Why love matters in adventure games

Posted by Emily Sowden on August 21st, 2018

Alright, get your 'weeee-woooo' girly jokes out of the way early, folks, 'cos I'm about to crack open the lid on love in adventure games so hard the jar will shatter. Too much? Sorry, it's been a while.

Truthfully, I'd never really thought much on it when I was a nipper. Adventure games were, and are, my jam, but it's only been the past decade or so years that I've started paying attention to the plotlines more enthusiastically. It's not all about jumping from one deadly platform to the next – it's about WHY we're taking the leap.

After all, love comes in many shapes and sizes and affects people in a bunch of different ways. Plus, whether you want to admit it or not, love makes things a lot more interesting (yes, even the clichés).

Love for yourself

If you didn't have love for something there wouldn't be an adventure you'd go on – it just wouldn't be worth it, right? Or, maybe it's the love of adventuring that's driving you to do it.

Whatever your protagonist's reason, you know the driving force behind it starts at love of some sort. Even the most selfish reasons (like the thought of winning a bunch of cash or unimaginable fame) shows how much an adventurer loves themselves.

Romance is always fun

Come on, who doesn't enjoy a good romance to spice up a plot line? I know 'love' comes in many forms, but romantic love is one of my personal favourites.

Sometimes it's nice to kick back from the dangers and trauma of your adventure and focus on the characters for a little bit. No, it doesn't have to be undying and sudden love that'll make all other loves pale in comparison, but a little bit of tension or cheeky banter won't go amiss.

It also gives us something to root for aside from your protagonist's safety.

It's SO human

If you're finding it hard to relate to a character because they're a blue-skinned alien, a talking dog, or maybe just a hard-as-nails soldier who can wipe out dozens of enemies without blinking an eye, love can really give you something to hang onto.

Why? Because it's one of the most common and complex human emotions and we've all experienced it at some point. It makes us go, 'Oh, okay, I totally get it." When a man goes on a rampage after some blokes killed his dog, you know he loved his dog more than anything.

At the same time, if a character goes on a rampage just for funsies, you know they just… love killing. Not the healthiest of past-times, but each to their own.

It makes the 'why' more impactful

One of the most important points of adventuring is 'why'. Why go through the trouble and risk your life for something? Because you can? Because of what'll happen if you don't? Because of what rewards lay at the end of your journey?

All of those are good points, but they're much more poignant if the reason is love.

  • Someone you care about is in trouble – you'll do anything to get them back, even risk your own life.
  • Someone you care about was murdered in cold blood – you don't care what happens to you, only that you need to avenge their death by any means.
  • Your hometown/the world is in danger – well, you live in it and no one else is doing anything.
  • There's a big score of legendary proportions waiting for you to find it – you'd be rich… think of everything you could buy.

You get the point.

Gives emotion more dimension

Even without looking deeply at the 'why', emotions in general are just so much meaningful when there's a little love behind it.

Think about mother's love in Monument Valley 2, Alex's love for her friends in OXENFREE, Lee's paternal love for Clementine in Telltale's The Walking Dead, the protagonist's love for his sister in LIMBO, Max's love for Chloe and her other pals in Life is Strange, and those are only a few obvious examples.

Love is a powerful motivator, which in turn makes characters' actions that much more justifiable. Unless they do something stupid and unbelievable, in which case the writing's probably not that good. Yeah, I said it.

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