D Bags of the Roundtable: Our Favorite Gaming Romances

Happy Valentine’s Day! We’ve really gotten into the holiday spirit here at D Bag HQ. Koz has strung paper hearts up everywhere he can reach. Kyle’s leaving fake “secret admirer” Valentines in Egan’s mailbox and giggling like a little girl. And me? I’m asking everyone to tell us what their favorite gaming romance is because I’m creepy and I want to know their most intimate thoughts and feelings so I can write terrible poetry about them all. Mad props to everyone who contributed this month.

Scott Colby, Senior Editor – Although I’m a huge fan of the romance options presented in games like Dragon Age and Mass Effect, no tale of gaming love reaches the soaring heights of the tragic courtship of Tidus and Yuna. Final Fantasy X had its warts–I once tried to hide under my couch during the infamous laughing scene–but the story of these two star-crossed lovers was touching enough to make me a little misty at its conclusion, and I’m a big tough lumberjack with a heart of stone. Just whistle and he’ll find you, Yuna. Just whistle.

Anthony Salvatore, Staff Writer – The Joker and Harley Quinn. Twisted and sadistic, like most couples, just more overt. Between the mental abuse the Joker puts Harley through and the skimpy outfits she wears to get him smiling from ear-to-ear, these two are made for each other through-and-through. I think the dialog and desperation evoked by Quinn in Arkham City really emphasized how strongly she cares for the Joker. Not bad for a character that started out as a female sidekick on Batman: The Animated Series, right?

Beverly Kim, Staff Writer - When it comes to romance in gaming, it’s hard to pinpoint any one relationship as superior or more meaningful than others. Romance in gaming develops the characters, and while the love between two characters is as real as fictional romance can get, sometimes the background of the story just makes it so much more meaningful. For this month’s roundtable, the title of my favorite gaming romance goes to Yuna and Tidus from Final Fantasy X. This was the last Final Fantasy I’ve ever played, but it’s left it’s lasting impression on me. [Spoiler alert!] It’s not just about love between a man and a woman. It’s about love for a dream of peace, manifested in a man. The ending not only shocked everyone who played, but it made their innocent love so much more meaningful. Tidus wasn’t just a soul; he was a symbol to the people of that world. Yuna and  Tidus’ romance was much bigger than themselves. And that’s why I feel like it’s THE epic romance in gaming.

Fred Lambuth, Staff Writer - The element of romance in video games has never been something that interested me. Every time I’ve seen it implemented in game it had no effect on me or seemed like an enrichment to the story, more like two dolls being pressed against one another by a child making up the dialogue. Perhaps I’m playing the wrong games to get a glimpse of engrossing portrayals of love, but I doubt it.

The most lauded video game relationship I can think of is Cloud and Aeris from Final Fantasy VII. I found it to be insufferable. I don’t know what was so special about those two. It seemed to me like just another story about a nice yet naïve girl with a crush on an arrogant prick who develops into becoming a brooding prick. Her death did not touch me on any emotional level or inspire any empathy for Cloud’s loss. The only loss I felt was losing a character who could heal my entire party at once.

The one time I can think of a romantic relationship from a video game that left a mark on me was the wife you could acquire in Fallout 2. It was the first PC RPG I ever played and I was blown away with the amount of choices that the game presented. It also provided several memorable companions that each brought with them useful skills–except for the wife, Miria, a farmer’s daughter you got saddled with by a shotgun wedding insisted upon by an angry father after you defile her. She was a liability rather than an asset in combat, not very bright and possessed of nothing interesting to say. The decision to go along with the marriage becomes a mistake almost immediately. It gave an honest portrayal of the wonderful institution of matrimony. What was memorable though was the options you have with the wife: almost all of them are evil. She could be sold into slavery, she could be killed and left in the anonymity of the desert, or you could find a priest and get divorced.

That’s the romance I remember the most from a video game. Not some shallow portrait of hammy melodrama between two beautiful characters. No, what left an indelible mark was the utilitarian joy of playing a game of several choices, including dealing with a naggy wife.

Tom Trombley, Contributor - Love is in the air…or maybe it’s blood. In video games, there seems to be a fine line between the two. But as it is the season of hearts (of the created from red paper and extracted from a human chest cavity variety) and flowers, I think we should stick to love. Whether it’s carpenter (later plumber) Mario and his lady love…uh…Lady (later Pauline) dodging barrels and simian affection or something more complex like the tragic, doomed romance of Cole Phelps and Elsa Lichtmann, video games sure do love the amore.

But I’d have to say my favorite romance is one that has been around for many years, had more will-they-or-won’t-they than Moonlighting, and continues to be refined every game the two show up in. Bursting on the scene in 1986, this stalwart little hero captured our hearts with one of the most unique game cartridges on the market: it was solid gold, baby. Yes, I am here to talk about my main man Link and his quest for Princess Zelda. Link has starred many games over the years, and I am going to talk about the first (also the best, and don’t argue this point, no one has made a web series about any of the other ones).

Now, Link, he was just this little elf dude. He goes into this cave and an old man gives him a sword because it’s dangerous to go alone. The last time I went into a cave with an old man…I don’t remember what happened, and I don’t want to talk about it, but I didn’t get a sword. This is why Link is better than all of us. He fought for his woman. He fought through nine labyrinths full of things that would turn not only your hair but your shit white. Why did he do this? To get magic triangles that don’t really help you against the last guy. And oh, what a vile villain! Link has to go toe-to-toe with a pig-faced kidnapper who can only be killed by a silver arrow. Seriously, when was the last time you went out and killed a porcine asshole with a precious metal for your girl or guy, reader? Anyway, they hook up and now have the two triforces. Link’s now bangin’ a princess. Go Link!

So yeah, Link’s my boy. He’s not an Italian stereotype, he’s an elf who spelunks like a dwarf to save a magical babe from an asshole pig-faced freak who may or may not have tried to bad touch her.

Scott Heter, Contributor - So this kind of more tragic than romantic, but I really like the story in I Am Alive. The main guy has to walk all the way across the U.S. after the apocolypse to reach his family, struggle through life and death situations, and save another family only to find out his own is long gone. He records his journey on a camcorder, only to have it reach his wife after his death. I think it’s pretty tragically romantic to realize that you started the game at the end, watching his wife watch his struggles on the camcorder. She has to sit and watch all the danger he went through to get to her, only to fall short right at the end. Pretty fucking sad if you ask me.

Graham Parker-Finger, Contributor - I can’t say I’ve ever cared too much for gaming romances except once: the Mass Effect trilogy. In the original, I (uh, I mean my character) wooed and screwed Liara, the blue alien chick. In Mass Effect 2, I managed to bang both Jack, the psycho tattoo chick, and Miranda, the prim and proper british chick. And in the trilogy-capper I spent more time than is healthy trying to get some action on the side in addition to Liara before finally settling for more blue alien sex. Yeah, the sex scenes were like 10 seconds long, but I appreciated the groundwork and effort at relationship-building. Just one more reason why the Mass Effect trilogy (minus that WTF ending) rules all.

Nathan Ochiltree, Contributor - Don’t be fooled by video game women: they’re as savvy and smart as the real thing. My favorite gaming romance? The one that got away. She was a Cerberus agent on my intergalactic space crew. I put in my time, I gave all the correct responses, she was accompanying me on missions, and after only a few hours of gameplay I had her eating out of the palm of my hand. But I’m a man, right? And that weird alien that always wears a hazmat suit was giving me looks through her visor. So I started, you know, workin’ the dialogue with her. I would visit her in the engineering bay, talk her up, help her with the Tantalus Core Drive…you know. Well, let me tell you something: the Normandy is a smaaaaalll spaceship and when my first girl found out about this alien it became a pretty cooollllddd spaceship, too. Take it from a washed up  space commander: don’t be fucking around on your video game girlfriends.

Check out episode 129 of the D Pad D Bags podcast, featuring Aliens: Colonial Marines, XCOM: Enemy Unknown, and Red Dead Redemption.

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