the narrative goal of this game may be. It is often said that RPG elements, such as progression systems, are in more or less any game nowadays so that genre borders are no longer always obvious. I think that romance options are about as pervasive as RPG mechanics. It seems that basically every big-budget game nowadays has them. In modern gaming, it seems that many genres are converging to some kind of romance simulator, first straight but nowadays “trans” or gay.

I do not think that we need romance options at all. They are a complete distraction. To use a heavily abused word in current gaming discourse, I would argue that romance plots break “immersion”, assuming you are not playing some female-pandering shlock like The Sims. I get it, I get it: the kingdom, world, or galaxy is at stake, but our protagonist needs a good work/life balance too, so he or she needs to get laid, preferably with someone of the same sex, according to the currently dominant Western approach. Quite frankly, I don’t really get it. What is worse, you often cannot ignore romance options so this crap gets shoved in your face no matter what. This is surely one of the reasons why the powers that be love to subvert gaming. It is interactive, people spend a lot of time on it, and they are often emotionally very invested. Thus, what better way that to delight the player with some gay sex? Given the way things have been going, I wonder if gay sex and, more recently, trans sex and bestiality were always the end game. Gamers got some tits and ass in Mass Effect and thought that this was great content and a decade later they find themselves in Baldur’s Gate 3, with a wizard keen on sodomizing them, or a bear fucking their player character in the ass.

Outside of certain niches, games would be better without romance options. Sure, let the protagonist in “Being a D I K” — I have no idea how good this game is, but it is high on my list — have all the sex he wants. It is a key theme of the game, after all. However, I would appreciate if I could enjoy my adventures in fantastical virtual worlds without subversive sex scenes. With a bit of luck, this current trend will taper off, though. Yes, on the one hand, Baldur’s Gate 3 has been an astounding success, but on the other, some of the worst offenders in the past have been taking quite a beating, such as Ubisoft. If they keep doing what they have been doing, there won’t be a lot of gay sex in Assassin’s Creed anymore.

4 thoughts on “Romance Options in Video Games

  1. “I do not think that we need romance options at all”

    I personally could only recall a huge chunk of my experience with the romance genre in video games to be positive (there are definitely bad ones though. I consider the VN Shuffle! an awful experience,that I only persisted through when I was new to the genre because I really wanted to see Yandere Kaede happen like in the anime,but it never delivered that),so I’d have to disagree with you Aaron about this.

    I recommended Tsukihime: Remake earlier to you,but there’s an official PC release on the way for it. You’ll probably want your experience there rather than have to go through the trouble of tinkering with a Switch emulator.

    I would definitely be interested in your thoughts if you ever give it a go by then.

    Ever heard of the Grisaia series? I was tempted to recommend Fruit of Grisaia to you. I’m sure its artwork/visuals definitely more than meets your standard,with arguably one of the most “alpha” protagonist in the VN genre (he’s just a few steps below Rance). The issue however is that its definitely not casual-friendly,easily a massive time investment (one of the longest VN’s,and this is a genre that is filled with long entries as it is) and a slow start (unless you are REALLY in the mood for Slice-of-Life and humor) before you get to the action.

    If you can get through that hurdle though,I have a feeling the series would intrigue you.

    Of course,if you don’t count VN’s as “Video Games” (Quite a few people don’t,and I can understand why),then I do see where you’re coming from,because I cannot recall any memorable romance outside of the VN genre.

    I have a feeling your main point is the issue of FORCED romance in video games though,of which I definitely agree that this hurts games. I personally was not really a fan of the dating mechanic in GTA San Andreas for example. Completely unnecessary and it wouldn’t be missed at all had it been completely removed from the game.

    1. Indeed, this article is more about games with shoehorned-in romance plots, not games where romance essentially is the plot, like Tokimeki Memorial and other VNs. It is great to know that Tsukihime: Remake will come to PC. I have not bothered with Switch emulation yet, so this is very welcome news. Fruit of Grisaia has been sitting on my harddrive for about a week, by the way. It is the next VN I want to tackle.

      In terms of gaming, I recently finished the shmup Ginga Force on Normal, which unlocks Hard difficult, but that one is total b.s. Now I have moved on to Earth Defense Force 4.1, which is one of those games that I had been aware of for many years. It is surprisingly fun, even though it is an incredibly stupid game. If you do not know it, it is about fighting off an invasion of giant insects. There is nothing like it out there. The closest comparison are perhaps Musou games. I imagine it is the kind of game people play while drinking a few bottles of beer. It also goes really well with podcasts running in the background.

    2. Would definitely be interested in your thoughts once you get to Grisaia!

      I looked up Earth Defense Force 4.1. Man,I have not gotten excited over a video game in quite a long time. Actually,it reminded me that I have Vanquish in my Steam library. (which I haven’t opened in quite awhile. My mind’s been occupied by other things until now)

      I’ll finish Tsukihime Remake first,but after that,rather than go straight to another VN,I’ll probably finally give Vanquish a rundown next. After all the storyreading I’ve been doing in VN’s,I’m kinda craving for some action again in video games.

      Earth Defense Force is definitely on my list for later though. thankfully,it seems I’m at the point where I really only need to buy new games during the biggest sales occasions. It lets me nab a whole lot for such little costs when combined with bundle deals as I’ve already told. The only downside is that I’m probably never gonna completely finish my library in my life. Because I got other interests I wanna spend time on. Maybe I should stop buying bundle deals and just go for very specific games that interest me during these sales.

    3. EDF 4.1 is a very long game. I played through about 1/3 of the main campaign, at around which point the jank of the game flips from being amusing to seriously affecting your enjoyment. In earlier missions, e.g. if you get pushed back after firing a rocket launcher due to some collision detection issue, you chuckle and shrug as there are no real in-game consequences. However, in the later levels, such programming errors can leads to you getting flung into a horde of giant ants who stun-lock and kill you, it is tiresome. When the programming errors compound, the game is no longer as endearing. Based on what I read online, one approach is to farm better weapons by replaying earlier levels on higher difficulty settings, which may explain why some people spent hundreds of hours on this game. I think I still got my money’s worth. Based on what I read, EDF 5 has much improved gameplay. EDF 6 is already out in Japan, but I have not looked into it yet. I intend to check out EDF 5 sometime soon but first I will check out Fruit of Grisaia.

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