Design by Marty Smith
When you think of a satisfying love story, what form of media jumps to mind? For many of us, films like Pretty Woman or Breakfast at Tiffany's are the first examples that pop into our heads. The more literary-minded among us may instead think of classic novels or plays, like Ethan Frome or Romeo and Juliet. The musically inclined may start humming any one of thousands of love songs that have been written and performed over the years. But even for those of us who count video games as a primary form of entertainment, a game is probably not the first or second example that comes to mind when the topic of love stories or romance is brought up.
Happy Valentine's Day
GameSpot's Bob Colayco introduces the most romantic moments in gaming.
In some sense it's understandable that we have a hard time coming up with good examples of romance in games, because love is not a topic that has been covered to much of a degree in most of them. While many classic games have included a love interest, usually the treatment of the relationship is token, consisting of a conquering warrior rescuing a hapless damsel in distress. Take the original Dragon Warrior on the NES, for example. At the end of the game, the princess Gwaelin asks to journey with you, at which point you're presented with a choice of "Yes" or "No." It's not really a choice though. You can't advance unless you say "Yes" and then bring her with you, presumably to live happily ever after. In effect, a tired and clichéd ending is forced upon you. While there are examples to the contrary (which you should feel free to point out in our forums), Dragon Warrior exemplifies how storytelling and character development were not necessarily primary concerns for many game developers of the past.
Over the years, and as game technology has advanced and as game development budgets and team sizes have grown, developers have benefited from having gained more tools to use for both emphasizing plot development and creating more-memorable, dynamic characters. Development houses can afford to keep professional writers on staff who are generally more capable of writing stories that include subtle character development and meaningful dialogue. Also, now that many games include extensive voice work, the subtleties of intonation and the expressiveness of the human voice can be leveraged, as it is in music. Graphical technology, such as the facial animation that can be realistically created in Half-Life 2's Source engine, can now let digital characters be just as expressive and soundlessly emotive as any human actors.
The six examples we've highlighted in this feature represent some of our favorite romantic moments in gaming's recent years, and many of them do leverage today's technology or larger resources to make them so memorable. And while some may involve more-classic ideas of love, many of them turn gender roles upside down or otherwise offer nontraditional views of romance.
Please be warned that this feature includes plot details many would consider spoilers.