Limited Romance Options in Choice of Games

romance

#1

As it says in the title, I’ve never been a fan of limiting the reader’s romantic options when creating games on this website. Whether it be because of NPCs having a set sexuality or the player being forced to have a certain personality in order to date them.

Now I understand that some developers feel that characters seem more realistic if they’re lesbian, straight, etc. instead of being player-sexual but based on what I have created on my own work in progress, the gender doesn’t make too much of a difference and I’m having difficulty seeing why you would punish a player because of their gender by confining their options to a couple romances specifically with games where gender is only used to make the reader more immersed and makes close to no change to the story over all. It also affects certain people, or me anyways, when there is a clear difference between romance options for sexualities. Some games have three lesbian options and only one straight male option or two straight female options and one gay option…obviously random examples but hopefully you see where I’m getting at.

Sexualities isn’t the only problem I’ve had, there was a certain game where I was going after a certain character and I was enjoying the story immensely until the very end where I got rejected and it kind of ruined the entire experience for me as I had a mini heartbreak! A character obviously wouldn’t like you if you’re cussing them out and arguing with them but I don’t want to feel stressed about spending all my time with a character in hopes I’ll be able to romance them at the very end. If I wanted someone I liked to tell me they’re not into me because of my gender or personality then I would just go to the nearest bar, haha!

Now I’m clearly in the minority with this opinion based on the limited threads on this subject though I’d like to point out that I’m not trying to judge people on how they create games or characters. I was just hoping you’d go into more detail on why you’re limiting the romance options. Thanks!


#2

I’m not a CoG author myself, but I’m a proponent of “limited” romantic options, if that’s how you want to phrase it, and if I were to write a game it would probably be with “limited” romantic options.

The reason for that is because my stories, and indeed the stories I enjoy reading, are character-focused even more than they are plot focused. That means that to be immersed I need to find the characters compelling, and realistic, with whole identities and personalities – even more so when including romance in the story.

You might think, if you’re really into the characters, you’d want to romance all of them. And sure that sounds great. But for me it’s really difficult and maybe even impossible to write a realistic, compelling character with their own personality, who is also romantically interested in the player no matter who the player is. I think romantic interest and romance develops from a relationship between two people. If a character I’m writing is compassionate and pacifistic and scientifically curious, he’s probably not interested in a brutal, violence-happy player who’s not at all interested in acquiring or sharing knowledge. Or, if he is, that’s a rather different, more tragic romance story, and I’d have to be writing specifically to that angle rather than just the same generic romance option regardless of who the player is.

I think that having “limited” romance options also allows you to have more detail, and for it to feel more genuine and responsive to player choice. It’s not about punishing the player, it’s about being true to your story and your characters. That applies for sexuality too. I mean, some people are gay. I could write a story where that doesn’t come up at all and it’s totally irrelevant, and then sure why not just make them player-sexual? But if I’m not doing that, I’ve opened up a space where I’m free to be able to write a story that feels more responsive and detailed, and actually speaks to aspects of the characters’ identities. It’s fine if you don’t want sexuality to be a part of your story at all – but I find that in a romance story it’s actually a fairly important part of the story much of the time.


#3

Thanks for giving your opinion; this was exactly the response I was hoping for! Though I do feel that you misinterpreted my point in the game being less enjoyable when you want to romance a specific character. I don’t necessarily want NPCs to be player sexual so you can romance all of them but just so you can romance the ones you choose to romance, I never enjoyed being limited in choices in a choice of game. I understand you’re point of view though, it helps me become more open minded on why writers do this.


#4

For me I do not mind if all characters in a story are romanceable regardless of gender. I understand the point made by @ElliotEnjolras however.

I just think that like my player character in the game, in this “playthrough” of the story, the character can be a man or a woman for example, and the same could apply to NPC sexuality. So when Dragon Age 2 did this I wasn’t bothered at all.

However, I wont follow this on the game I’m making. I wonder if anyone else uses this reasoning?


#5

I’ll be on the “limiting RO” camp on this issue.

When writing, I always try to make everything lore-friendly/canon. Be it the romance option, the stats screen, the achievements, etc.

As @ElliotEnjolras mentioned, player-sexual NPC is hard to pull off well. If an NPC accepts you as their partner no matter what, it will remove their agency, their personality.

But personally? I’d rather give the player the chance to romance everyone in the game. And if an NPC can’t be romanced, I’ll give them a scene where they’ll say, "I’m not interested in you because <<insert stuff here>>" instead of locking them out from the romance option.


#6

As an author, I agree that it just makes more sense to make all the ROs available regardless of the player’s gender or sexuality. In my WIP, The Magician’s Task, there are 2 male and 2 female romanceable characters and they’re all “player-sexual.” I think this is not only simpler, coding-wise, but it’s just more inclusive.


#7

I loathe the term playersexual. It is called bisexual! I am so tired of bisexual erasure it’s not even funny. (or pansexual, but I am an old fogey)

As you might have guessed I am very much against limiting RO’s, but I do appreciate when romances have differences depending on your gender.


#8

Bisexual and “player-sexual” are different concepts to me. A bisexual character is interested in multiple genders of people. A player-sexual character is interested in the player character, potentially regardless of the PC’s personality or choices (or, yes, gender). A bisexual character is actually written as being bi; that’s an aspect of that character’s identity and existence, whether it comes up explicitly in the story or not. This is not the case for “player-sexual” characters, who may even be presumed to be monosexual – attracted exclusively to whatever gender the player chooses. Would love to see well-written bi characters. I’m bi, myself. “Player-sexual” ROs aren’t usually or always written as being bi, though.


#9

What if the player is a non-binary? That is why “playersexual” is used - to try to be all-inclusive. Binaries and those attracted to binaries can be covered by the traditional terms, yet this community does have many non-binaries and as an author, I really do want to try to be inclusive with them too.


#10

We’re departing a bit from the grain of the discussion here, but just as a note, the term “bisexual” isn’t exclusive of non-binary people, and it doesn’t mean attracted only to men and women. (In fact bisexual people have historically been some of the staunchest allies of the trans/non-binary community). And non-binary is typically an adjective, not a noun.


#11

Now a post to the topic at hand - the way I write, all my characters have the ability to form a “relationship” of one nature or another with the PC and other NPCs within the game(s) they are a part of the cast of.

The nature of those relationships will be determinate on what happens within the game (or games if they are a series) and how far into the romance sphere this goes will depend on the PC’s exclusive choices. The reason I have evolved my writing (for CS games) this way is that the connection to the characters I write is very unpredictable for me to know in advance of my audience and experience shows me that limiting potential romance hurts my marketability.

As you said, this is out-side the scope of this discussion so if we wish to continue this either another thread or PM should be pursued. For now, we will just have to disagree - :handshake:


#12

I see why some people think so-called “playersexual” ROs cannot develop, since it may mean that a character is straight in one person’s playthrough and gay in another person’s playthrough. I think the issue is because when this happens, the character does not usually have a set sexuality and there is (usually) no mention of a previous relationship with other characters that may let the player see that the RO is bi/pan/whatever sexuality. There are also some ROs that have exclusively been in a relationship with characters of one gender and suddenly happen to be interested in characters of another gender without any previous implication that they are. For example, a woman who dates exclusively women throughout the game and suddenly falls for the male MC without mentioning that she might be bi/pan.

On the other hand, I see nothing wrong with making ROs bisexual or pansexual, or even making all ROs in a game bi or pan, so long as they’re actually depicted as such.

And on the note of the MC having to have a certain personality in order to romance an RO, I think this is actually reasonable for some ROs. A sweet, friendly RO might only be attracted to MCs who have the same personality.

But also on the topic of rejection, I think a rejection can create a feeling of agency in characters, a sense that they have lives beyond the MC.

(I haven’t actually played a game here where a character rejects the MC due to said character’s asexuality. Has there been one?)


#13

As a response to the original post, I just thought of a few things.

  1. If every single person is attracted and will date the player, the game will become less realistic (although that depends on the world you made)

My biggest issue with this point is practicality-- sure, maybe in a superhero/ magic story you childhood friend could be an RO regardless of gender, however were you to create a world with characters who are obviously either antagonists, only minor referenced or simply wouldn’t logically want you, regardless (e.g. you killed their family, they are married)

And
2) I think if every person is player sexual it can change how someone sees the NPC’s, for example they might think they’re more like an ahievement to date em all or something.

I don’t really have a big problem with this, since as long as nobody’s hurt I’m fine with it in real life too, although it could ruin/ affect how the game maker wanted people to see each NPC, and (although this is just a guess) might result in akim-reading or skipping out the actual romance altogether in an attempt to get to other romance scenes (and get an achievement or something )


#14

Sorry if I sounded angry or bitter, or derailed the discussion. I had just woken up, and this is kind of personal to me so I didn’t think before posting. Now I’ve had my tea and realized I was being unnecessarily harsh.

That being said, I think that one of the issues with the whole playersexual thing is that in order not to be accused of that, every love interest would have to be shown to have two exes of different sexes in order to be shown to be properly bi/pansexual and not just reacting to the player.

On the other hand, I realize/agree with that there should be various queer characters shown that stays queer during the story so they exist even in straight playthroughs.

So yeah, I am not consistent in my own views even. I’ll admit to that.

I guess I am just used to queer romances being the ones that gets shortshifted when romances are locked (hello ME Andromeda), and that is why Iam advocating open romance options (like DA2). I just want to be able to have fun.


#15

I have very mixed feelings regarding set sexualities for ROs. On the one hand, they increase diversity in the cast, which I’m certainly in favour of (I even made my own thread about it… :sweat_smile:). However, as @malinryden points out, this can quite often be used in such a way that gay players are at a significant disadvantage, and I’ve certainly seen it done badly more times than I’ve seen it done well… My current feelings are that you should aim to have at least three good options for any sexuality, and don’t make the most important characters straight. :expressionless: (Also, we need more bisexuals who prefer their own gender; far too many are basically straight except for the MC.)


Regarding limiting choices based on character, I feel that should be far less controversial: if you’re nasty to everyone, it would make sense that fewer people want to romance you. :man_shrugging:t2:


#16

When writing the romance paths righg now i make sure that its clear that the characters are interested in the mc mainly for their personality, not their genitalia.


#17

I much prefer it when ROs are playersexual or switch gender depending on the PC, because while I do understand reasonings for the alternate, it’s just not as fun. As a gay man living in a small village, my romance options are pretty limited in real life. Also, and maybe this is just me, but set genders and sexualities limits my playthroughs too.

I’m going to draw from Dragon Age II for my example, because I think that did the romances best out of the whole series. You could romance whoever you wanted and you didn’t have to basically agree with them all the time to do so. More games could do with a friendship/rival system than an approval system.


#18

I am generally for open sexualities too. There are exception, such as if you have a story which require a set sexuality (very rare) or if you have a ton of RO then you have room enough to have a set sexuality.

But most GOG’s and hosted does not have that and I find the sexuality arbitrary anyway. When the MC’s personality and moral does not matter to the Ro (which they rarely does), but their sexuality does then immersion actually breaks for me. NPCs are not real people, they can’t be and that arbitrary limits on the story tends to highlight that for me.

Besides diversity aside there tend certain character traits which always get assigned to set sexualities.


#19

I think the important thing is that writers should respect players (or readers) more than they do their own characters.

While I do agree in principle, I have had my concerns about gay romance dismissed too many times as me being “too concerned with genitalia”… :expressionless:


#20

Romances where you can disagree with a love interest without them immediately breaking up with you are great. In The Sea Eternal developer notes, Lynnea Glasser specifically mentions that this was something she wanted to put across - that an NPC doesn’t have to agree with everything the PC says to have a positive relationship, and can forgive their actions if they’re understandable. Much more akin to real life!

On the other hand, I feel it’s important for a love interest to stand up for themselves and stand their ground if the PC’s actions are abhorrent to them. If a character simply goes along with everything the PC does, even if it is totally against their principles, at best it makes the game look lacking in detail and at worst it makes the relationship itself look very unhealthy.

I like writing bi/pansexual love interests. Where NPCs could be seen as “playersexual”, I try to make it clear that they’re interested in multiple genders so they’re not misconstrued as straight - by them mentioning an ex that’s a different gender to the player, or discussing their “types”, something like that.

If monosexual love interests are included, as a player I like to see a variety - so as well as a straight woman, there’s a bi woman and a gay woman as well, etc. But as a developer, that’s a lot of time and effort spent on writing characterful romances; it’s also challenging, especially in a text-based game, to make such a large cast of characters feel distinct from each other. It would be very interesting to give it a try though - maybe for a specifically romance game.