Fisstech, lyrium, promiscuous sex: take your pick. RPGs are becoming the gamers’ version of the rock ‘n roll lifestyle, and players are loving it. In fact, the more scandalous the encounter, the more gamers demand more. In franchises such as The Witcher and Dragon Age, players are certainly getting their money’s worth.
Although drugs do not play a direct role in the best mainstream RPGs of current-gen (unless you count the constant gulps of lyrium used by addicted mages and Templars), sex is the true goldmine of the industry.
Valentine’s Day has just passed (or, as I like to call it, ‘Singles Awareness Day’… because I live in a small town and all the men are either related to me or ugly). What, pray tell, is the point of this commercially created holiday? Sex. No one spends hundreds or thousands in cash for fancy dinners and chocolates without the end-game in mind: a night tangled in rose-petal-saturated sheets.
Alas, some of us do not have significant others to share these moments with (unless you pay a nominal price to an attractive woman on the street corner). Therefore, we singletons turn to our favourite games to sate our need for romance, and I feel absolutely no shame in admitting that. Both Dragon Age and The Witcher series offer this in abundance – including romantic subplots, quests, and the choice of who to bang.
Let’s begin with the Dragon Age series. Bioware are masters of creating immersive relationships within their games. The fact that you have many candidates that you may choose to romance, offers amazing opportunities for replay-ability. In Dragon Age: Origins, I fell head-over-heels in love with Alistair, and hurting him actually broke my heart – so masterful is Bioware at manipulating the emotions of their fans. Cullen, too, had a very sweet romantic sub-plot, while other characters, like Iron Bull, Sera, Zevran, or Leliana, provided more of a fun, happy-go-lucky romance, for those gamers who have commitment issues.
Now let us move on to one of the most infamously sexually graphic mainstream series of games in history: The Witcher. The first game even made bedding every woman you find an achievement: every notch on your bedpost scored you a sexually explicit card of the girl you just… enjoyed. The outcries of feminists around the world ensured that the sex card system would not make an appearance in follow-up installments. However, in the second installment, there were still many options for random sexual encounters aside from the romantic sub-plot involving Triss (who I abhor! But we’ll get to that…). There was one point in the game during which I nearly needed to pry an elven girl, whose life I had saved, off of me. Needless to say, had I been so inclined, I could have easily had some fun with her. However, my Geralt tends to be the do-gooder in my games, and at that time he was technically with Triss (bleh!), and so I kept him faithful. That being said, the poor guy is on horseback all day, every day, for weeks at a time. Now and then, I’d visit ‘ol Whistling Wendy to give Geralt a little… relief, before venturing out on the Path.
How could I possibly despise Triss, you ask? Well, the girl reeks so much of desperation that I have to block my nose just looking at my TV screen. In the books, she couldn’t hope to pull his attention from Yen, so she medieval roofied him by slipping him a love potion. Thereafter, she would jump at any chance to be with him. During the events of Witcher 1 and 2, she chose not to say a thing about his past until his memories came back on their own. Suddenly, she was the supportive friend helping Geralt find Yen, with constant self-pitying comments and longing glances while feeling sorry for herself due to her inadequacy.
As for the sex scenes, CD Projekt Red did not seem as inspired to offer more variety to their sexual animations as in previous installments. Triss’ scene was pretty much the stock-standard, though it was amusing that their tryst in the lighthouse confused the hell out of some sailors watching. The developers clearly find Yennefer more fascinating, as she has not one, but two sex scenes. Both are unique: one involves the humorous involvement of a unicorn, and the other scene alternates between Geralt and Yen in each others’ arms, with spliced glimpses of a pack of wolves chasing a deer. Psychoanalysis, anyone?
Why do you think these games are so popular? Is it the size and scale? The combat? I don’t think so. I think it’s the characters, and what you make of your own character. The level of choice present in both series allows for so many opportunities that would require replays to fully engage with every character and their personal complexities.
Both Bioware and CD Projekt Red are geniuses at making a player care about the supporting characters – every time a quest told me to “talk to Yennefer”, my heart skipped a beat, and I was never disappointed. The romantic scene at the lake with Cullen gave me goosebumps, and the epilogue – if the player stuck to one romance until the end – was always heart-warming, in both franchises.
In short, who the hell needs Valentine’s Day when you can create the perfect romance without the complications that come with it? I’ll stick to gaming, thank you.