Relationships Within Games

I’m so excited for 2012. Not for the end of the world, I was thinking more about the release of BioShock Infinite. I cannot wait. I loved the original and mildly enjoyed the second instalment, so I’m hoping the third will be a return to form for the franchise.

Apparently Elizabeth doesn't mind choking...

Apparently, one of the key elements of the game is the relationship between the two protagonists: Booker DeWitt and Elizabeth, the woman he is trying to rescue. Previewers have talked about the intense bond which develops between the two as the game continues, and the effect their relationship has upon the atmosphere of Infinite.

One moment of the gameplay the developers have shown to the public details Songbird (the game’s villain) attempting to reclaim Elizabeth as his own. She stares up into the protagonist’s eyes and touches his hand to her vulnerable neck, claiming that she’d rather be dead than return to her captor. This intimate moment between Elizabeth and DeWitt impacts upon the decisions the player may have to make as the game continues.

Yorda admiring his horns.

Of course, Infinite isn’t the first title to explore the impact of relationships within games. Another that instantly springs to mind is the incredibly emotional experience, Ico.

Team Ico’s first game was designed entirely around the concept of “boy meets girl”, and therefore their relationship was clearly key to the overall experience creator Fumito Ueda wanted to project. I can’t speak for everyone, but wow, I became so attached to Yorda. I’d get genuinely terrified if the shadows snatched her away. The ending brought a tear to my eye…not a very frequent occurrence considering I have a heart of stone. The only other game to make me cry was Final Fantasy X…but that’s just because I love Tidus!

It’s not only romantic relationships which are considered in games, as demonstrated by the original BioShock.

The bond between Big Daddies and Little Sisters was unusual to say the least…perhaps it could be viewed as a paternal sort of bond (maybe their names are a bit of a clue). The Big Daddies serve as protectors, and become enraged when harm comes to their Little Sisters. However, an alternative way to view it is that the Daddies use the young girls for their own gain. Perhaps more of a captor/prisoner relationship is occurring between them.

This could be supported by the strange relationship Elizabeth and Songbird are said to share in the newest title in the series. While she does not want to return to Songbird, when they are actually reunited she seems to embrace him. Perhaps the developers of the BioShock series wanted to explore the relationship that develops between prisoners and their captors, and the twisted nature in which it can change to affection from fear or hatred. In Elizabeth’s case, she has known nothing other than Songbird, which suggests she may feel dependent upon him.

Go Daddy, kill him!

This idea of dependence is key in games, as clearly the player is in control of the events unfolding, and therefore the game itself somewhat relies on the player to continue. Recently, with the introduction of choice into games, this has become even more relevant, Heavy Rain being a prime example. Relationships in Heavy Rain depended entirely on the player, with each decision and intricate detail leading to a different thread of plot.

Relationships have always been an important element of movies and novels, and therefore it is not surprising that it is becoming a more prominent element of games.

Interactivity lends itself to the idea of developing bonds and connections, it could be said that games are actually more suited to developing such emotions between other players and ingame characters.

Hopefully BioShock Infinite won’t disappoint, and will raise the bar for future games in terms of gameplay, emotion and the development of ingame relationships.

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