Where Are The Romantic Comedy Videogames?

When it comes to common genres, videogames have got war and science fiction covered. They’re all over action. Historical fiction is meticulously detailed, and the industry is replete with fantasy. In the last couple of years, even, we’ve finally realised it’s possible to have coming-of-age tales told through the medium (although accompanied by the sort of backlash you might expect had the games been about murdering babies with swastika-shaped knives (which, let’s be honest, isn’t unlikely and wouldn’t receive a tenth of the backlash)). Comedy sort of happens maybe a bit now and then, usually with very poor results. But romantic comedy? There’s none.

That might not seem like it matters. You might even be grateful that it’s the case, fearing Jennifer Anniston’s mewling tears souring the gaming world. The hapless adventures of the unlucky-in-love Jason Biggs may not be how you want to while away your Wednesday evenings, and seeing if relationships can blossom after the cancer-based deaths of Reese Witherspoon’s mother (Meryl Streep) and dog (Freddie Prinze Jr) is possibly not where you want to see the industry heading. Be that as it may, someone else just might.

I think I see the lack of gaming romcoms as a sign of the industry’s persistent immaturity. I think it marks the continued last-place role writing takes in most games. That romance and comedy, even individually, are almost unheard of (if anyone tries to claim a David Cage game contains romance, I’ll unmask you as a losing entry in a Turing test), is I think a thing we should all be concerned about, no matter how happy we are firing bangsticks at the bad mans’ faces. They represent a lack, a gap in gaming’s oeuvre, and one I think deserves to be filled. (And don’t you be trying to claim that dating games fulfils either criteria of the portmanteau.)

Because, remember, for every fifty or so Sandra Bullock misfires, there’s a Knocked Up or High Fidelity. No matter how often Ashton Kutcher gets a billing, occasionally we get an As Good As It Gets, or Pretty In Pink. Hell, Groundhog Day and Annie Hall are romcoms, and they’re two of the best comedies ever made! LA Story, Roxanne, The Man With Two Brains – get Steve Martin (from a time machine from twenty years ago) to write a romcom game! And if you don’t love 10 Things I Hate About You and Clueless, then you’re obviously a monster. Heck, The Philadelphia Story and The Shop Around The Corner are bloody masterpieces, and they came out about four minutes after the invention of celluloid. My point is, despite your prejudices, there are loads of great romantic comedies. Except, gaming hasn’t a single one.

That needs to be fixed. The medium can handle it, in novel and new ways. It doesn’t need to be a Telltale-style adventure, but that would work. It could be an RPG. In fact, I’m pretty certain it could be a third-person action adventure. But it’s not my job to make these games – it’s my job to demand that someone else do it, and do it right away. It really is a blot on gaming’s copybook, that as a format we never delve into this area, never allow our feelings to show, other than furious anger. It would be a moment of maturity, a huge step forward, and most of all, it would piss of the massive turds who like to stomp about shouting about how Gone Home isn’t a game to everyone else in their nursery class. So developers, all of you, make one now.

This post was first published as part of the RPS Supporter Program.

135 Comments

  1. Dilapinated says:

    Dating games would quite happily fit in both ‘romantic’ and ‘comedy’ categories, but given their usual multi-character branching structure, I’m not sure they’d fit the definition of romcom encompassed by your film examples, which more often than not focus on a single couple and their initial meeting, ups and downs and so on. Still, I suspect they provide a good foundation for building such games with more focus on one love interest and their interactions with the player.

    It would have the same dating game risk of “romantic interest === puzzle box to be unlocked” if you’re not careful, however. I think that caveat will be very hard to escape when gameplay and romance are combined, but look forward to seeing attempts to.

    • aleander says:

      Make it multiplayer, with restricted communication, both coop and antagonistic play possible, you don’t have any idea who’s the random person on the other side. A bit like Dark Souls, but with different backdrops.

      • AngoraFish says:

        I’m betting that you game devolves into 100% antagonistic play within two weeks of launch.

  2. Premium User Badge

    Dorga says:

    Well, enslaved was kind of a romantic comedy, at times.

    • Ross Angus says:

      Oooh! Thanks for the tip. It’s been sitting in my library for a while. Must give it a go.

    • Great Cthulhu says:

      Sands of Time too, though both are more about action than comedy (I think; haven’t played Enslaved).

      The Leisure Suit Larry’s sort of qualify as romantic comedy, I suppose.

      • Premium User Badge

        zapatapon says:

        The truth is, Enslaved takes a lot of inspiration from Sands of Time.

    • AngoraFish says:

      Ooh. Thanks for making me look that up in my Steam library.

    • Fnord73 says:

      is Enslaved any good? Got in in my library, never got around to it lol.

      • Blad the impaler says:

        Yes, and if you’ve got the rig it scales up nicely with a few ini tweaks.

  3. shoptroll says:

    “It doesn’t need to be a Telltale-style adventure”

    I’d like to think there might be something like that in the AGS database, if only their search was better. Adventure games do seem like the natural fit though.

  4. welverin says:

    So, really, want you want is an Uncharted game where Elena shares top billing with Nathan? Maybe have it support coop throughout, that could be pretty nifty.

    Someone bug Naughty Dog about this, stat!

    • Deviija says:

      I’d have absolutely adored an Uncharted game where Elena is co-protagonist with Nathan, with equal top billing, and the possibility of even campaign co-op. I’d have also loved a game where Elena is protagonist with Drake as supporting cast. But now that Amy is gone from Naughty Dog, I have reservations on how well they’ll be treating the ladies of Uncharted now.

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    distantlurker says:

    Does monkey island not squeak in as a romcom? I know it’s noticeably “princess is in another castle” but there’s not a lot of Laura in High Fidelity either (nice choice btw, one of my top 5, all time, in with a silver bullet romcoms ^^)

    • Geebs says:

      This. Also, PoP:Sands of Time.

    • Ross Angus says:

      The Monkey Island games I’ve played tend to keep the love interests apart for much of the game. I’d imagine what John’s describing would include much more interplay between the two leads. A buddy movie, with more kissing, if you will.

    • Pazguato says:

      True. Monkey 1 and 2 (to the hell the rest) have that romantic tension between Guybrush and the governor. Maybe Ron Gilbert drives this to an end in a New Monkey 3.

    • Smoky_the_Bear says:

      Grim Fandango could also count tbh.

    • arccos says:

      Taken in the right state of mind, Metal Gear Solid 1 is possibly a romantic comedy.

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    Ninja Dodo says:

    Grosse Point Blank – avoid assassins while trying to reconnect with your high-school sweetheart at a reunion

    When Harry Met Sally – disrupt a busy cafeteria by faking an orgasm as loudly as possible

    Don Juan – secret rendezvous stealth game, avoid angry husbands

    “Under the bed they search’d, and there they found—
    No matter what—it was not that they sought;
    They open’d windows, gazing if the ground
    Had signs or footmarks, but the earth said nought;
    And then they stared each other’s faces round:
    ‘T is odd, not one of all these seekers thought,
    And seems to me almost a sort of blunder,
    Of looking in the bed as well as under.”

    • Robert Post's Child says:

      Don Juan would totally be a Hitman-style game. Which immediately brings up all the problems with putting romantic relationships at the fore in a game, i.e. manipulation and objectification. At least it ends with him being cast in to hell, though, so they can at least pretend they weren’t glorifying sleaziness.

      Also, re: the article – Knocked Up? Really? You’re listing great romcoms, and that’s the one you’re going with?

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        Ninja Dodo says:

        You could lose the Don Juan framing and keep more or less the same game, only make it about about more of a symmetrical love triangle and less about the male-oriented conquest of multiple ladies. Less objectification, more mutually enjoyed shenanigans. If it’s an established relationship the goal-oriented nature of games would be centered on the sneaking around, side-stepping the whole relationships as a game-able system issue (which to be sure is going to be a problem in any mechanical interpretation).

        • Robert Post's Child says:

          Yeah, that makes sense. Or like, something leaning more towards a bedroom farce kind of thing, maybe? Where the context makes the gamey-ness more mutually understood. Or something.

          Now I’m just imagining Telltale’s ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ …

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    sabby787 says:

    I’m going to paraphrase Yahtzee Croshaw here –

    “The problem with comedy in games is that comedy loses it’s effectiveness with repetition, and games are by nature repetitious.”

    Of course there are funny games out there but not nearly as many as your common serious action / strategy / etc game. Also games fumble romance more so than comedy

    • Ross Angus says:

      I think he also talked about how timing is crucial in comedy, and in games, the timing is ideally put in the player’s hands. So a joke may pay off badly.

      But the fact that games have thus far messed up comedy is not an argument against them trying again.

      • Smoky_the_Bear says:

        I completely disagree that games mess up comedy. I find myself consistently laughing at games.
        The thing with comedy though, as opposed to romance, is that comedy can play a secondary role to something else more effectively.
        Despite what the article says, I just don’t see how a game can effectively do romantic comedy whilst also being an RPG or something. Where does your character development come from? Level up your office working skills whilst dreamily thinking about someone you inexplicably bump into in a comical way every day? It just doesn’t lend itself well to being a video game in my opinion. It has to be entirely character and plot driven, such as an adventure game. I mean at the end of the day, remove any need for character improvement from an RPG and you have an adventure game.

        Or do you really want a game where you are gaining +1 to abs in order to more effectively woo somebody? That sounds a bit crap to me.

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      Oakreef says:

      I don’t think games are repetitive by nature, just by how they are generally designed and expected to be. There’s plenty of little free flash or indie games that are ten minutes long and completely unrepetitive but there’s not really much of a market for one or two our long games designed without “replay value” in mind as many gamers look down their noses at things that don’t meet some sort of “euro to hours of gameplay” ratio. Telltale are really the only people that have managed to do well with the one-to-two-hour long games thing.

    • Turkey says:

      That’s okay. I don’t think the comedy bit has ever mattered in a romcom.

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    Skabooga says:

    “To the Moon” was something of a romantic comedy, at least at times, but like many good romantic comedies, it was about something more than that too.

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    SuddenSight says:

    I disagree with this article on every possible level.

    1) RomCom is a movie genre. Stop applying movie genres to games.

    2) Dating games (good ones) fulfill both halves of your portmonteau. They can be romantic (with well-written characters) and they can be funny (at least, the same kind of sorta-funny many games end up being).

    3) Despite the fact that I have already argued for dating games fitting the formula, I think the “true” romcom formula is incredibly un-game-like. Part of the joy of romcoms is in the serendipity of it: the fact that the characters in the film can be so, incredibly stoopid and yet they end up happily in love anyway. It is difficult to make them the protagonist because the video game player knows the jig and will try to select the “correct” choices, which ruins the drama. I could see a game of matchmaking (which now that I think about it sounds absolutely fantastic), but that is moving away from your overly-constrictive genre definition.

    4) Romantic subplots in games are super common. Mass Effect is famous for them. So is Dragon Age. “But those romances are *terrible*” I hear you complain. So are most of the RomCom romances! The entire genre is correctly derided for being unrealistic and poorly told. But we (as consumers) love’m anyway because we like the idea of finding love and happiness in the end. It is a form of escapism, one that is already included in many games, just not in the way you appear to desire.

    Seriously, though, a matchmaker RPG would be fantastic.

    • Vandelay says:

      Much Ado About Nothing – The Video Game!

    • Kala says:

      Matchmaker RPG would work.
      If we can have an RPG about being a shop vendor, we could have that.

      (Maybe Emma – the video game)

      • phlebas says:

        A twist in the middle where it turns out you’ve been wrong about just about everything and probably ruined your own prospects in the process? I can see that working in a game.

      • pepperfez says:

        Matchmaker RPGs are already well represented by the Fire Emblem series, though they interrupt the gameplay with some battle nonsense from time to time.

    • Melody says:

      As for your first point: Videogames are complex, multifaceted creatures. Take Bioware games: they are all (different kinds of) RPGs, but Mass Effect is also sci-fi, and Dragon Age is also fantasy.

      The fact that you think only one genre is a ‘valid’ descriptor (in this case, RPG, the one that describes game mechanics, as opposed to representational content – sci-fi, fantasy, or romantic comedy) says more about your view of videogames and how you play them (which parts you value more) than about what videogames can be. As far as I’m concerned, the two descriptors apply equally, because, at least in theory, a game’s theme and content should match its form and mechanics and viceversa.

      • Consumatopia says:

        Walker seems to be using “romcom” in a more specific way than “sci-fi” or “fantasy”. There are, indeed, games that emphasize humor and romance, e.g. The Sims.

        So this really does seem to be a case of asking “why aren’t there games that are like this class of movies?” And a perfectly reasonable answer is “because that class of stories isn’t meant to be played, it’s meant to be watched or read”. We might like watching fate and random coincidence put someone in an awkward, humiliating or frustrating situation (which seems to be the plot of most romcoms I’ve ever seen) but do we actually want to be the person in that situation?

        • pepperfez says:

          But it’s at least worth asking why we think rom-coms are meant to be seen and not played. Basically all genre fiction works, on one level or another, by letting readers/viewers/players identify with the protagonists, so it should just be straightforwardly better to allow interactive identification. Even if they mostly do it poorly, that’s what dating sims are working for. And that means it’s just a matter of execution to make a really good romantic comedy game.

        • GunnerMcCaffrey says:

          Your last sentence describes, like, half of all games. So, yes, it seems we do.

          There’s yet to be a medium that isn’t influenced by others, and insisting games are the exception means ignoring some of the biggest franchises. Why bother?

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        SuddenSight says:

        Where did I say video games can only have one descriptor? That is not what I meant *at all*.

        Of course games have various elements to them. But that doesn’t mean that video games should conform to terms from an entirely different medium.

        I might as well as, “Where are all the landscape sculptures?” or “Where are all the stop-motion books?” One-to-one comparisons like this are useless.

        That is why I expand on the important elements of RomComs in my post – the character writing, witty dialogue, the unlikely matchups. These are all topics that *are* explored widely in games, just not in the straight-jacket, easily-compared-to-films sort of way the article above seems to desire.

  10. tumbleworld says:

    Better Off unDead. John Cusack, Diane DiLaurentis, and Zombies. Practically writes itself!

    • MacTheGeek says:

      Austenworld. Immerse yourself in the world of Victorian England, surrounded by the landed gentry, some of whom are androids and one of whom has gone haywire and wants to kill you.

      Could be a romantic-comedy-murder-mystery, if the NPCs are randomly selected as human or android at the start of each playthrough, and the murderer’s identity similarly shifts.

  11. Premium User Badge

    Hodge says:

    Great post. Here are some rambling thoughts.

    Any romcoms that work do so on the back of the chemistry between the two leads,
    which is exactly the kind of thing video games have traditionally been pretty bad at portraying, at least visually (hello, uncanny valley!). So the best bet would be something revolving around voice acting or text – like John says, adventures or RPGs. I played a bit of the re-jigged Grim Fandango today, and something like that would suit a romcom perfectly: simple graphics, an emphasis on voice acted conversations and a big emotive soundtrack.

    The other thing with every romcom is the audience knowing that the two main characters will get together long before the characters themselves do. Everything else can be variable, but if it isn’t blatant from the outset that the bickering leads are doomed to a life of blissful togetherness then your romcom’s a dud. This means that the romantic storyline of a romcom game would have to kept away from any player agency, i.e it can’t be the player doing the courting (or if it is then the courting has to be completely scripted). This is why in Gone Home you play Sam’s boring older sister rather than Sam herself, with Sam’s story set in stone from the outset. It wouldn’t work otherwise.

    (and I just realised that the first Back To The Future film is basically a just riff on that concept, with Michael J Fox trying to make sure that no-one interferes with the perfect romcom story of his parents.)

    I’d love to see someone try and tell a romantic story using a similar technique to the one The Binding Of Isaac uses, by naming powerups or other in-game items/concepts after elements of the characters’ backgrounds so that more of the story is revealed each time you play.

    • Premium User Badge

      SuddenSight says:

      I hadn’t considered it until now, but Back to the Future one is basically an adventure game, right down to the ludicrous game-logic (lightning strike to power the car?). I was going to say it should be a game, but apparently it already is. Huh.

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      DelrueOfDetroit says:

      Just because the beginning and end are set in stone doesn’t mean the middle has to be.

  12. jezcentral says:

    “If anyone tries to claim a David Cage game contains romance, I’ll unmask you as a losing entry in a Turing test.”

    Ooh, BURN! :)

    Seriously, though, we can’t do comedy yet, let alone combining it with romance. I think we can do comic, though. Borderlands was long, repetitious and made me laugh. Bioware can do satisfying-ish romance, with funny characters.

    Wait, does this mean Dorian is the first rom-com character in gaming? (Sera could represent the first foray in screwball romcomedy.)

    • Kala says:

      I think we *had* a lot more comedy than we do now.

      Point-and-clicks seemed to lend themselves to that direction, at least in part. Monkey Island, Day of the Tentacle, Discworld…

      Not romantic, mind.

      • pepperfez says:

        Video games are still getting through their dour, Nietzsche-quoting adolescence — they can’t stand to be reminded of the silliness of their childhood. One of these days they’ll lighten up, get a (girl/boy)friend, and start behaving like real people again.

  13. Rikard Peterson says:

    I already have started work on one. And it’s a musical, too. (If it’ll ever get finished remains to be seen…)

    • rustybroomhandle says:

      OpenSLUDGE or different engine/genre?

      • Rikard Peterson says:

        Looks like it’ll be Unity. (But still 2d.)

        (I’ve given Sludge many many hours of my time, but I’ve quit that. It was no longer fun, particularly as I at the end no longer could grasp what was going on in the engine. Making a game engine for three different operating systems is complicated, and even more so when I don’t understand one of the target systems. And also, what I wanted to do started to be different enough from what the engine was originally made to do that things were getting tricky on that front too.

        There’s also been depression and stuff, so I haven’t worked on either game or engine at all for quite a while, but I’m feeling good again now, so there is hope for this game…)

  14. Some_Guy says:

    What about Digital: A love story?

    • pepperfez says:

      Isn’t that more romantic tragedy?

    • MikhailG says:

      Ohmy god yes this and literally all games written by Christine Love deal with romance at least in some way. I certainly laughed and cried at Analouge and Hate Plus.

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    DelrueOfDetroit says:

    FPS games would support a romantic comedy approach. Games like Bioshock Infinite or Half-Life 2: Episode 2 are already there half way. With a few story tweaks and a few additional romance scenes, boom you are done.

    • Kollega says:

      You know what I’d play? A first-person shooter about space marines where the shooting takes up at best fifteen percent of game time, and the rest is exploration of lush detailed environments in space and on alien worlds, puzzling, dialogues, and discovery of your squadmates’ character traits and eccentricities, with the possibility to influence their lives, à la “Amélie“.

      Maybe Ken Levine should get on this.

  16. Eight Rooks says:

    Greatly amused at all the people rushing to defend dating games/love sims (“Oh, well, he can’t possibly be talking about X, Y and Z!”). There are exceptions, admittedly – mister Walker is being a sourpuss, at least in part – but even the good ones are invariably deeply problematic, and virtually none of them write romance in the way a good book or film does.

    • Noc says:

      I’d assert, though, that romcoms are also a genre that tends to contain deeply problematic elements pretty consistently.

      But the point is that dating games definitely exist as a pretty extensive genre, even if it’s one that’s almost exactly the videogame equivalent of the trashy airport romance novel — from the creepy subtexts to the quantity of formulaic shovelware. And there are plenty of games that try to do something funny with that basic format. (Hatoful Boyfriend and Namco High are the ones that immediately spring to mind.)

      And there’s plenty of argument to be made that the videogame romcom an immature form, that exists presently as parodies of paperback romance, small experimental indie games, and as an increasingly well written component of Bioware games that they feel the need to wrap up in sci-fi/fantasy epics to make them marketable.

      But there’s just this definite sense of myopia — where “This thing doesn’t exist at all!” reads as “It actually totally does but I just haven’t heard of it, and didn’t take the time to go looking before I wrote a thing.” It’s weird.

    • haruhiism says:

      This is pretty hilarious, considering anime/manga is the one nerd domain that’s very nearly 50/50 male/female, precisely because of shoujo romance stuff. You can complain all day about problematic but ultimately otome games actually ARE some of the only female focused games out there, which IMO is pretty damn pathetic

    • Baffle Mint says:

      I’m legitimately confused at why Otome Games/Dating Sims don’t count. Because John Walker doesn’t like the ones he played?

      It seems really, really weird to dismiss them because, why? Because they have problematic ideas about relationships? Because they’re trite and predictable?

      Hello? All those things apply to the vast majority of film rom-coms, too.

      And if your complaint is “Oh, okay, well, sure, I guess games do romantic comedy storytelling, it’s just that the best games don’t have nearly the storytelling chops the best Hollywood movies do” then, well, I hate to break it to you, but that’s true of literally [i]every single genre in existence.[/i]

      The best war game is, from a story point of view, nowhere near as good as the best war movie, and there are jillions of war games.

      I legitimately don’t get it. Just shoving aside VNs in a paranthetical is like saying “Why doesn’t Hollywood make any big budget superhero movies (And don’t talk to me about Marvel Studios)?”

      Like, I don’t even like most Visual Novels that much, but come the fuck on.

  17. rustybroomhandle says:

    Doesn’t Hatoful Boyfriend count?

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    Godwhacker says:

    Both Psychonauts and Grim Fandango have elements of Romcom- it’s one thread amongst many, but it’s there in both

  19. Imprecision says:

    so you’re saying huniepop isn’t a romcom or

  20. Wulfram says:

    Turning human interactions into a game is difficult. At least without turning the player into some sort of creepy manipulator.

    I mean, of course you could slap a minimally interactive romance plot over your standard genres without much problem, but I don’t think that would end up benefiting much from being a video game. Though I suppose it could be argued that lot of video game plots nowadays don’t benefit much from being video games

    Also, we’ve had coming of age stories in video games for a long time. Like half the RPGs ever are coming of age stories (with added Dragons). But I guess that wouldn’t give you the opportunity to stomp about shouting about how Gone Home is a game to everyone else in your nursery class.

  21. grable says:

    Sorry, but i do not want romance in my gaming.
    And after i watched a clip of Dragon Age with that gay demon guy i can say it put me off romance for life!

  22. noodlecake says:

    I think Telltale could probably manage it. There may even be Romcom elements to Tales from Borderlands at some point.

  23. thisisindeed says:

    This can work both ways then ?
    Where are the city builder movies ?
    And the 2D platformer ones ?
    I want a tactical-RPG movie where people have to wait their turn to make a move.

    • Rao Dao Zao says:

      Well, they did make Battleship…

    • Kala says:

      It does work both ways already, in that we have movies based on games.

      You can point to mechanical differences between films as a medium, and games as a medium, sure.

      But ultimately what he’s saying here, is a *type* of story isn’t being told. We have games that tell stories, and the focus is on that story to varying degrees.* So when we already have games that focus on story, but there is a particular kind of story that isn’t being told, it’s reasonable to ask why.

      *It’s arguable, but while it has it’s own type of narrative, I don’t think a city building sim is the type of game that focuses on story.

    • Philotic Symmetrist says:

      Peter Jackson has made some 2.5D platformer movies.

  24. Kala says:

    Hm. Well, being a bit elitist and My Tastes are Best Tastes, I kind of see RomCom as a bit of a trash genre. A lowest common denominator scraping of one end of a gender spectrum. (Characterised by Jennifer Aniston’s mewling) The hyper-feminine version of the hyper-masculine action movie – which is also trash. A version of the world with one extreme that presents women as variously needy or shallow (need a man! and shoes!), and the other presents men as drooling monkeys with low attention spans (explosions and tits!).

    That said, there are examples of both that are Not Crap. That treat people as people or have more going on. You mention some of them.

    I would wonder how much Crap we have compared to Not Crap (as with anything) or how much Not Crap can also fit comfortably within other genres. (F.ex, you could call Amelie or Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind RomComs if you wanted, but they aren’t exactly in the same mould?)

    And you’re right that one end of the spectrum (explosions and tits!) is exclusively catered for in gaming and the other just…isn’t. Perhaps because the film versions of these genres are attempting to capture or secure specific markets – the Not Crap tends to be more of an overlap; something that has a bit more to it.

    Can games do comedy? Or romance? Don’t see why not, really.
    They seem to at least be able to do them separately, so theoretically, the two could be combined.
    Should they? Don’t see why not, really.

    But I’d definitely rather they were shooting for the Not Crap; something with more going on. Having the extreme girl-version of a bro-shooter might be nice for variety, but it makes certain assumptions about demographics and viewers (players, in this case) that I kind of…wince at.

    (A bit like the ‘game for girls’ box sets that have Barbie dress up games or something to do with ponies)

    • pepperfez says:

      I think you’re being pretty unfair to genre work. Amelie and Eternal Sunshine are definitely rom-coms, in the same way that 2001 and Metropolis are sci-fi movies and Apocalypse Now is a war movie. None of those labels stop them from being more than that.

      • Kala says:

        I’m not saying it’s *all* catering to extremes, I’m just saying I think large swathes of them are. Which is not unlike most things in general; there’s some good, but a lot of crap. I characterised the ‘lot of crap’ to be marketing or pandering to stereotypes; I don’t think that’s untrue, at least in my own anecdotal experience.

        I’m a big fan of labels being fluid, but generally it’s the more interesting stuff that wears more than one hat. (Particularly when the hat is often a sappy representation of ‘boy meets girl’)

        Eternal Sunshine, for instance, gets called a ” romantic science-fiction comedy-drama film” with “psychological thriller” elements by wiki.

        What I was arguing there isn’t that they can’t fit the romcom label (they do), but they are not *typical* of the genre and stretch beyond it. Which is, to me, is (at least partly) what makes them Not Crap. I’m not saying that a label prevents them from being more than that, I’m saying that they *are*, despite the label.

    • Emeraude says:

      Something I believe because of my own personal history with music and crate digging: whatever the genre, however unappealing to you, you’ll find someone that will make something brilliant out of it.
      That doesn’t mean you can’t map personal preferences from attributes of each genre though. Nor that Sturgeon’s law won’t apply.

  25. spindaden says:

    The Sims is the ultimate Rom Com game.

  26. zipdrive says:

    Doesn’t Save the Date count?

  27. AngoraFish says:

    Say Anything: Best.Movie.Ever

  28. Craxel says:

    Silent Hill 4: The Room.

  29. Mezmorki says:

    Quest for Glory (sierra quest) games were always pretty hilarious (as was space quest). The 4th QfQ installment had you sort of romancing/courting with a mysterious Katrina, who got a bit more personal with you, when turned out to be a psycho-vampire lady. Sort of a romcost reversal at the end …

    link to rockpapershotgun.com

  30. Distec says:

    Gotta love a John Walker temper tantrum on a Monday morning. Have a beautiful week!

  31. Laurentius says:

    in comparison to other mediums like books and movies, video games are incredibly rarely set in contemporary times and world.

    • Kala says:

      …aren’t a fair amount of the action shooter/war games in a contemporary setting…? (e.g Americas Army, Counterstrike, Call of Duty – from Modern Warfare onwards – it ain’t my genre, so not an authority here!)
      As well as the GTA series…?

  32. Procrastination Giant says:

    No romantic comedy games? That’s utter nonsense! Deadly Premonition is a better romantic comedy than pretty much any so called romantic movie i’ve ever seen.

  33. Turin Turambar says:

    I did the same reflection time ago. There are some types of stories that are SUPER common in other medium, while in video games is mostly… action games. From platformers to shooters, from fantasy to scifi, from visceral action to strategic action.

    Of course, if you think about it, it makes sense. Movies are about human interaction. People talking, discussing, falling in love, or whatever. Video games are about interaction.

    And action-adventure video game works because it’s really 90% action (moving, jumping, climbing, shooting, stealthing, etc) and 10% story. With that ratio, it’s acceptable to make the story side non-interactive, because the action part is already interactive. You aim, you fire, you avoid enemies. But if you were you make a video game which is 80% story and 20% action, then the 80% would HAVE to be interactive. And I mean really interactive, not having Mass Effect-style of variance.

    We still can’t make meaningful and interesting human interaction in video games. Mind you, reading or hearing a pre-recorded script isn’t exactly “interaction” nor it’s an “interesting” interaction. So games with a totally linear script are missing the point, you can make it better taking that script and doing a book or a movie with it.
    So what I’m saying it’s that we need waaaay better AI that somehow simulates human interaction, with a super solid dialog options, choice and consequence system. Then we will be able to have interactive drama video games, romantic comedy video games, etc etc.

    • Kala says:

      “We still can’t make meaningful and interesting human interaction in video games. ”

      …With the possible exception of sandbox mmos ;p

      • Turin Turambar says:

        Well, it’s hard to direct the players to make a romantic comedy!

        So I think people already has their own romantic comedies in mmos. I mean, some people got married with someone who they meet first in a mmo so…

        • Kala says:

          Very true!

          …and the romantic drama from the roleplayers, ye gods. comic in the worst sense.

    • Archonsod says:

      I suspect there’s a reason for that. Most videogames follow the heroic journey story, which is one of the easiest to write (take hero, add obstacle, profit). Comedy is widely regarded to be one of the most difficult things to write and deliver, while romance in any play or movie is heavily dependent on chemistry between the leads.

      In order to do both you’d need strong writing, the issue with games is that a joke or romantic moment could easily be ruined by player action. I can’t see it working without either curtailing player agency or using NPCs for the plot with the player as a spectator (though I suspect there’s already a few games which have RomCom NPC plots).

  34. Creeping Death says:

    Most romcom films are poorly written, cliché ridden, and usually represent one of both genders involved terribly. Do we REALLY want/need that to become a big genre for videogames?

    I’m all for a romantic subplot when it’s appropriate and done well, but the main point there is that it’s a SUBplot. Not the main draw. Ideally something that (if the game is written well enough) evolves naturally through the course of the story and helps endear the player towards the characters.

    I’ve seen a lot of people namedrop PoP: Sands of Time here but, for me, a better example from that series would be PoP 2008.

  35. JamesTheNumberless says:

    When you watch a rom-com, what you feel for the two protagonists, whether you laugh or despair at what they do, comes from the fact that you can see the situation more clearly than they can. Playing as one lead could work but would be much like the classic adventure game format where you end up getting further away from your goal by trying to move towards it. Either you have to restrict what the player is able to choose to do when faced with the opposite lead, or you have to keep moving the goalposts. Or you make the fact that the game is really about a relationship, something which emerges throughout the game. In which case you probably don’t call it a rom-com without feeling as though you’re giving the plot away.

    What I really think though is that Buddy movie/Odd Couple/Romantic Comedy are all more or less the same format. In which case I think the best rom-com videogame is Portal 2.

    • TomxJ says:

      Just beat me me too it James!

      • JamesTheNumberless says:

        Yeah, on the box it might say “sci-fi puzzler” but what everyone will agree makes the Portal games special is the relationship between the protagonist and glaDOS, and there are very few parts of either game which aren’t about the two of you directly interacting. There’s a great divide between you and you start off as enemies but by the end of Portal 2 you’ve spent a significant portion of the game as “the odd couple” and feelings on both sides are muddled in truly rom-com style. Not all rom-coms have to end with the opposite leads getting together.

    • JamesTheNumberless says:

      Something I realise though, looking through the other comments, is that I really haven’t seen a lot of rom-coms and the ones I have seen are not the crap ones. In the same way that crap sci-fi is just explosions and lasers, crap rom-com is just pretty people in pretty locations doing vapid things. Does it really matter what genre other people want to put something in, as long as it’s saying something meaningful?

  36. Renevent says:

    Well, the good news for me is my wife doesn’t play video games…so if by some slim chance games start getting all touchy-feely at least I won’t be force to play them like I am forced to watch similar movies.

  37. Scratches Beard With Pipe Stem says:

    I’m not sure romantic comedies are a sign of maturity.

  38. Themadcow says:

    Groundhog Day and 50 First Dates are pretty much the definition of gaming. Repeat task multiple times in order to achieve the optimal outcome. This is especially true of Groundhog Day which treats it’s protagonist like a computer game character – if he dies he simply goes back to the start and tries again with everything ‘reset’. So, just chuck some romance and chuckles into Dark Souls and you’re golden.

  39. Shadowcat says:

    Those evil murdering babies with swastika-shaped knives must be stopped!!

    • Monggerel says:

      Before they cut their own baby hands!!

    • derbefrier says:

      Aww some on knife wielding swahtika babies need love to. Just think of all the silly shenanigans they could get into trying to find love! It practically writes itself,

  40. Saarlaender39 says:

    Well, the very first game that came to my mind when I read your article, was “The next BIG thing” from Pendulo Studios.
    link to pendulo-studios.com

    It has -almost- everything, a good romantic comedy needs.
    Maybe a bit lacking when it comes to the two protagonists squabbling with one another, but the moments they are together, are gold.

    And the end is really heart-warming.

    So – if you haven’t played it…go for it!

  41. brgillespie says:

    We’ve had romantic comedy text adventures for years; they were called “chat rooms”.

  42. ulix says:

    I’ll add the British TV shows “Gavyn & Stacey”, as well as the new Channel 4 show “Catastrophe” to the list of great romantic comedies. Also: “You’re the Worst”, a new FX-show from last year (it’s funny how similar the premises are in “Catastrophe” and “You’re the Worst”).

    The Australian Show “A Moody Christmas” (and following it “The Moodys”) also has elements of RomCom, and it’s generally pretty great.

    Don’t know if any of these storylines would work as games though. “You’re the Worst” is probvably the surest bet, because (Spoilers!) the characters are mostly kept apart from each other.

  43. Monggerel says:

    I never played it, but Cara Ellison did recently write about Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, which went in a decidedly similar direction.
    Same for Full Throttle actually (of which I watched a full LP). Some others too, I’m sure.

  44. RARARA says:

    Don’t we have enough creepiness in games already?

  45. roope says:

    Yeah, go fuck yourself Wanker. VN’s don’t count because reasons? And look, already someone is throwing the “problematic” card around.

  46. Jason Moyer says:

    I don’t see how following genre conventions of another entertainment medium would in any way be a good thing. It already sucks that videogames are trying so hard to be films.

    • ulix says:

      Depends on the game.

      I can enjoy Uncharted and Walking Dead. And at the same time I can enjoy Crusader Kings 2 and FTL.

      If you believe it or not.

      • Jason Moyer says:

        I enjoy all kinds of terrible schlock, but that doesn’t mean I think it’s advancing videogames as an artform either. For some reason we’re stuck in this “in order for videogames to be taken seriously as art they need to mimic film” rut. Personally, I’d be more willing to argue the artistic merits of Atari 2600 games or something like the first Quake or Thief (or to use an example of something I don’t care for, the Sims) that expanded the scope of interactive media than something that aped cinematic narrative conventions.

  47. Emeraude says:

    Where Are The Romantic Comedy Videogames?

    In a special hell with my name on it.

    That being aid, given, as far as I can see, one of the main desired attributes of a romantic comedy happens to be predictability – you go in there wanting to see a variation of a structure you already know by heart, and whose beats and movements are, as a feature, perfectly foreseeable, I don’t think it meshes with games with a focus on narrative interactions that well.

    If anything, I’d argue that the lack of tools to properly deliver nuanced human interactions – or the fact that hose that exist aren’t being used – is a plus for the genre, in which characters are more social positions on a map rather than individuals, and where wit and quality of dialogs is more important than what is being said.

    It probably can – and does – survive in a hybridized form, tagging along other genres. Modern Bioware games if anything. But apart from the VN genre, I, don’t think it has a lot of room undiluted.

  48. brulleks says:

    Clearly you’ve forgotten about this:

  49. mika76 says:

    How about Rex Nebular?

    link to youtube.com

    There was plenty of comedy, although I’m not sure about romance. Still, the man does have a fireplace in his ships brig. If that’s not romantic I don’t know what is…