On the Dimensionality of Romance Options

One thing I’ve noticed from lurking on this site’s WIP forum for a while is that the sample of ROs I end up enjoying the most is incongruous with my actual IRL type.

Originally I thought this was because of backstory, but eventually I realized that the common thread was details. Not as in “six foot tall” and “finely manicured lower back” or whatever, but like the little things that let you know that fool you into thinking that this is a person, that they have a life outside of the plot and the MC; that they’re three-dimensional.

For example, the RO I liked the most, Alessa from Golden Rose, isn’t my phenotypical type at all, which originally discouraged me from pursuing that story path. But I vividly remember this one rice pudding scene (if you know it you know it) which absolutely endeared me to the character.

There’s other examples of this dimensionality, like the characters in Mind Blind, but I think one thing made that romance stick out in particular: the RO being willing to share a vulnerability with the MC. It’s not just a character having lots of dimensionality, but also that they can expose parts of it to the reader. I would call it simulated intimacy.

In contrast, in a lot of the more popular romance games, like Wayhaven or Keeper of the Day and Night, the constant flirtatious banter was fun, but it didn’t feel like I had any real understanding of who the ROs were as a person or felt like I was actually very close to them. Instead of simulated intimacy, I like to call this moreso escalation of sexuality, because really, most of the time, the paths just escalate in dirtier flirtation, eventually culminating in sex. There’s dates sometimes, I suppose, but I don’t feel any real emotional bond to them as a character, they’re just a ball of raw personality and quips floating in space. The reader doesn’t get to learn about the stupid hijinks they got up to in high school, or how they just love that one food dish cooked this specific way for no particular reason; they only exist to banter and produce fanart and do NSFW. It can be a fun experience with a good writer, as with Wayhaven and Keeper, but I don’t come out of the game really remembering who these people are.

That’s just my two cents, really. Not sure if anyone else feels this way about gamebooks, and of course, not disparaging writers just because the experiences they create aren’t my cup of tea.

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Do you think this is a thing about romance options, or a thing about creating interesting characters in general with whom one can invest?–creating the illusion of life and vivid reality in a character, in other words.

I would guess that that dimensionality is pretty important for connecting with a character friendship-wise, rival-wise, and so forth, as well. I’m not sure that it’s a romance thing so much as just good character development in general. Creating interiority and interesting depth for characters is something readers definitely respond to, for sure, and I always find it neat to look at how different writers pull that trick off.

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That’s definitely fair, I think it’s important for a lot of characters. But ROs also have the additional feature that they should be sharing these things with the reader; that simulated intimacy, it actually makes me feel like I’m getting closer to them as a person because they’re giving me all these things they wouldn’t give other people.

That’s certainly also important in platonic relationships, but I’ve seen exactly zero intense platonic relationships in CoGs, it just seems against the tropes of the genre.

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I don’t think my opinion will really be relevant here, but I feel like it’s an interesting one to share.

So, this is an interesting line to me, because when I play a game, these characters are real people, and so is my MC (I don’t indentify / self insert). This is why I make a different MC for each game, even if there are only like three “archetypes” I like for my MCs. I like to see myself as a sort of “guardian angel/spirit” to the MC, whose goal is to have them achieve happiness.
So in my case, there is no “fooling me” into thinking they are people. They’re just that.

Because of that, while I CAN consider a story or even characters better or worse in an objective way, and while I DO see them as having a certain “role” in their story (like, an enhanced version of the concept of destiny), at the end of the day I still consider they live and breathe and love. This is mostly due to a teacher I had, who once said something that could be summed up to: “If we consider the human mind as something real, then fiction doesn’t exist. What we call ‘fiction’ happens in our minds, which are real. Which means it IS real too. So, ‘fiction’ doesn’t exist - as long as a story and it’s characters are in the mind of at least one person, then they are just as real as you and me.”.
This has been my main motto in life since then.

So, going back on track.
You used games like “Golden Rose”/“Mind Blind” on one side, and “Wayhaven Chronicles”/“Keeper” on the other side… But to me… well, it’s the same, really. These four games - or well, the characters of these four games - are all just as touching and alive.

Sure, the tones of the stories and the type of roles the characters can have are not the same, but at the end of the day they are stil people I care about.

Usually, to make me “loose” my connection to the characters and stop seeing them as people, the game must be really badly written for one reason or another, or really stat focused where it’ll all become min-maxing and frustration instead of helping the MC. There are exceptions where the story as a whole doesn’t click, but then I never get that connexion to begin with. “Choice of Robots” was like that for me. I can understand how people consider it to be a very good game, but I can’t see it like that because it never clicked.

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That’s a really fascinating opinion, thank you for sharing.

I think we’re just reading these stories is just fundamentally different. You seem to come into these games with a lot more humanity given to the characters by default than I provide. I commend you for that, but I still think that games shouldn’t rely on this to be good, they should be able to please everyone, even those like me who need the dimensionality of an RO to be built up properly.

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Nevermind

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