Mass affection

I’m sad to say that the combination of an interesting game and Xbox Achievements is leading me to compromise my better judgment. Yes, I’m going for Mass Effect‘s sapphic romance subplot, despite the fact that I want to kick the Internet in the teeth when it collectively drools about it. But I want those romance Achievement points, consarnit, and since I rolled a female Shepard my only other option is the stupid Biotic dude. Who’s, like, the most boring character in the history of everything.

Bah, speciesism. Where’s the Wrex romance subplot, I wanna know?

Meanwhile, I’m balancing my Mass Effect time with Dragon Quest IV. It’s… quite the contrast, these two very different representatives of the same genre.

38 thoughts on “Mass affection

  1. Oh Parish, don’t act like this isn’t the first time you’ve embarked on a stupid romance subplot in a BioWare RPG.

    Do you have a favorite DQ? I mean, do you feel like you’ve played enough of them to choose one?

  2. I take it Dragon Quest IV is about as ambitious as all the other DQ remakes out there. Which will likely suit me fine, as long as I can ultimately play it in English. My days of memorizing the Japanese spell names are long over.

  3. The only actually interesting romance subplot in a Bioware game was the Viconia romance in Baldur’s Gate II. Or maybe I only think that because it was pretty difficult to accomplish. Romance stuff has always been unfairly limited for female characters.

  4. Just so you know as a female in Mass Effect you DO have another option for a romance other then Kaiden, and they aren’t human.

  5. Stupid Male gaze

    Where is the Male Shepard / Kaidan action? Its kinda cliched to have female female sex (if Fear Effect 2 is enough to set precedent for cliche…), but male male is so taboo still. I know its for the titilation of a mostly straight male audience, but in a game with this robust a conversation system I should be able so seduce a dude, or frogman, if I am so inclined. Its extra lame when you take into account that BioWare went through the effort of adding a John Waters moustache as a facial hair choice.

  6. that’s a really interesting comment. I really wonder if/when? a game company will put a homosexual romance into an rpg. I would be really interested to know how the “hardcore” 18-24+ male gaming market would react to something like that, and I mean that sincerely.

    inner geek speaking: btw, I don’t think Viconia was the only interesting romance in BGII, each had their interesting points. Viconia was just the one that was blatantly sexual (with an S/M twist to boot!).

  7. The lack of freedom of choice is probably one of the smallest flaws of Mass Effect’s bolted-on romance elements. The writing for the Dr. Krakenstein relationship lead-in is hands-down the worst I’ve seen in the game.

    Also, this is my first BioWare game, at least in terms of ones I’ve played rather than spent hours watching someone else play. Did KOTOR let you woo the Astromech? ‘Cause it should have.

  8. I forget all the names, but if you played Female I think you could hump the female british Jedi – I didnt really play either watch it as well, so take taht with a wheelbarrow of salt…

    But screw astromechs – KOTOR 2 had this cool torture droid from Star Wars (new hope … pffbt) as a character – this thing if you have no idea what I’m talking about: he would probably be more, ahem, interesting then silly astromechs…. ;)

  9. Pretty much. Between the brothel that would cater to any taste
    and the mutant arm-wrestler (forget his name). Lose to him and
    he’d make you “his gimp,” whereupon you would wake up the next
    day feeling some nether pain and finding a ballgag in your inventory.
    It’s been several years since I played, but I think there were
    some other elements of a “mature” bent.

  10. Oh my god. Homosexual romances in video games. That’s so unnecessary and uncalled for. It’s not like Mass Effect is or even could aspire to be Mulholland Drive or Kiss of the Spider Woman or something. Games should stop trying to do things they can’t treat well.

  11. Unnecessary? No. They should be simply a matter of course, no different than the usual romance options. But better to leave them out entirely if they’re going to be treated like they’re some sort of icky grossness, i.e. BioWare, Fable, etc.

    Not that heterosexual romances are handled any better in games.

  12. Not to advertise my own relationship preference, but they probably *should* get the heterosexual relationships right before they do any of the others.

    Unless they plan on test-marketing to a single particular section (or two) of San Francisco…

    Actually I take that back — seducing astromechs might be good practice.

  13. Right, because why would you want videogames to expand and grow as an artform??

    The next great frontier for videogames, in my opinion, is romance. I’ve yet to see a ‘love’ plot in a videogame that didn’t feel contrived or ridiculous, and I’m even talking about ones that I liked. The things seen in Fable, KOTOR, Mass Effect, and so on aren’t so much “love and romance” as they are “quick seduction and embarrassingly awkward sex scene.” I literally seduced a girl in Fable in 5 minutes…

  14. My favorite thing about Fable was that if you married the evil, conniving, murderous mayor, she suddenly transformed into a meek sex kitten for the rest of her life. And by “my favorite” I mean “the stupidest.” It’s terribly sad that FFVIII’s syrupy romance is, nearly a decade later, still as good a handling of love in a video game as any other we’ve seen to date.

  15. The next big step in video games is to be games and stop trying to be something they are not. It’s no accident the “brain” games are so popular lately. People want to play games, not listen to geek cheap matrix-esque philosophy. And Tetris is art people, art doesn’t have to be wordy or realistic or preachy (it’s O.K. to be gay! yay! I bet John Waters doesn’t like that type of bullshit either).
    I bet Metal Gear Solid would be a hell of a lot more fun without the preachyness. That’s why Miyamto likes Link and Mario to be as quite as possible, because it’s a game. And now I have become preachy. I should just let the market keep speaking by itself.

  16. well…

    the “games as art” argument is a tricky one I think. Does Bioware make “art”? You hear them in interviews (like that RPG roundtable at GDC last year) talking about refining their RPG formula, the “four pillars of activity” or whatever it was. Can you call “refining a formula” art? I’m not saying it’s not, people will obviously disagree on what they consider art, but I do think using a phrase like “grow as an artform” to describe videogames could be considered a stretch.

    A game like mass effect is made primarily for one reason, to make money. I’m sure that when the guys at bioware made all the design and gameplay decisions about the game, what some might consider the “art” part, their primary motivating factor was, what’s going to sell? What will be fun, engaging, entertaining, and therefore sell and make lots of money. Is that “growing an artform?” Is that “art?”

    Similarly, is something like Ratatouille art? That was a movie made for the primary purpose of making money, etc. etc. but I bet a lot of people would consider it a form of art.

    Games are made to make money, and provide entertainment. I think there’s room for art to be in there, but honestly, I think a developer would have to go significantly out of its way to make to make a videogame that overall could be considered a work of “art.”

  17. Now if someone would just ask whether or not violent video games inspire violence we’ll have all our bases covered.

  18. Hey Jeremy,

    Do you think DQ IV is a good enough game to start the series with? Bleh, that sounded horrible, I mean since I have never played a DQ game is the IV in the series the one to starto ut with? Also, with the lack of good handheld games this holiday season should I import DQ IV?

  19. The startling number of violent crimes that are based upon video games is scary. These kids need to stop playing these games. Forget the fact that people have been killing other people for slightly longer than video games have been around (something like several thousands of years), video games are horrible.

  20. Well, Dragon Quest IV is Dragon Quest, so as long as you don’t mind the series’ baggage it’s often regarded as the best of the bunch. And the Japanese version has a 95% complete English localization hidden in the code and accessible with an Action Replay. I’d recommend waiting for the US version, but if you’re totally desperate for a new portable RPG (well, “new”), the DQIV import would be a good choice. I assume you’ve already played Etrian Odyssey, Izuna, FF Tactics, Brave Story and Lunar Knights, right?

  21. Didn’t Jade Empire have man on man romance options? That’s really why it sort of disappointed me with all this in Mass Effect, because Bioware had the option in their last game.

  22. I’m seriously stoked for Dragon Quest IV, V, and VI to come to the US in english. Handheld gaming is looking to be amazing in 2008…

  23. “It’s terribly sad that FFVIII’s syrupy romance is, nearly a decade later, still as good a handling of love in a video game as any other we’ve seen to date.”

    Awww. What about Chulip? Going around a town full of freaks and figuring out how to kiss them is real romance!

  24. Dragon Quest IV is actually a great place to start the series at. It was my first DQ, and I never played any DQ games until 2000. Unlike the first three (in my opinion, of course), DQIV has aged very well.

  25. It’s probably pretty easy to guess where I come down on this whole ‘games as art’ thing because my biggest attraction to games is as an art form. Of course, most of the offerings we have are pretty darn awful in that regard and there’s still a debate about whether or not games can be art in the first place. Come on guys, a Piss Christ is art for some reason, and to be honest there’s plenty of games that work better as art than they do as games, Metal Gear Solid 2 being a prominent example. And of course there’s plenty of artistic works hanging up in galleries that look a lot like games – there’s one I saw recently that asked people to redirect streams of water with their bodies to water plants.

    I’m sort of with Jonathon Blow here when I suggest that it’d be nice if games started using their mechanics as part of their art instead of relying on cutscenes. I mean, they’re nice and all, but play to the medium’s strengths, guys.

  26. Honestly, there are NES games more worthy of being called art than some of the utter crap they put in museums these days…

    But anyways, all “art” is not created equal. There’s good art and bad art, and it’s nice to see more games striving for the former. I also agree with some of the other posters that games need to present their art as part of the game experience, rather than a “movie within a game” if the medium is going to come into its own.

    And yeah, despite all the problems, Mass Effect rocks ^_^. Just put up a video review on my site as well.

  27. “It’s terribly sad that FFVIII’s syrupy romance is, nearly a decade later, still as good a handling of love in a video game as any other we’ve seen to date.”

    I dunno, I’d say Phoenix 3 did a pretty good job with its love stories. In particular, Ron & Desiree struck me as being sweet without being Lifetime-Movie-Saccharine.

    But admittedly very few games seem to give good foundations for Protagonist Lovers other than, ‘Hey, they’re the protagonists.’ It’s usually all I-hate-you-I-hate-you-Don’t-leave-me-I-love-you.

  28. And you could say that FMV games like Tender Loving Care deal with love and romance in a certain way. But then again, a movie within a bad puzzle video game is not a video game. It’s just a decorative art, decorating the puzzle(s) (well, the tests that affect the ending). Just because my home has paintings doesn’t mean my home is a painting. Metal Gear Solid 2, as a game entertains but the decoration (movie) is so oppresive it kills the fun (for me it sucks at storytelling and acting). Doom, now that was a game, but it certainly needed some decorating in order not to feel scary, the lack of FMV’s telling the story made it feel scary and mysterious and helped the player feel more part the action, not just like controlling a character… oh.

  29. I remember reading that the somewhat recent Temple of Elemental Evil game had a gay NPC. Going the lesbian route but bypassing men with men feels kinda cheap.

  30. Yeah, lesbians are acceptable entertainment. Let’s face it, lesbians have been socialy accepted since like forever (maybe because risk of rectal prolapse and anal fisures or risk of puncturing the colon is almost unexistent, unless a dildo is involved, I don’t know, it’s fun and cute I guess). Even in the 20’s and 50’s people werent so scandalized to know auntie Emma liked to play with girls (homosexuality in general was socialy accepted, Oscar Wilde and the fact that people talked openly about “Boston Marriages” back then comes to mind).

  31. eh, not so much Jeremy. I played a little bit of FF Tactics on the PS1 but I never sunk my teeth into it for real. I’m thinking my infatuation with DQIV has to do with it looking like my favorite RPG Breath of Fire (or BOF looking like DQ if you want to get technical.) It could be that I just have a soft spot in my heart for 8 & 16-bit RPG remakes.

  32. Regarding romance in video games, in Chrono Trigger if you had Lucca or Marle in your party when you saved Chrono there would be an extra piece of dialogue where they hug him and tell Chrono how much he meant to them. It was a very small thing but it is rather touching. The brilliance was not trying to stretch it into a big romantic plot spanning the entire game. By only coming up briefly it avoids feeling cliched.

  33. I thought that DQ4 was already released here for the NES. It was the first one with characters instead of classes, right? and the towards the end, all the characters are travelling togetgh in a wagon.

  34. Jeremy you need to play Planescape: Torment. The writing is even better then what you get in Mass Effect and the combat is not as frustrating. It’s in the pinnacle of Western rpg’s.

Comments are closed.