Man, it’s hard writing about games in Smooch Month. A boy who was a bit less weird than me would just belt his way through four visual novels and talk about how the girls were hot, the boys were present and the Renpy engine was, once more, there, but I’m not that boy, and I can’t do it. Visual novels are a real trouble for me, and we’ll get into more, why, later, but until then, I’m looking at a lot of card, board, and videogames that are ostensibly about romance that really aren’t.
And I think that part of why is the same reason wrestling games suck.
Bear with me on this one it’s a bit of a lift.
Wrestling videogames treat wrestling, as a fiction, as if it is real. That is, a wrestling match is ostensibly about two dudes (usually) who have been scheduled to fight each other and then the player makes the two dudes punch each other until they’re done punching each other and one of them falls down. That is to say, the fictional narrative of the fight that the two actual performers are enacting is treated as the fiction you play.
This has been on my mind as super boring because the far more interesting thing about a wrestling match is that it’s not competitive, but it is rather cooperative, and there’s a lot of communication and interplay and practice going on, with lots of different styles. Essentially you’re watching performance art between two people, A and B, and they need to understand each other and know how to work together in a way that’s engaging and gets different things out of a match they both want, while responding to a live stimulus in the form of the crowd.
I think about this specifically in the vein of romance games. Romance is a thing that games sometimes represent as a background element (Mario games for example), or as a maze (like I said in my review of The Blind Griffin), and sometimes it’s represented as use-keys-on-door style puzzles (Leisure Suit Larry, I guess)? And then it’s sometimes part of a greater narrative (the inexplicable ‘romance’ in Police Quest for example). Very rarely, though, is romance treated as the connected interaction of two mutual characters, sharing in an experience.
I think what I’m saying is, if we can clock this kind of videogame mechanic, of two characters sharing common actions and trying to reach a common ends, we won’t just have made a new kind of rhythmic pattern of play for both real-time and turn based romantic games, we’ll have made the mechanics for a rad wrestling game too,
and then, the wrestlers can kiss,