Hey Harvey!

Posted on Feb 18th 2019 at 08:00:00 AM by (slackur)
Posted under Valentines Day

Despite the modern integration of gaming in our daily lives, two terms that still do not tend to share the same sentence are 'romantic' and 'video games.'  While movies, books, and music have genres and sub-genres focusing on amorous pursuits, successful attempts in gaming range from the very specific dating sim category and amateur-at-best forced narratives in action games to lengthy RPG character relationships.  Let's just set aside fan-service in the vein of Dead or Alive and Senran Kagura for the moment.

Over the last decade or two video games were synonymous with youth, toys, an immaturity, so it makes sense that given the assumed target audience the majority of video games weren't interested in developing nuanced characters and relationships.  Over time however, the artistry of the medium has come more into focus as well as more mass acceptance to gaming as a spectrum of different experiences.  Today many games are known for their outstanding stories and interesting characters, as the writing, world development, pacing, and overall design have finally become recognized as a worthwhile if not vital components.  The point here is that now more than ever, video games offer unique and emotional experiences, both internal as artistic expressions, and external as worthwhile experiences to share with others. 

As I was reflecting upon this during Valentine's Day, instead of writing another "check these games out" list, I wanted to briefly share part of my own experience when it comes to the bonding of my Beloved and I when it comes to video games.  I've referenced in the past how we have a two-person recliner placed in front of two big side-by-side TVs and how we have played through countless titles together.  We all know that great connection of sharing entertainment together, like a good movie or interesting book that gets passed around.  Video games may not have that same 'dating' entertainment motif as movies or the modern Netflix equivalent, but at our home it is far more frequent.  The two of us grab a big blanket and a snack of choice, fire up a game we are curious about, and make a date of it.

Depending on your choices, this could end like The Ring, an X-Files episode, or a breezy summer novel.

Visual Novels are an obvious choice; recently we enjoyed seeing all of the story paths to Root Letter.  Narrative-choice heavy games like Quantic Dream's Beyond: Two Souls and of course, the Telltale games have been great selections.  Hidden Agenda was pretty neat also.  Any branching path narratives are particularly well suited to play together because we can debate about the choices to develop our stories.

Indeed, sometimes we've had interesting divisions in narrative decision games.  When we played through the first Mass Effect, Liara was our mutually decided beau.  In the sequel however, for story reasons not immediately apparent, Liara isn't as much of a romance option and even somewhat snubs Shepard.  I'm playing this game next to my wife, of course, and assume faithfulness even in difficulty is to be expected, so I was holding out for Liara.  Then my wife wonders aloud about us romancing Tali instead.  This obviously puts me in a no-win situation; do I show digital faithfulness in front of my wife while ignoring her preference, or follow my wife's choice and cheat on our Shepard's girlfriend? 

We didn't have these kind of dilemmas back when digital romance was the little story bits in between levels of Ms. Pac-Man.  (Image credit to Mobygames)

Thankfully, after the Lair of the Shadow Broker dlc our Liara (and my wife) came around and we stuck it out.  Lemme tell you though, that led to some interesting conversations.

Another game that had us up late talking was the unexpected and fascinating Catherine.  Since the entire story centers around fears of marriage, infidelity, life choices, selfishness, and family, not to mention the online quizzes that poll players with uncomfortable questions at the end of every level, we had much to explore.  If you don't share many of the same opinions with your significant other on these topics, it literally may be a dangerous game to play together; the questions it poses are quite direct.  In the end, my wife and I found it an introspective (and endlessly weird) experience.  Although neither of us ever really came around to liking protagonist Vincent that much, perhaps that is a bit of meta-commentary from the game as well.

We've also had our share of games we just didn't enjoy enough to stick with all the way.  The first Tales of Xilia had a setting and characters that interested my Beloved, and so she asked for us to pick it up.  We put about twelve hours into it and even though it wasn't bad, it also just wasn't that engaging for us.  We'd snuggle up to play and she would end up reading a book even during story moments, simply because after awhile it just didn't get hooks in us.  I think the game is fine, it just didn't connect with us.

Lately, we've become the couple our other couple-friends come to for game suggestions.  Horizon: Zero Dawn, Journey, and Torment: Tides of Numenera have been the most recent suggestions, but we're always talking up some recent game we enjoyed.
While not every couple enjoy games together like we do, there are so many different types of gaming experiences out there now that I'd suggest trying it out a few genres and seeing of something really connects.  Maybe a well-done FMV experience like The Bunker?  A psychological horror story like Soma?  A throwback point 'n' click like Thimbleweed Park or Broken Age?  A laid-back exploration game like No Man's Sky?  A co-op classic like Diablo III?  At this point the choices are as varied as in any other media. 

My favorite gaming by far is with my best friend at my side (or I at hers.)  If you can, I highly recommend it.


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Really wishing I could experience this. I did, nearly 20 years ago, but gaming didn't stick as a shared hobby. These are good suggestions, though, and I think would be valuable for other couple looking to integrate gaming as a part of their love story.
I'll toss in a NES homebrew game from a couple years back created specifically for Valentine's Day....Perfect Pair. I have a copy of it and its actually a fun Pac-Man style maze chase game.
@MetalFRO:Thanks! And never give up, my Beloved didn't care for certain genres until much later.

@hockeycollector:I just looked up Perfect Pair and it is rather nifty, thanks for the suggestion! That same homebrew developer, retroscribe, made custom NES birthday carts for one of our kiddos and my brother-in-law. Nice folks.
My wife and I have fairly different tastes in gaming, to some extent anyways. I would enjoy lots of what she plays myself but there are so many games to play I often don't get to them!

Most of what she plays isn't story based, Civilization 6 for instance. While I enjoy watching people play games (irl anyways) almost as much as I like playing them myself, Civ 6 isn't much of a story or character driven game. She has been playing Stardew Valley lately and that has a bit of story, I like watching her play and she makes me do the fishing mini game but it's not as if I mind missing story if I'm gone.

I play games with story and characters more than she does and she likes trying to take part, normally that just involves her reading beside me and looking up at cut scenes. 3D games make her motion sick pretty quickly so there's a limit to what she can watch.

In the end we just like spending time near each other, we let the other play the game on there own and just enjoy it as we can.

You were talking about digital faithfulness, I've got my own story along those lines. I don't know if any of you have heard of a game called Skyrim....One of the things to do in that game is get married. There are several choices of partner, I figure most people either go by looks or research which spouse gives you the best perks. I chose a character that has a name almost the same as my wife's. It's one letter off in the middle of the name, a 'n' rather than an 'r'. I was pretty happy with that one.

As far as recommendations more along the lines of the article, I've recommended Thomas Was Alone for just this sort of thing. It's short, about the length of a movie actually. Not hard, it's a puzzle platformer and probably pretty straight forward for anyone on this site. It has story and character, the voice acting is great and is just all around good experience. It isn't multiplayer but is just as enjoyable to watch as it is to be at the controls I think. The person watching can help with the puzzles too.
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