The brand new Love and Sorrow pack from Richard John S made me think about Romance in games.
Romance makes it into a lot of game stories. Either in a choose your own adventure style, a la Dragon Age, or just connected to the story, like Xenogears.
And well, it should! Romance is a part of the human condition for most people, and dramatic times (like, you know, saving the world) can force people into very close relationships.
But, you know, there are three tips I would suggest when writing those relationships, and here we go!
#1: Make Sure Characters Exist for their Own Sake
Look, if you want to include romance in your games, sometimes it makes sense to just create characters for your other characters to be interested in. Whether this is an RPG, or a visual novel type game, this happens a lot. What is the purpose of this character in the story? To be a love interest!
But resist this urge. Write characters with their own problems, with their own connection to the plot… then think about if they would be romanceable or if their romance with another character would feel organic. Don’t make characters that exist just to be a romance option. It makes them feel fake.
#2: New Romance Isn’t the Only Romance
Ok, maybe this is a pet peeve of mine personally because I’m a bit older than a teen, but make sure to include more than just “just about to get together” relationships.
As anyone has been around should know: The drama doesn’t stop when you get together! Write characters who have been together for a short while, write characters who have been together for a LONG while.
I always liked Clive Winslet of Wild ARMS 3, and one of the really interesting things to me about him was finding out he was married and had a daughter. His side quest of collecting children’s book stories for his daughter was one that stuck with me a long time.
#3: Add things outside the plot of the main story.
Ok, we know that the main story is going to be the primary focus of the game. If it isn’t, perhaps it doesn’t need to be the main story.
But if the only time we see two characters who are supposedly in love interact is during that high drama/high stakes stuff… well it doesn’t bode well. Feelings in those situations are like pressure cookers, they are all heightened, everything seems more extreme and dire than it was.
So instead, show them hanging out in down times. City with a casino? Maybe show them having fun out there. Maybe a quiet time during travel through a quiet wood. A good example of this is the Gold Saucer dates in Final Fantasy VII. They let you see the characters in a context other than life or death struggles.
Cause if the only reason they get along is life and death struggles, that is going to be a lot of thrill seeking necessary to keep that relationship going!