Posts Tagged ‘Relationships’

Relationships in Video Games – Time to Evolve

Dragon Age Origins Morrigan

Recently a rather interesting conversation broke out at Polish the Console about video games and relationships. While Kat has a less than secret crush on BioWare (and by crush I mean stalking)  I have found myself with a wanting for something more. Maybe it was playing a video game with the adult themes of Catherine that got me thinking about this but isn’t it time our relationships in video games grew up?

When I say “the adult themes” I don’t mean the sexual nature of the relationship. What I mean is the importance placed on the relationship and the value that it possesses and the effects that these relationships have on the outcome of the game. As a video gamer I want my game to have real consequences to my actions. In BioWare video games the only real consequence to a relationship is “I don’t get to see the sex scene with that other character” and anymore let’s be honest what are we really missing?

mass effect 2 mirands

Behold! The awesome rewards of a relationship...

Now to preface this let me just say that this does not have anything to do with writing or emotional attachments to NPCs. One thing I will never criticize or bemoan in any way is the writers ability to genuinely make me care about my party members. Who among us hasn’t agonized over one stupid little decision in a game that, in reality, had no real bearing on the outcome of the game? What I mean is that in games like Dragon Age: Origins and Mass Effect the relationships you enter into make little real and meaningful difference to the outcome of the game. You can still have a 98% identical experience in the game without a relationship; all you miss out on is a little smooching and a few dialogue options that will still give you the same ending anyways. While you may personally feel more passionately towards the outcome based on your emotional connection with the characters, you could still arrive at that outcome without being in that relationship.  In Dragon Age: Origins being in a relationship with Morrigan or Alistair does not mean you will live or die. It does not mean anything other than a small chunk of text at the end of the game.

In my life I am a 31 year old married man. I have a wife, two dogs, house, and no picket fence. I genuinely enjoy my life. However I look at my companions: my college friends, work friends, people I meet. I see my wife and my dogs and the life I have chosen. If this were Mass Effect 2 I could very easily flirt with my companions who were willing and suffer no real ill effects. If this were Dragon Age II then I could literally flirt with everyone I shared more than a passing conversation with regardless of sexual orientation and it would be okay.

In my real life I can almost certainly promise you that if I were to flirt with the girl at the local GameStop my wife would not be at all happy with me. In fact I would think that what would ensue would be a 4 hour impassioned apology from me and a well deserved lifetime of distrust from her.

But there’s more than just my ability (okay let’s be honest I have no ability I got lucky) to flirt with people. I have chosen a companion that I will put before all others. In my relationship I have said “I choose your missions before anyone else’s.” I looked my wife dead in the eyes and said “I voluntarily choose to miss out on a cornucopia of potential companion missions with friends and acquaintances to forge life with you and do your missions.” She then gave me a sword. Dead serious. She had a custom forged katana made for me. I’m that lucky. She also had my wedding ring made from sword. Again I’m very serious. She knows me.

Miranda Mass Effect 2

She's not even shooting something because for me.

In Mass Effect 2 when you choose to be with Miranda Lawson all you miss out on is a sexy video with another crew member and bit of “I want to be with you” dialogue. You still get to do all of their deep companion missions. You still get to fully complete the game. Hell Miranda doesn’t even give you anything that helps you. Come to think of it when you gain her allegiance SHE’S the one that gets something. They all do. Why didn’t we get a fancy new suit? We’re the ones risking out asses to help your families. Where’s my fancy pants?

But more than this nobody seems to care that you’re potentially in a relationship. In Dragon Age: Origins when Morrigan gives you a ring or Alistair and you become Ferelden Royalty what really changes? Do you miss out on any part of the game because you’re in a relationship?

This is what I mean by adult themes. It is the decisions that have significant weight in the world. It is saying “Yes I want this. This is my decision and there is no going back, there is no middle ground, and I have to stick through this.” In Catherine it was the seemingly inane questions that created a very black or white picture of the world. Ultimately you decided between Catherine or Katherine. That was your decision, it sucked, it was difficult, and it was one of the most gratifying and real experiences that I have had in gaming all year, because of the consequences.

This is what other games need to bring in. Make a relationship mean that in return you get some real and deep companion mission. Make a relationship mean that you are not, in fact, running around with everyone doing whatever you want. You have consequences for your decisions that will carry through the entire game based on who you choose to be in a relationship with.

The additional benefit to this is a terrific increase in replayability. In all likelihood I’m probably never going to replay Dragon Age II. With two play throughs I was able to do almost everything I wanted to. There is no more story to surprise me or grab my attention. However uncovering more about Isabela or Merrill would absolutely bring me back for another go-round if the stipulation was that I had to be in a relationship with them.

While this would certainly rub a lot of gamers the wrong way it’s something that would both intrigue and beguile provided it’s done correctly. Video gamers are growing up. Isn’t it time our in game relationships do the same?

VN:F [1.9.11_1134]
Rating: 4.4/5 (9 votes cast)

Video Games and Relationships: Heavy Rain, Bad Company 2, Demon's Souls

As I was doing some work around the house this morning my thoughts invariably went to the world of video games (as they usually do).  I began to anxiously anticipate the arrival of Heavy Rain, the release of Battlefield: Bad Company 2, and ultimately rested on the fact that I will spend most of my gaming time today working at Demon’s Souls since the aforementioned games have yet to be part of my collection.

As I thought about all three games I began to think where they fit within the scheme that is my life. Some have choices that have no clear right or wrong answer and some don’t really require much in the way of decision making beyond the question “Do I use the door or make a hole in the wall?”. Some require careful thought and understanding and some require you to run in guns blazing leaving a lifeless wake behind you everywhere you go.  As I thought about each of these I was struck with various aspects of my life that fit within these very same descriptions.

Demon’s Souls and Team Sports

Back in college I played Rugby. I had the luxury of seeing it from two distinct viewpoints in my time there. When I started we had no coach and little understanding of tactics. We just ran fast, hit hard, kept getting up, and had fun after the game. We didn’t win many games but we sure won the socials. Eventually we grew to dislike our losing record and asked an old alumni of ours to help us out and be our coach. BTW: That really was my coach.

He taught us the nuances of the game, the skills, the tactics. He taught us how to read a pitch, a team, and the weather. The man taught us how to appreciate the game on a whole new level. It was the first time a coach had really taught me to understand a game on every possible level and what we were doing. Last time I checked Black Rose was undefeated in their last regular season and lost in the finals.

Demon's Souls for PS3When I first purchased Demon’s Souls I had no cable and no internet. I picked it up as I was moving into a new house (literally on the way). I had read all the hype and thought “Okay, it’s brutal, you die a lot, but how bad could it be?” Bad. Very. Very. Bad. It was like a baby taking it’s first steps:

  1. Walk a few feet.
  2. Fall.
  3. Okay bad guy there. Remember that.
  4. Walk a few feet.
  5. Kill bad guy.
  6. Walk a few more feet.
  7. Fall.
  8. Okay bad guy there. Remember that.
  9. Repeat process.
  10. Weapon breaks.
  11. Fall.
  12. Wtf…now what?

Then the cable company came by and gave me my wonderful internet and a whole new video gaming experience opened up to me. This game took me through the same journey as with Rugby. I started blind, running fast and hitting hard. When I logged in I read messages, watched other players failures, watched other player’s successes. I learned how to play the game. It was learning to understand the game that helped me to be better at it.

Demon’s Souls is not a Devil May Cry style video game where you run in, clear a room, be stylish, pose, and move on. You have to be calculating, understanding, and take your time. You need to plan, you need to see your next steps, think about your next action. Learn what the level is doing, where the bumps are, and exploit them. Learning how to play the game and learning how to play the game properly make all difference in the world.

Battlefield: Bad Company 2 and Friendships

To be honest I am probably not the person you want in your squad, on your team, or in the same map as you. I am not the tactical player (which is why Demon’s Souls took so much getting used to). I am the guy who grabs the vehicle that makes the biggest boom and lays waste to a city. I am, for lack of a better word, out-of-control.

Kool Aid Man through wallThis is relatively indicative of my close friendships. Take last weekend. I walked into a friends house and put a hammer into his wall. We were removing the wall so it was acceptable. We then proceeded to do our best “Kool-Aid Man” impressions for the next twenty minutes before realizing that we were covered in drywall and that probably wasn’t the best thing for us.

A member of my wedding party used to take great pleasure in the fact that he owned a cattle prod and enjoyed using it on all of us. He took aim at me point blank with a potato cannon filled with wet paper towels. He put a live blue crab on me while I slept in my bed one morning.

Other friends and I would take turns punching one another in a game that was lovingly referred to as “the punching game” (creative I know). We had to institute a rule in our college house that banned fireworks from being used inside. This included using them outside and “accidentally” having them explode inside.

Walking into the house was an exercise in reaction time and potential property damage thanks to the “Sack Game.” We would hide in the hopes that we could give someone a surprise tackle.

We turned the inside of our house into a.) slip n’ slide b.) bocce ball court c.) paint ball range d.) 18 hole pitch and putt golf course including the “up the stairs bank off the window and roll down the hallway hole 13”. We didn’t get our security deposit back. In fact we owed more money.

Bad Company takes me back into my college mentality of “hell with it, go through the wall.” I’m not a sniper. I like to use explosive devices and lots of them. I lob grenades. I unload clip after clip after clip to kill one guy when it would be easier to stop and aim. Thats how I game. It may not be the best way, smartest way, most normal way, but it’s entirely a reflection of my closest friendships and how we interact with one another.

Heavy Rain and Romance

In every romantic relationship there are questions and problems that come up that have no clear and defined answer. In every romantic relationship there are moments that are as fuzzy as a kiwi and uncertain and unstable as Gary Busey. Often times there is no right answer and if there is you don’t know what it was until a long while later.

Heavy Rain for PS3 has tough decisions

Is there really a correct decision here?

Heavy Rain for the PS3 seems to have a lot of these moments. Moments where the right answer isn’t clear and if it ever becomes clear it will be so long after the fact that you won’t be able to do anything about it.

It’s not a game full of action, excitement, and stabbing. It’s just a game full of life, enjoyment, subtlety, finesse and a little bit of boobage.

It’s this aspect of of Heavy Rain that makes it most like a romantic relationship. It’s not going to be for everyone just like every relationship is not for everyone. It’s not a run and gun style video game. It’s going to make you react fast and deal with the consequences. Some gamers are going to love it, some are going to find it to be just okay, and others are going to hate it. Personally I can not wait for this game to get here. I’ve played the demo many times over and each time it makes me want the full release more and more.

VN:F [1.9.11_1134]
Rating: 5.0/5 (1 vote cast)