At first I thought that this thread about games with good representation (like, A+, you did a good job) and how they did so. While not necessarily a bad thing, I was a bit confused, so you might want to change the title to Ace/Aro/AroAce Spectrum Representation or something like that. Despite my initial misconception about this thread’s purpose, I happen to be ace, so it works out.
Examples of Good/Great Representation:
Crème de la Crème lets you be asexual, aromantic, both or demi/gray in a way that felt natural to me (and didn’t feel like it was shaming me for being so). I romanced Rosario, and you have the option of kissing him, just talking, or sleeping with him at various points (all separate choices you aren’t forced to go through with!) It was refreshing, to me at least.
Sometimes games assume asexual means “I don’t want to hug, I don’t want to hold hands, I don’t want to touch anyone, even if we’re friends rather than partners” which is just not super realistic (or at least, doesn’t apply to many aces). And particularly, as a touchy ace, this just doesn’t sit right with me. More of a me thing, but I also like to be able to kiss my ROs. It’s an intimacy thing for me. That said, I don’t think a game should ever force such a thing on an ace MC, of course. Just have the option there. I’m sure false assumptions about orientation are also common to aromantic paths.
There’s also an AceAro character (Gonzalez) who you can bond with. If you become friends with them, they’ll confess they’re not interested in the marriage you and your classmates are being primed for. If you’re on the ace and/or aro spectrum, you can say you understand. That simple moment, just being able to say “I feel you” let alone having the character in the first place, meant the world to me.
The friendship paths for the game were just as satisfying as the non-romantic ones as well. I just loved the characters. When you took interest in becoming friends, you spent time with them and helped them, and they did the same for you. Everything friendship is in real life.
Shepherds of Haven:
Again, you can chose your orientation in a natural way, and make friends with the shepherds by spending time with them, learning about them, and helping them on personal missions. The game hasn’t gotten far enough along yet for starting a romance, but so far it feels sweet and comfortable. I think the key to this WIP’s success is the personal missions; they really help to flesh out the character.
Heroes of Myth:
Another game with similar separate choices and fleshed out characters. I wasn’t as satisfied with the friendship paths in it, though. It seemed mostly centered around spending time with your RO(s), which is a problem for a lot of games, and I do mean a lot.
Examples of Decent(ish) Representation:
Choice of Rebels: Much as I love this game (agh, the worldbuilding), this is one game where the ace path can lead to heartbreak…which doesn’t occur playing as an allosexual, or even someone on the ace spectrum. One of the main characters and ROs (1/3 for the first game), Breden, will enter a relationship with an ace character, but give the MC ultimatum(s, depending on how you play) until they either agree to have sex with them or break up. They’ll even reject an ace MC’s marriage proposal who won’t do so.
The reason? Their relationship, without sex, is not enough. Not only is that just generally not a great feeling for ace players, but could actually possibly be triggering for people with similar past relationship issues. I feel like the breakup should either be quick or Breden decides the relationship isn’t for them since the MC (through all paths I can see) always ends up letting Breden know they’re ace before it starts.
Another issue is that the game, while it allows you to play as a romantic asexual, it doesn’t allow you play as aromantic sexual. (Though it does have an AroAce option).
BUT it also has one of the sweetest ace romances ever with Simon/Susanne de Firiac. Though it is a potential issue that Breden, Simon/Susanne, and the other RO, Kalt/Kala will always have to be let down by the player, no matter orientation. An issue for aro MCs, and anyone who doesn’t like them, really. Really it can be quite stressful.
Bad Representation (not naming specific games but bad things/tropes):
Stereotypes/false assumptions (see above): Being ace doesn’t mean you don’t ever want to touch people; not all touch is sexual. Some ace people enjoy kissing.
Conflating asexual and aromantic: They are not the same thing, and people who want to play one path might not interested in another. I know I’ve passed up on playing as ace before to still be romantic. Of course, I’m glad such paths are common place for AceAro people.
Less content for people who aren’t romancing/romancing differently. Sure, it’s be to expected in romance games that there’s less content for aromantics (and sometimes asexuals, to a lesser extent) I suppose. Yet friendship and characters are still deeply important to the game. Not everyone will want sex, not everyone will want romance, but everyone will want relationships of some sort with the characters.
The MC is the only one who’s on the ace/aro spectrum: I want to be able to meet people who are ace, people who aro, people who are both. It’s just so important. Makes us feel seen, you know?
As you said above, being forced into romance, and also being forced into sex: It’s jarring for me in a romance than playing the game and somehow finding that being romantically interested in a character means we’re being the horizontal tango without my character’s consent (is it the same way for aromantics who find that being sexually interested in a character means their MC has romantic feelings for them?)