On Male Romances in Video Games

As all zero of you probably don’t know, I’m a lesbian. Yes, that’s right; I have my certified Dyke Card™ and everything. Crushes on girls, short hair, short sleeved flannel and jeans, the whole nine yards. So, because I follow many of the lesbian stereotypes we’ve all grown to love to hate, and I just so happen to be perilessly obssessed with vidoe games, it can just be assumed that I romance any and every  available woman in said games, right? Well, you’d apparently be dead ass fucking wrong.

I’ve tried — well, given it a “shot” to romance female love interests in these games I centralize in my life so passionately, but it just ever clicks. There isn’t anything inherently wrong with these romantic arcs (with the exception of Sera, but that’s for another time), I just fail to make that connection between my player character to said female love interest or even a connection between them and myself.

Through my escapades traversing the tragic and perverse, I realized… I have a “type.” This is probably something I’d be figuring out with other live human beings if I wasn’t such an antisocial virgin, but I digress. Just look at this list of male characters I’ve found myself near instantaneously gravitating towards (if not the least bit infatuated with): Shane (Stardew Valley), Hancock (Fallout 4),  Zevran (Dragon Age: Origins), Fenris (Dragon Age 2), The Iron Bull and Solas (Dragon Age: Inquisition), Garrus and Thane (Mass Effect 2 & 3). All men with multiple traits in common: they’re “bad boys,” they’re (usually) rather perverted, and they have either a dark past (how cliché) or serious emotional problems. What the fuck. What is it about these characteristics that makes these romanic subplots so genuinely fun and interesting to me? Oh yeah — it’s really easy to make a sympathetic, funny anti-hero! The archetype of Cool and/or Stand-offish Guy with Dark Past is terribly prevalent and way passed cliché, but somehow we all still fall for them. Whether they’re wearing a John Hancock Halloween costume or a mall cop uniform, they remain interesting, for they may have a foundation of vapid broodiness or Casanova fever, bug all these male characters have layers that so many of their female counterparts don’t.

That isn’t to say that there aren’t interesting and compelling  female love stories even in the games listed, because there definitely are, but I can’t help but feel as both a woman and a person attracted to women that these stories just went written for me. Liara and Leliana have similar stories in that the year begin as nïave, hopeful, and thoughtful at your opportunity to begin romances, then veer off into cutthroat pragmatism in a jarring misdirection. This type of character development is truly interesting, but why give me the chance to starting this thing when in their boring optimism phase when they evolve so much as characters beyond that? Look at everyone’s favorite cockatoo insectoid, Garrus. His character grew impressively, starting out as a former security officer fed up with following the rules and regulations of his organization who joins your ragtag team of misfits and weirdos to stop the big bad. After the death of Shepard, does he lose his do-good ways? Does his character nosedive into cynicism and hate? No, he shifts to a more chaotic good style of vigilantism, but he’s still Garrus. Oh, and when do you get to romance him? Before or after this growth of his character? Oh yeah that’s right. After.

It’s almost paradoxical when you really think about it. How could the male romances, which are almost always exclusively available to female characters, be the better written ones when by far their largest demographic is straight men who play male characters? I think it’s all relatively simple and can be answered with two points: 1. Video game developers don’t expect men to care about the content of romantic subplots, instead predicting them to favor the sex scenes regardless of what male gamers actually feel, and 2. They just write male characters better. They see men as having more depth and better, more intriguing avenues for character development than women. Subconsciously, of course. I hypothesize it’s a mixture of these two factors, plus a few other obstacles I assume that causes the male love interests to feel more real and fulfilling.

Return to the list and you’ll find that most of these characters are fan favorites and among the most “shipped” with player characters in the series (other than Zevran… damn you Alistair and your boyish charm). There’s a reason myself and so many other people (women) who play these games fall for these particular personalities. They’re just gripping. They’re charming, difficult not to love, and there’s something about them that just makes you want their attention. Who knows, maybe it has something to do with the way that women are socialized, I’m not sure and I don’t think I ever will be.

Regardless, I’ve typed all of this because I’ve felt very insecure the past few months ruminating on what my choices in virtual romantic partners (oh God does that sound depressing) means for me and my sexuality. After much though and communication with friends, family, and people within the community, I’ve decided that it means jack fucking shit other than that game developers need to write more interesting female love interests.

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