There are a lot of mediums to tell stories these days. Sure, there will always be a place for books, but media is a lot more complex. I’m not just talking about TV and movies either. I’m sure that with the success of Pokemon GO, someone is trying to use AR and smartphones to make a love story. However, there is one medium that has influenced me more than most and it’s not one people usually associate with love stories. Yes, I’m talking about video games.
First off, I’m not just talking about Mario rescuing Princess Peach. That’s romance at its most basic, overly Disney-like levels. In Mario’s defense, there weren’t many ways to tell meaningful stories in the 8-bit days. That changed as gaming technology improved. Now, video games can tell stories every bit as intricate as any big budget movie. The difference here is that the audience can control the direction of that romance. That makes people more engaged in the development of this romance, as opposed to watching it unfold on a movie screen or seeing it unfold in the pages of a book. Make no mistake. That can be pretty powerful.
Having played a lot of video games as a kid, I can vividly remember the first video game romance that really struck me. It’s this one:
That’s Tidus and Yuna from a video game called Final Fantasy X. It’s a game I didn’t play for the romance. I played it because at the time, I was really into RPG style games. I knew this game had a story. I even knew it had some romantic elements to it, as plenty of other games had. What I didn’t know was how deeply the romance in this game would strike me.
Without getting into the long, convoluted story, which would take no fewer than 15 blog posts to do justice, I’ll just say that by playing this game, you put yourself in a position to grow attached to each character. You’re the one that helps them grow and moves them along in their story. You have a say in terms of the pace and efficiency with which they move. So when two characters develop a strong romance, it does have an emotional impact.
For me, the biggest impact came at the end of the game. Without throwing too many spoilers into the mix, I’ll just say that it’s the first time I ever got genuinely emotional at the end of a game. I remember feeling a lump in my throat when I watched the final cutscene. I just sat there holding my controller, my mouth hung open in amazement. Did it really happen? Did I really get this attached to these characters? Short answer: yes, I did.
Playing Final Fantasy X didn’t just influence my taste in video games. It helped shape my tastes in romance for years to come. Other games built on what Final Fantasy X established, at least for me. Games like Mass Effect and Dragon Age actually allow players to choose which romantic partner they want to pursue. It doesn’t even have to be male/female. It can be a same-sex romance as well. It can even be between a human an an alien. That’s how much video games have progressed these days.
It’s a level of engagement that cannot be matched in a book, but it does offer an important lesson. It shows that when there’s an emotional and personal investment in a romance, it has a much stronger impact. The strength of any love story, be it a Shakespearean play or a game of Super Mario Brothers, is the impact it has.
That’s the biggest challenge I have with my stories, creating a romance that has that impact. I like to think books like “Skin Deep” create an engaging romance that gets people worked up, but I know there’s room for improvement. My upcoming book, “Embers of Eros,” is my most ambitious effort at such a romance. However, it’s still at the mercy of Crimson Frost Publishing, who continue to delay its release.
I will continue to make more effort at these romances in future books. For now, there’s plenty of other romance to explore, including games. So while I wait to tell my story, here’s a nice article from Complex.com about realistic video game romances.