I find it kind of weird that the most overused theme in all forms of entertainment from movies to books to music is very, very hard to find in video games. Maybe this is because gaming is not yet mainstream and/or maybe it’s because the gaming audience is still largely teenage boys who loves shooting things and killing things and will probably consider a love story as “gay”. Whatever the case, 95% of games (then and now) do not showcase any kind of meaningful romance. They also lack good story, but that’s another issue altogher.
Now I’m not saying this is a bad thing. Looking at how the theme of love and romance has been used in other forms of entertainment, it may actually be a good thing such cheesy theme has not entered the gaming sphere. So many books, movies, and songs have become wishy-washy and lacking substance when love has come to be incorporated into them. In most cases, “love” is the wrong word for how the theme is used in them. And in that sense, I’m glad video games have stayed far away from this theme.
But without some romance, a game just feels like it’s missing something, an emotional connection that truly immerses the player into the game. Something about having a love story in video game makes that game memorable in my opinion. I honestly think the reason I loved Final Fantasy X’s story so much is because of how the love story between the game’s protagonists Yuna and Tidus was presented. It made the game’s soundtrack more meaningful and impactful as well. There were a lot of dramatic scenes that were possible simply due to the game’s focus on the two characters’ strong love for each other. And unlike other games that featured something like it, the love in FFX was not just to utilize sex as a marketing ploy; it was to create a deeper and a more cohesive storyline that was relatable. The emotional tie is probalby “corny” and “cheesy” for a lot of gamers out there but to me, it made FFX more than just a fun game, but a memorable one and one that I could always keep close to my heart.
But aside from FFX, this emotional connection is just hard to find in games. If they are there, the theme is so shallow that it’s easily forgettable. Let’s talk about Final Fantasy VIII for example. The scenes between Rinoa and Squall are actually absolutely stunning and the cinametic scenes actually do showcase their emotions very well. However…. the game never ever explains how or why Rinoa came to fall in love with Squall. It just happens. The love feels so shallow and in the end is just a pretty graphical presentation that when you talk to people who played FFVIII, they will rarely talk to you about the relationship between Rinoa and Squall; they’ve already forgotten about it. They’d rather talk more about Squall’s gunblade. The love story of FFVIII is a perfect example of flash over substance. It looks great but beneath the surface, it’d be a bit far-fetched to say that FFVIII actually features a love story.
But then again, FFX’s love story isn’t that much better. There’s far more depth and there’s far more focus on the two character’s development but once again, the love between Tidus and Yuna is pretty superficial. But one difference is that it actually bring this surge or emotional feeling to the players.
Now, let’s see. What other game has a love story…. hmmm…. *ten minutes later*
Ah! Kessen II. But dang it, talk about flash over substance on that one. The love story in Kessen II is worse than one in FFVIII. It just feels so damn tacked on and is actually this lame plot device where the main character has a girl he loves but the girl is kidnapped by an evil conquereror and he must fight back to rescue her. Lame.
I think games can honestly do a lot better than what they’re doing now on this front, especially rpgs. Love definitely shouldn’t be a common theme in video games (nor will they ever be) but I realy would like to see more deeper presentation of it in some of our games. there’s just something magical and special when we’re presented with relationships like those between Yuna and Tidus, like those between Rinoa and Squall, and like those between Otacon and Sniper Wolf. At this point, those relationships are pretty shallow in video games, but I don’t think it’s too late to start. But maybe I’m just too much of a story freak and should read some books instead of expecting a love story in some of my video games, lol. Either way, deeper relationships among video game characters would prove to be very interesting.