You Know What's Gross? We Often Play Nice Guys™ In Games With Romance Options
A wise person once said, “Women aren’t vending machines you put kindness coins into until sex falls out.” When I talk about Nice Guys, I don’t mean boys who are also nice. I’m referring to that special brand of guy who endlessly chases women who have already rejected him. The men who talk about being “friend zoned,” as though friendship is more pox than gift. These are the ones who promote ideas like “ladder theory.”
These people see all other women as potential love interests in the game of life. Well, not all other women. Just the ones that meet some arbitrary level of attractiveness by their undoubtedly sexist standards.
These men have an insidious strategy for pursuing the women they like. They become friends with them. They listen to their problems and do nice things for them, and they do it all on the selfish assumption that if they do that enough the woman they like will have no choice but to fall for them. They view relationships as a capitalist exchange, and see themselves as paying the deposit on a future romance.
You can see this mentality very clearly in video games. They’re a Nice Guy’s ideal world brought to life. Anyone who doubts this need simply look to Bioware games.
In any Bioware game, kindness is a currency. You make regular payments to earn affection points. You pay by listening to someone talk about their problems and giving them cheap gifts. Put in enough coins and sex falls out.
After that, the relationship is over. Sex was your end goal, the reason for everything you did. There was no reason to stick around after you got it. That was what you were paying for.
It doesn’t matter if you find Morrigan’s Ayn Rand inspired morality to be utterly repulsive. Just sit there, nod your head, and she’ll fall for you. It doesn’t matter that your Shepard is a paragon of virtue and integrity. If you play at being anything but when Jack’s paying attention, she’ll love you someday. In these games, telling women what they want to hear and listening to their problems is all it takes to get laid.
Of course, that’s not how the real world works. A Nice Guy will tell you this is unfair; that they paid for a service they did not receive. A human being knows better.
Sometimes people aren’t interested in others. Sometimes small differences make people incompatible. Sometimes people aren’t ready for a relationship.
Relationships, especially romantic ones, are weird and complicated. They should never be Kindness Capitalism made flesh. Someone who is kind simply out of self-interest isn’t kind at all. They’re just selfish.
If video games want to explore romance well, we need to completely dismantle how game developers see these relationships. Abolish the kindness tokens system. Replace it with something real.
To achieve that, games could use character customization that affect the relationships. “Sorry, there’s no way I could date you. You look too much like my dad.” Alternatively, in the case of Mass Effect, the protagonist has a basic history established both by games and character creation. “I heard about what happened on [Insert Planet Here]… I’m still not sure how I feel about it and- Well, maybe it’d be best if we took a break.”
Let players hit on a character, and be rejected because of how they did. Because they were too aggressive and didn’t respect another person’s boundaries. “You’re kind of being a creep. Back off.” Or more instances where a lady will go, “Sorry, I’m not into dudes.”
Let players be cheated on. “I’m sorry. I never wanted you to find out.” Have relationships end regardless of what the player does simply because not every relationship works out. “Things have been getting kind of stale, and I think it’s time we moved on.”
The reasons for a relationship to not work out are limitless. They could never start or they could end after a long period of intimacy. They’re interesting because they introduce conflict where it typically doesn’t exist in games, and they reflect elements of our own world. Being more interesting and being more human are both things worth striving for. That alone is cause enough for games to do this.