Everything Is Gaming: Romancing NPCs Based On Their Love Languages
Humanity, the fragile, fraught outcroppings of the universal divine, is comprised of beautiful individuals. The myriad colors of human experience, of a human life, can never be repeated, never be replicated. Each one a different, wholly unique entity…that expresses love in one of five ways. The Five Love Languages is a theorem and therapeutic toolset developed by Dr. Gary Chapman. It’s original purpose was to foster understanding and communication between romantic partners, and now it’s applied to all kinds of relationships. Basically, it posits that there are five ways (love languages) in which people express and receive feelings of love and support, and that each person gravitates towards one or two love languages more than the others. I recently realized that they actually perfectly map on to how different video games go about coding in and gamifying their in-game relationships. Who knows, once you know your love language, maybe it’ll lead you to your next must-play game.
The most straightforward and transactional of the love languages, gift giving is the baller’s way of saying “hey, I think you’re neat”. Folks with this love language really appreciate it when they get a thoughtful present from a friend, lover, or family member. If you’re playing a game in the Crusader Kings franchise, that person could be all three! Gross! If getting a present at the holidays is way more important to you than family time or if you still get mad remembering the time you didn’t get an anniversary gift from that special f*ck up in your life, this might be your love language. An excellent game that use gifts as the impetus for romance is Stardew Valley, where you can find out your chosen honey’s favorite item by meticulously keeping track of their likes and dislikes, or by going on the Fandom wiki and looking up how many coconuts it’s going to take to make the blonde one your wife. Black Desert Online also uses gift giving to raise relationship stats, but unlike Stardew, you can’t really wife them up. You will only become their lover for a week. More like Gold Diggers Online amiright.
Acts of Service
More like sidequests of service. If this is your love language, you appreciate it when someone does a task for you. It could be washing the dishes, it could be collecting five bear pelts from the nearby forest. Lots of games use the sidequest mechanic to unlock NPC romance options. Check out pretty much any Assassin’s Creed game if you’re looking for the simple joy of tasks leading to love.
Dragon’s Dogma is the epic JRPG from Capcom released in 2012. If you can figure out how to navigate the byzantine item and inventory menus, strategize with your AI companions, and battle waves of enemies, you still might get confused about how to romance your chosen NPC love. If your love language is quality time, you appreciate it when someone special carves out time to spend with you. And the NPCs in Dragon’s Dogma feel the same. The more you visit a certain someone, the higher their relationship meter will be with you, leading to them being your beloved in the end game. The game doesn’t go out of it’s way to make this clear, which led to a hilariously confusing glitch where a lot of players got to the late game and found themselves in a romantic relationship with the NPC they’d visited most… a portly merchant.
Words of Affirmation
In The Witcher 3, as in life, what you say matters and has long lasting consequences. You’ve got to tell the characters in this game how you feel about them to take your romance to the next level. If you simply must hear the words “I love you” on a daily basis to feel secure in your relationships, well, you’re a lot like Triss and Yennifer, who will only become Geralt’s special sweetie if he goes out of his way to let them know that he wants to be with them forever and always. Spoiler alert! Beware of romancing them both though… they’ll figure it out and leave the White Wolf with Blue Balls. If you’re looking for a lower commitment in-game boink, then just visit a brothel and sidle up to a hottie sex worker and say “howdy, here’s some coin.”
Folks who feel most reassured and connected when they get a cuddle or hug from a loved one are members of the physical touch category. This one is simple in real life, a reassuring hand on the shoulder, a kiss, a brush of the hand against the cheek, it’s easy to make someone who craves physical touch feel fulfilled if you’re their partner. But in gaming, an entirely digital media, it’s a little trickier. So we’re going to take a short cut and say… Beat Saber. You win by smacking colored blocks to the beat, that’s as close as we can get. Ok, The Sims probably counts, as you’ve got to do some kissing and hugging and maybe even woohoo a couple times in order to get your relationship meter maxed out.