Maturity and relationships in video games
Written by: Joel Philip, 6/18/2016
One of the funniest things about video games, if you’ve been playing with them since you were a kid, is how much things change over time. Graphics are way better than ever. The music is literally like sitting in front of a symphony. Gameplay mechanics have made us all wizards with our hands. Story telling for some games, like The Last of Us are so top notch, even movie lovers have to give a nod to them. However, one thing that has severely lacked in many video games over the years as far as I can remember is explaining relationships. Relationships can be very complex, and for some, the most difficult things you’ll ever experience in your life. Every person is their own story, and because of that no two relationships are alike but, we all look towards other people and even media to help us understand what to do. But for gaming, it has not been easy.
Many games have a brushed over view of relationships between characters. Complete this quest so this character can like you. Rinse, wash repeat. You’ve found that in games ranging from Mass Effect to Dragon Age to even Akiba’s Strip. These are shallow and limited, but who can deny having fun making your character fall for whoever you want? However, I prefer to see something a bit more…wholesome. That’s why I’ve been very impressed so far with Uncharted 4. This was the first time I think I’ve ever seen a genuine adult relationship captured in a game, and on top of it, I could identify with what I saw. From the get go, the playful banter between Elena and Nathan is proof that through all the games, they were clearly going to be together, and they just talk like life-long friends. It’s cute actually when you view the couch scene in the beginning of the game.
However, that cute version of a couple is something we’ve all seen easily and even participated in. The hardest part of any relationship is when the relationship is tested by the individual choices of both characters. To me, the couch scene was cute but as they spoke about trying to adventure again, Drake tells Elena he left that life behind for her, but you can see in his eyes, he’s just holding back. Being Nate the explorer is in his blood. That’s why when Nathan gets caught lying to Elena further more in the game, the real fireworks begin. I say this because Nathan had to lie about leaving for his adventure to not upset Elena, but when he gets caught and mulls over everything, he realizes he jeopardized his own relationship because he couldn’t deny who he was on the inside. Unless you’ve ever sacrificed in life to please another person you care for, you can never understand how important it is to still be true to yourself, or risk hurting the other person. The fact that this staple of all relationships was in a video game boggles my mind still.
I never thought I’d be able to identify with a video game when it comes to my own marriage, but the look Elena gives Nathan when she first sees him in the hotel room is a face I’m all too familiar with. It’s a look of heartbreak and mistrust. The constant attempts by Nathan to get back on Elena’s good side while they are traveling the island, and the words Nathan mutters to himself because he feels stupid for what he did; those are the actions of a man who knows he’s about to lose everything he holds dear in life. It all felt organic, adult, and as close to reality as you’re ever going to see from most forms of media anytime soon. Trust that.
I would have thought that would be my only reference until this year’s E3 when I watched the God of War trailer. Kratos, the same brooding pale Spartan who screamed “Ares!” every 5 seconds across 6 games and literally had no likeable values outside for kicking so much ass, ended up being a totally different person now. Older, wiser, and even calmer. He has a son. And in the moments where you can see he wanted to yell and lose his temper, he gains his composure to address his son better, even if he’s being extremely curt. There’s even that moment where he tries to touch his son, just to reveal the boy of the guilt he feels. That’s a far cry from the same video game character 11 years ago that was banging harpies during a quick-time event. These attempts to humanize Kratos means video game developers get we, the players, do want to identify with the characters we are playing with and build a bond.
So now that video games are literally at new level of story telling, I guess the sky is the limit when questioning how far things can go. Yet it is nice to know that growing up is now officially a part of the narrative. If we can’t be kids forever, then neither should our favorite video game characters. Let them grow up to be as old and crabby as we all will one day. Yay.