Video game love stories can be excellent, immersive experiences in a way that other media simply isn’t. A relationship feels more real, in some senses, because we actually take on the role of a person—even if that person is very different from us.
With modern games capable of complicated branching storylines, relationships in games can become deep, powerful things. Choosing a love interest for your Inquisitor in Dragon Age: Inquisition challenges you—I spent time with each potential partner, considering Iron Bull’s unique take on romance and mourning Cassandra Pentaghast’s lack of interest in my character’s gender, before pursuing the diplomatic and charming Josephine—with each character adding to and complicating the picture of romance I had for my Inquisitor.
Games have the ability to make us experience romance and related emotions to an incredible degree. I’m nothing like my horned, stab-happy Qunari Inquisitor, but I still found a connection with her romance options because I embodied her for a time. I made decisions for her that were not necessarily the decisions that I would make, but playing somebody else gave me an incredible new experience.
Changing Technology Encourages Deeper, More Powerful Video Game Love Stories
As technology improves, we’re seeing more and more complex representations of video game love stories. Early games that involved romance were typically about damsels or pre-established relationships, rather than exploring growth and complications. The only thing that came between Peach and Mario was Bowser—now, we have complex stories about characters that fall in and out of love, exploring how relationships may change or grow over time. Romance is now an enriching feature, something that adds additional depth to a story rather than just being a damsel-driven catalyst for the plot to start.
BioWare, in particular, is known for developing romantic plotlines that add complications to the larger storylines, as anybody who romanced Anders in Dragon Age II can attest. And even this one developer’s systems are getting more complex—Dragon Age II‘s favorability system isn’t just the simple matter of giving gifts and picking the right dialog options that it was in Dragon Age: Origins. Anders will only reveal some things if he’s romanced as a rival rather than a friend. Positive interactions lead to some information, but getting to know him on an antagonistic level reveals even more—this complication is something that wouldn’t have been possible in earlier, more simplistic games, showing how far our technology has come.
Exploring Relationships in Virtual Reality
And new technologies promise to develop relationships in games even further. VR is a particularly promising one for immersive storytelling, including romance–while first-person games have let us embody characters in a certain sense, physically controlling those characters is a very different experience. You’re not just seeing things through their eyes; you’re using your motions to control them, to be them as they interact with the world. This physical control takes immersion to a whole new level.
It’s also important to recognize the emotional impact of interacting with characters directly. Because VR is typically told from a first-person perspective, emotionally charged interactions have characters staring directly into your face, their feelings playing out up close. While other forms of gaming can certainly elicit emotional responses in players, it’s very different when you’re interacting with characters face-to-face—if someone is pouring their heart out to you and you feel physically present in the scene, that draws you in differently than watching it on a screen several feet away.
The upcoming VR title Loading Human explores the complicated world of relationships in both a familial and romantic sense. When you take on the role of Prometheus, the son of a wealthy man in search of the Quintessence, you also take on all of his personal baggage. You experience intimate actions like hugging, holding hands, and kissing, which become more personal when you’re in the action, rather than when you watch your avatar in the same situation. This level of physical engagement is different than anything we’ve experienced up until now, and it will almost certainly change how we feel about interacting with fictional characters.
It boils down to this: the immersion afforded by VR will reshape video game relationships. Our emotional connection with these characters will be far greater, because we interact with them on not just an emotional, but now a physical level. It will also change the way you interact with your own character–while making morally gray decisions is easy as Mass Effect‘s Commander Shepard, that becomes harder when you’re physically embodying another person. VR games will let you experience empathy and relationships differently than traditional games, thanks to the immersion of virtual reality.
To experience the love story within Loading Human, and all the other exciting VR capabilities in this gripping story, preorder your copy for PlayStation VR today!