Dragon Age Lead Writer David Gaider took to his blog over the weekend to discuss the issue of romance in games, and in BioWare games in particular. And if your question is “I can haz moar sex in mah vidya games?” his answer is pretty straightforward:

“If we had more resources, I suppose I wouldn’t mind allowing the player to try romancing every follower, but to allow them to successfully do so? No, I can’t say that appeals to me very much.”

His primary two reasons are that romances, particularly BioWare romances, which are generally done with some modicum of taste, are supposed to be side options, and not a major part of the game, and that oversexualizing characters tends to objectify them, as if they’re nothing more than inventory items for a libidinous player to collect – especially since these kind of options are typically meant to appeal to males.

If the option existed, Gaider would like to see different outcomes – including the possibility of failure – and different character types to romance: some shy, some aggressive, some tragic possibilities, and even some who cheat on your character.

All of which makes good storytelling, but does it distract from the main reason for buying the game – i.e., to play it? To save the kingdom/galaxy/princess/etc.? And would an overabundance of romantic options reduce a game to something of a laughingstock? “Sure, I saved the world, but I spent more time getting horizontal with all of my party members.”

What do you think? Do you want to see more or less romance in your RPGs? Or do the current titles get the mix just about right?

Jason Winter has held several positions in the tabletop and video-gaming industry since 1996, including writer, editor, marketing coordinator, and game designer. He's the former editor of Beckett Massive Online Gamer and almost considers himself competent in PvP. In addition to his work with Gamebreaker.tv, he also blogs about video games at http://jasonwinter.wordpress.com.
  • http://www.facebook.com/jason.jenkins.73 Jason Jenkins

    as long as romance options dont sound like bad one liners from a porno i love having romance options in games, swtor’s romance options are a prime exsample of what i would not want in future games…there are times in that game i’m surprised i never once heard the line of hey baby wana see my lightsaber..such bad romance options there.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jonathan.hornsby.7 Jonathan Hornsby

    The best in game romance I’ve seen has been Tali in Mass Effect 2. This is largely because she wasn’t in any way a sexualized character, and the relationship (an actual relationship rather than what you got with Ass-in-Spandex posing as a character “Miranda”) actually seemed to matter to her; it had emotional weight to it and legitimate, although implied, consequences. The other options were pretty much just going for a sex scene, yet with Tali there wasn’t even really a scene to be had; just a fully clothed pounce and fade to black.

    • http://twitter.com/WadeDMcGinnis Wade D McGinnis

      Thing about Tali is players built over time a relationship which started in ME and continued to ME3.

      The relationship felt more impactful because players enjoyed the character but also because there is a mystery to her. Masks do wonders to the imagination. 

      • http://www.facebook.com/jonathan.hornsby.7 Jonathan Hornsby

        Agreed on all points. But that just reenforces my view of the relationship. With the other options it was just “play for ten hours and you can bang her” while Tali had much, much more development. It was just handled better overall.

        • Deacon1979

           I’ve always preferred liara tbh, she felt far more fleshed out than any of the other romances in all three games, whichis why i suspect she is the “cannon” romance

    • Kelly Jolliffe

      Not to take away from your gaming experience, but Tali was fully clothed in that scene because she would get space aids in a matter of seconds just from touching Shepard on the cheek. Point is, from the writer(s)’ perspective, being purposefully tasteful wasn’t exactly the end goal.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/KHPZTPGVBYFPZSC2QLRVIYVE6M Tom

    The problem with Romance in games like a RPG style is to not make it into a game mechanic. Romance between the PC and other character should feel natural not forced. 

    I agree on the idea that we need less Romance options since this will allow the writers to build a romance thread through the game where it could lead to Romance or the PC declining it due to what ever reason.
    I believe game writers need to bring in a consultant on romance, a person who understands the social dynamics of romance in literature and real life. This could even be a writer who focus on these type of stories. 
    From games I have played the romance seemed as if the writers don’t know how to write this topic.Creating a Romance between PC and another character, it’s not about a flirt line or physical appearance but finding common bonds that can be shown in moments where PC and Romance option can have time to discuss and explore this bond.

    In real life, we might not know we are actually very interested in a person romantically till we see them flirting with another and triggers jealousy. This jealousy tells the person’s mind that they want to be with them, their emotions are now unblocked and exposed. The challenge is what does the character do with that emotion, do they try to pursue that person? do they let them go?
    Where writers need some strength in their writing is help planting seeds in the main PC since you as the PC must also have a feeling of identity. The PC’s identity can be created by early player actions and choices during gameplay/story to allow a player to feel as if they are X type of character.

  • Kelly Jolliffe

    To be succinct: I enjoy them when they’re there, but don’t really miss them when they’re not.

  • NightLord_001

    I want more good romance options in my games. For example: Tali in ME, Isabella in DA2, and the romantic option with Morrigan in DA (the stuff when she started having feelings) even the rejection with Avaline in DA2 really pulled me in.

    Those are the options that i really enjoyed, they felt more real than some of the others (Zevran, Merril, Jack)I think if the romantic options are handled well and do not affect any mechanics, I would love seeing dozens in my games. If they’re handled poorly, then I’d rather have none.Also, if achievements were dissociated from romancing specific characters it would add more weight to the relationships. As it is, when i go achievement hunting the list looks like this (for example):

    1. kill the darkspawn
    2. look for the dwarf
    3. create another save file because this is where i have to decide who to sleep with
    4. finish it up with one character
    5. do the deed with the other
    6. finish the game

    By removing the tangible rewards (or even worse, gameplay rewards) we make the romance a plot device only, and make it more rewarding for the people that like it and don’t push it on people that don’t. 

  • Revanhavoc

    As I’m thinking back, nearly all of my favourite games have some sort of romance or hinted romance (as in Half-Life 2 with Alyx). So yeah I guess that means it appeals to me.
     
    I just like escaping to imaginary worlds that I can immerse myself in. Experiencing the relationships between different characters in video games, whether it’s a romance or not, helps me to achieve my goal of getting as involved as possible with the story. 
     
    I love a good story, and how many good stories don’t have a good romance, right? Tragic or not.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/FPXO267IVAHL3MK4HRRNRQPNDA Bush Swanson, The American Dre

    I wish i had a gf… :(

  • http://twitter.com/MiZTiiX MiZTiiX

    meh

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1260066056 Steven Diaz

    “This guy’s thoughts”  That comment threw me off completely.  I couldn’t stop laughing.  Anyhoot, what I think they need to do is stop throwing wangs and muffins at the player.  Half the time in DA2 I’d end up hitting on all characters (one in particular, the mage fuy) just because I’d choose the nice option rather than being mean.  Romance shouldn’t be thrown around like that, it feels odd and makes me feel uneasy while playing when I’m always distracted with the options because I don’t want to romance that particular character, just provide some friendly support or be cordial and polite. 

       That mage character’s romance options were ALL tied to ANY positive answer that you gave him so you almost always had to have the conversation where you rejecting him.  I’m straight, I have nothing against same sex relationships and I support any friends that are either gay or lesbian, but that doesn’t mean I want to have that thrown in my face.  I still feel uneasy when a guy attempts to flirt or hits on me (just joking around doesn’t bother me, just mean when it’s serious) and I don’t want it thrown in my face constantly in video games.

  • valval12

    I liked Dragon Age Origins, the relationships were there if you wanted them. I thought they were well done and made the game more epic and more human. Dragon Age 2 wasn’t as good I felt, in oh so many ways – from the teeny-tiny single city world, and regurgitated dungeon designs, limitations on gearing characters, and somehow I didn’t enjoy the cast or story. It kind of lost me.

    I’ll check out youtube Let’s Plays and Amazon.com player reviews to figure out if Bioware does a decent job on Dragon Age 3. After all, it’s my money, so it’s my decision. So many reviews by industry media seem to want to please the game manufacturers more than they truly want to evaluate new games for the consumer. From the design of Dragon Age 2, I got the impression that Bioware might be trying to emulate platform gaming mechanics, which means dumbing things down quite a lot, catering to mostly teens. Maybe that’s not the case, suppose only time will tell.

    SWTOR stories were mostly good, though I didn’t think the MMO design itself was outstanding in any way and unsubbed back in July 2012. Personally, wasn’t crazy about the art, although it is artistically solid. Everything I’ve heard about the SWTOR cartel shop has kept me far far away, I’m not going to put up with that kind of nonsense. I’ve only played two MMOs since 2005, and one of them was SWTOR. Since August 2012 I”ve moved on to Sony’s Everquest 2, and I’m really loving it. Which is a surprise to me, but it’s got pretty good graphics, and tons of content over eleven expansions aka lots to do. I’m trying out house decorating and absolutely love that. I did free to play EQ2 for a while, and have just subbed for a year. I suspect that Bioware’s SWTOR is all about the money now that they’ve gone “free” to play, and in this area I’ve found Everquest 2 to be a comparatively less greedy F2Play model. My next MMO will be Everquest Next, hope that one lives up to the hype. SWTOR certainly didn’t live up to my hopes, and all that money splurged on celebrity voice actors and celebrity developers didn’t manage to deliver what Star Wars fans wanted, kind of heart-breaking. I think they’re trying to fix where they went wrong. Arrogance can be dangerous, and for all the hype, pride came before a fall. They failed to see that F2P is the way things can survive, because under a properly designed F2P model, players will spend more than they would on a subscription model. If SWTOR is smart, they’ll not overcharge on their virtual goods, so that players enjoy shopping instead of becoming more and more irked by the cartel store experience. With better F2P balancing, and more genuine TLC for their players, maybe SWTOR can recover. For the sake of everyone who enjoys it, I hope so.

    It seems to me that there is possibly a gender divide on whether or not romance is a good thing in games. I get the feeling that in his manly mind, this Bioware writer seems inclined to restrict love story material – personally I’m not a fan of that attitude. Makes me think we need more women in leadership positions re story content. I met so many women at Pax who like Dragon Age purely because of the lovey dovey stuff, it was the hook that pulled them in to the adventure. After the Dragon Age 3 panel (Pax 2012), I came away not liking the Bioware writer stance on story, they didn’t seem to care if players didn’t like what they served, they even seemed a bit hostile. Basically, I’m a woman who likes a great romance here and there, as a background distraction from combat and questing. I’ll wait and see before buying future titles, just in case they trim stories down too much or make them too trite. Dragon Age 2’s romances were very dull, probably aimed at teens, with emo Fenris and neutered Sebastian, etc. The only character I really liked was the dwarf. Bioware probably wishes they hadn’t done such a good job with Origins, since it’s a hard act to follow. At this stage, although their changes to DA2 combat mechanics were okay, they might be losing their magic with regard to making Dragon Age characters and story lines truly memorable. I won’t give up completely, I will listen to player reviews etc. Dragon Age 3 at least seems to be large world, which is a plus. I wouldn’t say I have high hopes, but I’m hoping player reviews will leave me pleasantly surprised!

  • http://www.facebook.com/tim.mcfadden1 Tim McFadden

    I think it is a great option. I do mean option too. If you want to just focus on saving the world, then ignore the romances. If you want to spedn a lot of time than romance the heck out of NPCs. Options only improve games, since that add an extra flaovr to the game if you want them, but can simply be ignored if you don’t want to use them. They should be a secondary concern for developers though. If the game’s developement spends more time on romances than the story, then you have issues.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001256041308 Aimee Ellison

    Hey Bioware, just throw Liara into all your future games. She’s all the romance option I need.