Romance Stigma in Video Games?

The way that CDPR treated Kerry and River romances in Cyberpunk is ridiculous. V can’t even flirt with Kerry before the first kiss scene, there’s no development in their relationship. River too, you complete 3 quests with him and sudenly he’s in love with you. CDPR literally said “f*ck you” to male attracted players

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Yes, but with Panam you have to decline her advances on you several times and she still offers sex. Not to mention all those forced straight encounters you have to go through even to get to meet Kerry.

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If only they made Goro a RO for all Vs. I was gay for him since the whole car chase scene…or was I just gay for the car chase scene :thinking:

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Yeah for a lot of talk they made about romance In Cyberpunk it’s unfortunate there’s only one actual proper romance per gender/sexuality preference (and as stated the male ones aren’t as developed). Another thing on the pile of the game’s problems I guess.

I don’t think there’s ever been a major game that has managed to be inclusive in romance for everyone equally though? :thinking:

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Well, Dragon Age 2 went the playersexuality route, except for Sebastian.

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Sometimes I wonder if that’s just the best approach - you can have less and more nuanced characters to romance and everyone gets their preferences. The only issues are really avoiding getting hit on by those you’re not into that way and losing sexuality specific characters where it matters. COG at least as a graphicsless system allows for easy gender and sexuality choices to be swapped where it would need far more work in a visual AAA game.

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It also avoids DA:I’s problem of making the “main” story-linked romance only available to a female elf.

So long as advances can be stopped easily and the game doesn’t aggressively push a love interest, I don’t mind having potential love interests try to check you out.

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For me it’s more that I’ve been burned on a consistant basis by games claiming to have “romance”, and it’s just poorly written, lazy and sometimes just that, a waste of time. So when I hear romance in a game these days my first instinct is “why bother, it’ll probably suck anyway.”
I would love it if somehow romance became commonplace in RPGs especially, and were actually good. I don’t for example consider 2-5 flirt options over the duration of a game and then a dialogue choice for a fade to black “sex” scene, only for it to never be mentioned again for the rest of the game, a “romance”.

Slight spoilers for Cyberpunk 2077 ahead if you care;

I also, as much as I like Judy in Cyberpunk, do not like the way that was done either, the romance is practically just what I said, minus the fade to black. 2-5 flirt options in dialogue with an optional sex scene and morning after chat about it, only for her to disappear and act like it never happened for the rest of the game, until the end credits. I believe the other ROs are much the same.

Just another game added to the list of disappointing romance, imo.
This was strange to me considering how well they handled the Triss romance for example in Witcher 3. Different writers perhaps… either way, disappointing.

I will say though, from the little I played of Baldur’s gate 3, that game seems like it could have at least one decent romance option. So I have high hopes for that one, probably too high… oh well.

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Different writers with different levels of competency at romance can definitely be an issue - that’s apparently what happened with Assassins Creed Odyssey where the main game writers and the writers of the First Assassin DLC were completely different and that led to the controversy with the forced baby storyline.

It will be interesting to see after such a long time attempting to get away from romance as they did with Anthem how the modern BioWare team will tackle romance in both Dragon Age 4 and the next Mass Effect.

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I also, as much as I like Judy in Cyberpunk, do not like the way that was done either, the romance is practically just what I said, minus the fade to black. 2-5 flirt options in dialogue with an optional sex scene and morning after chat about it, only for her to disappear and act like it never happened for the rest of the game, until the end credits. I believe the other ROs are much the same.

Some other is even worse. For Kerry there isn’t even a single flirt, just a sudden kiss and then sex scene in next quest.

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Sorry, but isn’t this getting a bit off topic?

I love discussing specific ROs in video games too, but that’s not really what this thread is about.

We have the generic Video Games thread, and a lot of different threads have been made throughout the years, to discuss ROs, both in CSGs and other games.

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Yes, let’s keep the conversation on whether a stigma regarding romance in video games exists and what might influence that, rather than how certain video game romance options are executed in specific games.

My take: there is a certain stigma about romance when it comes to video games, especially AAA mainstream games, but I think it’s lessening slowly over time. I think the people who are like “tHis iS a GamE aBouT SpACe, play Princess Tutu Otome 3000 if you want to kiss people you GIRL!!!” are a very vocal minority, and I think the general misogyny and homophobia lying behind such attitudes are getting exposed more over time. The more we’re aware of them, the more (generally) they decrease in power and exposure over time… that’s my hope, anyway.

I do think there is definitely an additional stigma towards romance in video games that is inclusive towards women and LGBTQA+ players… I guess that one’s obvious. I find it interesting that the kind of romance in the Witcher series–geared exclusively towards a male protagonist–does not preclude it from being taken “seriously” as a gritty, grimdark fantasy that male players can extol, but the more inclusive romances in, say, BioWare or something along those lines tends to earn more criticism and mockery, and such games get marketed or talked about as far more romance-based than they actually might be.

In terms of interactive fiction, I think it swings all the way around. I think there is a strong desire for romance in IF and CS games, and (correct me if I’m wrong), games without romance tend to need more niche audiences or gain more criticism for not including it. (I rarely see people commenting, “Seems like a cool game but I don’t like science fiction” on sci-fi WIPs, but it’s way more common, for better or for worse, to have comments along the lines of “This seems cool but I won’t be playing if it doesn’t have romance”.)

I am not necessarily criticizing this attitude, because people are free to play and like what they want–I rarely play IFs without romance options because that’s just an element of the story and gameplay that I enjoy, and that I don’t get a lot of in mainstream AAA video games. But I think it’s important for writers and readers to be aware of this attitude going into things. Authors are of course free to write what they want to write and what they are comfortable with; I am extremely against shoehorning romance into games for the sole sake of pleasing readers. But it’s an interesting opposite “stigma” or bias. My guess is that the demographic for IF is very different from mainstream games (well, that’s not a guess, it’s probably fairly obvious). That could also be causative; non-straight cis male players find less of their needs and wants met in mainstream games and more in IF, so naturally, their demographic and consumer base is going to be larger in IF!

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As a member of the demographic you are mentioning, I can confirm that, at least for myself and my similar friends.

My ultimate take is that the stigma definitely and objectively exists, but it obviously effects different minority groups more or less. Regardless, that doesn’t argue against the case that this is just one reason why diversity does matter. In and outside of the medium.

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Personally, I just think an awful lot of games - not all, of course - handle romance pretty poorly. It often comes across really forced, out of place, or just all around cringey. Like, you met a character and it instantly becomes apparent that they’re the love interest, before you even have a chance to get to know or understand said character. However, I do think if done well, romance certainty has a place in games and can really add to the character dynamics. It just needs to be thought about and treated with the same care as any other element in a story.

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Video games probably need to think about how other entertainment mediums handle romances and what works and doesn’t there. I haven’t made my own IF game yet but if I was going to include one with various romances as a legitimate aspect and not just a tag on I would probably consider my favourite romances in fiction and why they work or spark off material so well. But most games don’t need or indeed don’t include multiple romances and unless it’s a visual novel style game or labels romances as a big component in a positive way, I don’t honestly miss them. IF is a bit of a distinctive game type for it as it allows for a major piece of variation, though I am certain that games could work without them.

I would say in my example it’s directly related to the topic, because it’s those examples that have led to at least my reason for not being a fan of romance in video games, as I explained. And I would say the perceived “stigma” is often just that, people who have just come to expect romance in games to be bad, hence the “eye roll” reaction. Perhaps I wasn’t clear enough when making the connection, my bad if so.

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I think it’s larger than in video games. I can only speak for the US, since that’s where I live, but I think there’s a stigma against romance in general. Try telling someone you read romance at all, let alone that it’s your favorite genre, and see how quickly they judge you. I think it’s related to a larger cultural devaluation of feminine-coded things. (Which is very much NOT to say that only femme folks enjoy romance, but that’s kind of the prevailing cultural norm.)

I agree with some others above that it’s often handled poorly, and that can turn off a lot of people who might have been previously ambivalent. (It IS actually a skill, despite what some people would have you think.) So if you associate it with only cringy, poorly written content, of course you aren’t going to be keen on it.

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Since most had commented about the demographic that found romance cringey, I thought maybe I should add that there are many gamers who are not entitled toxic males. There are also people who simply doesn’t focus on or care about romance in video games at all.

Me (an aromantic asexual female gamer), a few of my friends who are fellow aroace, and many gamers (unknown sexual preference) I know either online or in real life, are example of these people. We’re not against it or going to scream bloody murder over any kind of romance in the games, AAA or not, because it’s simply an additional content we’re going to ignore when we play.

I think this might be the reason why romance in games tend to suck? Because the gameplay is the most important factor, and the majority of gamers (which consists of toxic males, uncaring people like me, children, etc.) doesn’t ask for romance. So from the developer’s point of view, romance is just additional content that won’t lose them the majority of their consumers, no matter if the romance was there or not or how bad it was.

And many of us gamers even complained about AAA games focusing too much on the fantastic graphic instead of the actual gameplay. Admittedly, many of us rage and blame at absolutely everything else when an important aspect of a game sucks. Graphic, romance, the company’s greed, everything. I know it’s not a pretty sight, but I just want to say romance was not singled out as a sole target here. It just one of stuffs that inevitably got ranted at.

In conclusion, I don’t think it’s a stigma per se. More like it’s simply lacking because there’s not enough demand for it, so developers and the powers above them won’t pour resources into it.

And this is just my personal opinion, maybe because I’m an aroace, I think there’s too many romantic subplot in all kind of fictional media in general: novels, movies, TV series, games, etc., even when said media are far away outside of the romance genre, and the romance is there regardless of whether it is necessary to the plot of not.

Many times I look at these romance subplot and just think they (developers/creators) added it just for the sake of having it, maybe because it’s became the norm, or because it can appeals to the smaller demographic that wants it, thus just might bring them more money by including it.

Although I don’t understand the appeal, sometimes I think these romantic subplot might get better if it got focused on with quality in mind, instead of quantity.

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Romance in games, specifically CSGs, is a double-edged sword and something any author or developer should ask if it honestly adds anything of value to their work.

I feel most CSGs are marketed in a way that makes romance more important than the story and meaningful interactions with the characters and world. A CSG here is more likely to be criticized for not having romances or not having enough romances than it is for having a poorly written story. Hell, it got to the point where all I cared about was what trope I could romance and if I liked that trope’s physical description. That’s how I started viewing most characters in CSGs, not as potential human beings with feelings, but tropes. Why? Because more often than not, that’s how characters are written, intentionally or not.

Any game that isn’t specifically about romance, whether it’s interactive fiction or a video game, should be able to narratively stand on its own without romance. When someone asks if there’s romance, at best, my brain translates it to, “Can I have sex with a character that has physically impossible breasts and ass?” I’ve seen enough mods with godawful physics to make me question the motives of anyone that asks that question. And gamers typically whine about anything and everything when it comes to video games.

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With the quality of BG2 romances (with the shortcoming of their time) ir would’ve been a fucking travesty if BG3 didn’t had given os romances