Too often, videogames just pass us a handful of characters and tell us, “This guy loves this girl, and this guy hates this other guy. Why? Because.” The logic supposedly holding such relationships together is about as flimsy as a young child’s game of dollhouse. It’s like when you reach the epic conclusion of a movie or TV series, and the main guy and gal finally move in for a slow-mo smooch, and all that time, you’re just thinking, “That pairing would never work out in real life.” Sure, two or however many people may have endured some huge or ordeal together, but as we all know, there’s no such thing as happily ever after. Or at least, not the knight-in-shining-armor Disney conception of the phrase, anyway.
Games, though, can let us live those little, seemingly unimportant moments that make or break interpersonal relationships. So why don’t they do it more often? Well, you could blame the relative lack of top-notch writers working in the industry, or you might point the big, bad blame finger at gaming’s perceived macho, explosion-loving, pigskin-tossing audience. After all, why put so much effort into crafting a scene that much of your audience will just write off as “mushy stuff”?
Honestly, though, I don’t find either of those reasons acceptable. Gaming’s potential audience is bigger and more diverse than ever before, so taking a little focus off the Tough Men Fighting and putting it on real character development might even help some games sell more copies. And between Valve, Starbreeze, BioWare, Bethesda, Obsidian, and 2K Boston (BioShock’s developer), I think we’re long past the days when a plumber’s quest to defeat a giant ape with a very real case of jungle fever constituted a quality storyline.
So come on, developers. Anyone can toss together a nice pyrotechnics show and some showy gun-fu, but The Darkness – along with a few other select titles – has proven that games can believably portray relationships that go quite a bit further than the typical “Ugga, ugga. You Jane. You wife” approach. I mean, look at the most recent Prince of Persia game; its main characters communicated frequently, laughing and joking like normal people. Little touches like that are all I’m asking for. But really, with all the talent in this industry, I’d be pretty disappointed if you guys only fulfilled my expectations, and didn’t blow them away.