Lovers in a dangerous time

Character development in video games has never been very…how shall I put this…developed? As hard as developers may try, many a character are still pretty two dimensional.  Defeat the bad guy, save the day, maybe get the girl. However as that extra dimension of character is being added on, there’s always some unwritten rule that it has to be the love-angle.  It sucks that the media’s portrayal of romantic relationships is pretty abysmal already, adding it to the mix can sometimes lead to a pretty awful turnout.

I understand that these are video games – they’re not real.  For the most part, realism can take a back seat to fun any day.  But there’s a difference when the game attempts to be gritty and hardcore, yet lead the characters to do stupid things or act ridiculous in the name of love.  Or lust.  Sometimes it just gets to a point where you can no longer accept ‘keeping the game fun without bogging it down in reality’ as a valid excuse.

Let’s forget about some of the obvious reasons why many of these portrayals are wrong.  Many of these games that we play and love feature military and paramilitary organizations that seriously frown on fraternization in the ranks.  As if that weren’t enough reason not to, the experiences that these people have gone though would make them pretty unsuitable relationship material.  A little zombie killing here, a little shooting there, no big deal, we can overlook that.  But most of these people have an airport’s worth of baggage.  Some of the stuff they’ve seen would make you question the existence of a benevolent God.  Hell, they’d make you question the existence of evolution.

Heavy Rain’s Ethan Mars has gone through a pretty rough spell.  His son died, his wife left him, he was in a coma, he has recurring nightmares where he’s a serial killer and actually doubts his own sanity.  To make matters immensely worse, his other son is kidnapped during a spree of child-murders.  When the lovely Madison Paige comes into his life, to say it’s at a bad time would be an extreme understatement.

The writing for Heavy Rain might have had a few missing script pages, but overall I felt that the characters were believable and written quite well.  Except for the fact that devoted dad Ethan, instead of out looking for his son, has sex with Madison Paige in a hotel room.  After he finds out she’s a reporter.  After he finds out that she sought him out under the impression that he’s the Origami Killer.  After he’s been in a rather serious car accident and suffered broken bones.  Shaun literally has hours left on the clock and he’s boning some stranger under the pretense that ‘she’s sorry.’

Not to mention that Madison Paige is letting this happen.  Hell, for all she knows, Ethan Mars could actually be the Origami Killer.  He might claim he’s not, but she’s already demonstrated that in their universe, lying about who you really are is a thing – it happens.

Decisions, decisions!

Mass Effect has romantic relationships scripted in too – but they’re all optional sidequests.   Shepherd can gain every team member’s loyalty without having to go through gag-worthy dialogue screens.  Even Ethan Mars can choose not to sleep with Madison Paige and instead go finish off the last of the trials and find his son.  If you want that option, it’s there.

The same can’t be said for Resident Evil Revelations.  The quibbles I have aren’t with lines that can be turned off if you want to go down a different route – it’s hardwired into the story.  Now don’t get me wrong, I like the game overall.  It’s a good survival horror and there are some genuinely scary moments.  But Capcom seems to have continued a downward spiral with character development and interaction.  There’s a lot to be desired in Revelations, but my particular gripe is the interaction between Jill and Chris.  Their whole dynamic exists as if to hint some kind of romantic relationship between the two of them.  Yes, this is different than the previous example, but it’s still just as annoying.

This isn’t something new, either – Resident Evil fans have been subjected to this ‘are they or aren’t they’ thing since the series started.  Officially they’re not, but that doesn’t prevent Capcom from dragging on a long and unpleasant tease.  And who wants that?  Nobody wants to be lead on…for fifteen years.

Resident Evil 5 even added fuel to the fire.  Chris grabbing Jill, holding her delicate frame in his well-toned arms.  Almost letting Sheva fly out of the back of the fighter jet.

"We were partners...in bed."

In Revelations, it felt as if this suspected relationship was being shoved down my throat.  Of course once an idea is suggested, you actively seek out things to either validate or disprove the idea, but Revelations hammered the idea through my skull so hard I’m still seeing stars….HAH!

How bad is it?  You can either play the game, or read below.  Just know that there’s a gigantic SPOILER WARNING IN EFFECT!

Jessica spends most of her lines in Revelations making rather obvious passes at Chris.  Or, she’s just really that ditzy.  Chris is obviously unfazed by this half-clothed woman making these advances at him with suggestive language because he’s got a mission to do, right?  Well judging by how many times he says he has to save Jill, I guess that’s the mission.  Jill also states that she needs to rescue Chris – repeatedly.  That’s their entire character dynamic.  When they’re not killing Wesker in other games or finding Spencer, they’re off saving each other.

After the two of them are finally reunited, Chris and Jill go off on their own, despite having spent the rest of the game paired up with another partner.  Jessica laments that Chris didn’t get the hint and Parker suggests ‘maybe he’s already taken?’  as the scene shows Chris and Jill walking away.  What the hell?!  Is that supposed to finally drill it into my head that they MIGHT be in a relationship?

<<END SPOILERS>>

The thing is, I don’t even care!   Why not just come right out and say it already?  We can get it out in the open, why keep dragging it along?   Does Capcom not want shipper fans to be happy?

So video games might not have the best character development, or story telling.  Do you have an example of a terrible (or great) matchmaking in video games?  Sound off in the comments section!

 

  • Silent Evil

    It doesn’t bother me at all. In fact, I prefer the ‘are they, or aren’t they’ tease. I’ve seen it time in again in other media where the two main characters get together and it completely ruins everything, especially the character dynamic that has previously been established between the two leads. The X-Files is a prime example of romantically involving the two leads because of pressure from fans, and look how well that turned out.

    Besides, it’s obvious that Chris is gay considering how much he has bulked up over the past few games, and the gym is a well known pick up spot for homosexual men. It’s true. Ask any gay friend you may have, they’ll tell you.

    • http://twitter.com/nozomi429 Nozomi

      I agree with this. A little “are they, aren’t they?” tease is great. Castle, Firefly, is an example of a show that does this well. It’s finally going through with it that’s the problem. It’s just not done well, afterwards. It becomes a little boring because we are no longer egging them on anymore, we are no longer teased.

      However, it’s very easy for television shows to tease the audience with hints of tension, both sexual and romantic, depending on the actors. It’s not that easy for characters in a video game because they are not portrayed by real people. You can’t feel the tension, you can only rely on the programmers and script-writers to do that job, and if they can’t do it well, then the implications feel forced. In Revelations, the Jessica and Chris thing was hilarious, because I sensed no such tension between Chris and Jill once they reunited.

      In RE4, they did a much better job at this with Leon and Ada (despite the corny lines, like “She’s a part of me I can’t let go”).

      • Li

        I agree about liking Leon/Ada in RE4; disagree about _generally_ enjoying “will they, won’t they”. I’d rather see a real relationship than be jerked along, because hey. An action movie with a functioning married couple as the stars would be pretty unusual, and an action game like that would be completely unheard of.

        • http://twitter.com/nozomi429 Nozomi

          Interesting. Well, how about:

          Such films and games with successful sexual relationships without the drama before creating that successful relationship would be boring. What would be the point of tacking it on, when all is already good between them?

          Romance movies are popular among women because of the drama involved–there’s always some conflict that’s keeping the two involved apart. That’s why, when they end, it’s all, “well, that’s that.” In RE2, it was that Ada was a spy, and of course the whole zombie deal that’s going on. No romance movie starts with the two people happily married and ends with them happily married without some conflict in between.

  • Ryan

    I understand what your saying in the article, in revelations it was pretty obvious what capcom wanted you to think yet it didn’t really go anywhere. what I think about chris and jills ongoing subtle romance is that capcom does not want to have it a serious open relationship for certain reasons. perhaps because this might limit future story flexibility. perhaps if it was made blatantly clear that jill and chris were in a relationship this might take away from their more macho and independent personas and make them less likeable characters. their relationship might interfere with the horror based themes of the games by putting bio-terrorism second to their secret agent soap opera. If capcom ever solidifies them as a couple I assume it won’t be till the end of the series. chris and jill coming together seems like something that wouldnt occur until the series reaches its happy ending so that we knew their peaceful romantic conclusion will go uninterrupted and they’ll live happily ever after etc.

    It’s too bad that story often comes second in video games today, too many are clearly cliched half-assed attempts at making the player feel angry or sympathetic. Silent hill 2 didn’t hold back story wise, and it was, in a unsettling morbid way, a romance story too and it’s an amazing game and clearly highly acclaimed and loved (shitty controls and all). video game publishers are becoming more selective and take very few risks with unique ideas or anything that strays far from the status quo (cod/halo), this is for reasonable financial reasons as video games cost a lot to make these days but this is really hurting the industry, the creativity and randomness of the n64/ps2 days is nearly all but lost. not that I dont enjoy mindless games sometimes but people need to show that story sells and that depth, emotion, relationships and ultimately intelligence are the most important aspect of video games.

  • Xander

    Being from a military background, I assume the whole Chris and Jill dynamic has less to do with love or lust and more to do with actual partnership. They’ve been through a lot together and a bond has grown between them. If Jill weren’t a woman, I think the same things would be going on between the two characters. Jessica’s attitude is completely unprofessional, as throughout the entire game, she’s coming on to any and every man she sees. Chris turning her down likely has less to do with being “taken” and more to do with professionalism.

    That being said, I do hate when romance is tacked on or shoehorned in where is doesn’t belong. Nothing gets under my skin more than seeing a live-action adaptation of something and seeing some cheesy, half-hearted attempt at romance where there wasn’t any before. I have nothing against romance, but not everything needs romantic elements in it. Would Thor have been lacking anything if it didn’t have that romantic “sub-plot”? I don’t think so.

    • Li

      I second this. I just wish I felt like Capcom agreed with us. I don’t really WANT or NEED Chris and Jill to be dating. The value of a pure friendship isn’t something that ever gets focus when it’s between a man and a woman.

  • Benjamin May

    I actually think the relationship between Chris and Jill works well. They have a strong bond formed by friendship and mutual respect, having shared so many hardships.

    I would argue that Chris and Jill are the ‘mascots’ of the series, and I think it’s really refreshing that they are so close, but without being all over one-another. As I say – friendship and mutual respect.

    It might develop into something more, or it might not. Either way, I’m perfectly happy to wait and see.

  • Yee623

    It is very obvious that they are not just partners!! Every game that has them in it suggested there’s something between them. Revelations made it official already well in my opinion otherwise Parker wouldn’t have to say that.

  • Janus

    Glad to see some good responses here! And Xander I couldn’t agree more with you. Got nothing against love, but when it’s tacked on and shoehorned in, it couldn’t possibly feel more out of place.

  • Henrik

    We do know that Jill atleast had a “hined” boyfriend in the pas(portrait on her desk in RE2 could be a relative too I guess but based on the ingame comment),so if she clearly had such feelings for one person why could she not have the same for another.

    Leon and Ada’s realtionship is pretty much been out there since RE2.

    So why not Chris and Jill too?

    Games are otherwise pretty bad in portaying love beteen couples in video games.

    Except a few games like Heavy rain.

    But there is other kind of love too out there.

    Fatal Frame I though portrayed sibling love pretty well,especially 2.

    Siren series though there was not time for romancing in that series too but both Kuyoya and Howard showed genuine pain when they lost there Mayako and spends an eternity to wipe out shibitos because of their loss.

    There one saw parental love too,where a kids mother feeling is so strong even when she was turned into a monster that she ended up protecting her daughter against one of her own kind.

    One could feel the love between Heather and her father in Siren 3 too and her loss.

    love is so much more then just between couples.

    But I do agree we all know its something between Jill and Chris so is not time to put it out in the open by now?

  • Bholmque

    I do think the argument that Ethan wouldn’t sleep with Madison because of the situation is arguable. The human mind/body are strange things, and sometimes that kind of physical reaction to intense emotional and psychological stress is completely normal. I also felt like it fit in well with the overall story of the game, but maybe that was just me.

  • Elyssa

    My first playthrough of Heavy Rain, I chose to not get sucked into banging Madison because I thought it was just ridiculous considering the circumstances. But now that I read Bholmque’s comment, I can agree that the human mind/body are very strange & it wouldn’t surprise me for someone to actually do that in real life, well, more so a man than woman but that’s debatable.

    Secondly, I think the whole are they/aren’t they tease works well. As someone who loves Korean Dramas where that happens all too frequently, it’s a way to keep myself engaged in the story & wondering when they’ll finally just come out & say it. Don’t get me wrong, I can see how for some people it could get repetitive, but for me personally, I don’t really mind.

  • Li

    Things I would like to see:

    1. A videogame wherein the two main characters are a functioning married couple. (If the game is Silent Hill, they don’t have to be functioning. But otherwise.)

    2. A videogame wherein the two main characters are just friends. Ideally, one would also be a man and the other a woman, because the adage that “a man and woman can’t be friends because sex gets in the way” is old, stupid, and needs to be retired. Also, despite Hollywood’s beliefs, when sex does get in the way it does not always end in the friends becoming a couple. It often ends in the friends staying friends or dissolving completely because that, shockingly, isn’t what the other person wanted.

    BOTH of these situations would do away with the tiresome twelve-year-old’s definition of UST that we are otherwise stuck with. IMHO, seasons 3, 4, and 5 of Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman proved conclusively that you could still have plenty of humor and plenty of drama if you were focused around a happily married couple instead of pretending two functional adults are physically incapable of saying “Hey, I like you.”

    Yes, the style has plenty of fans; but I don’t think any of these fans has any experience with a show where that WASN’T the point. Their experience is solely based around shows and movies and so on where the series ENDS the moment the two characters get together, so of course they think it must get boring then, or that they don’t want Resident Evil to end so Jill and Chris getting together would be awful. I assert that if they got a taste of the more mature writing required of a friends-only or married-couple situation, they would discover that, like the real world after the shadows on Plato’s wall, there’s just no comparison between good writing and gimmicky shlock.

  • Ccrogers15

    “we were partners… in bed.” oh god that killed me LOL!

  • Mschneider15

    A little character relationship doesn’t hurt anything. In Heavy Rain it had been a while since Ethan got any sort of affection. Madison seemed to always get hit on my weird guys (Hotel guy). I played through most of the endings and I still favored that he and Madison ended up together in a couple of those. I thought his ex-wife too cold and hard on him.

    The Resident Evil story there’s no room for romance, it’s all about survival. I liked the fact that Jill rested her head on Chris’ shoulder in the first Resident Evil at the end. It gave you a hint that something’s there but nothing more. I read a script written by George A Romero, supposedly it was a Resident Evil movie script and at the beginning Chris and Jill were a couple. I thought it fit in the beginning, and as I read through there wasn’t anything else.

    To be honest with you, I’d rather see Claire and Leon have a thing rather than him and Ada.