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.
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