Rants & Essays

Gadabout Gamers: Love Is A Game

Gadabout Gamers

For this installment of Gadabout Gamers I chose to focus on love, either in games, around games, or inspired by games. And while games certainly played an important part in my early courtship with Rick (we did meet working in the industry, after all), I decided that for my post I would focus on one particular in-game love: Garrus Vakarian from the Mass Effect series.

[WARNING: The following does contain some mild Mass Effect spoilers]

Mass Effect was the first contemporary game series that really captured me, influenced no doubt by Rick’s steadfast love for the series and all things BioWare. And while I didn’t grow up playing RPGs like Rick and still can’t really play shooters, the setting, story and characters had me sold from my first glimpse of the Normandy.

I already knew that if I ever played the games myself I’d be playing FemShep, but who would I choose to romance? Would I keep it in the species and hook up with Kaidan or share my soul with the doomed assassin Thane? Or would I step away from heteronormativity and share a bed with the future Shadow Broker?

The answer was none of the above. My mind had been made up long before I decided that I would play Mass Effect 2 with Rick and then my own campaign of Mass Effect 3.

I needed to romance Garrus Vakarian.

Mass Effect - Shakarian by Choco-Minto

Mass Effect – Shakarian by Choco-Minto

He was the perfect fit for my FemShep. Brave, intelligent, loyal to a fault. A true equal who saw me as such. I was a soldier and so was he. He knew what it took to be a Spector and take one down. And he had just the right among of sarcastic wit to totally win me over.

However, despite my best intentions and frequent attempts at conversation it was not. meant. to be.

Constant calibrations and my need to b-line to the end of ME2 meant that we never got a chance to connect in game. And when I caught him cozying up to Tali in ME3, ooooh I burned green with jealousy.

And so I turned my attentions to big dumb James and his fanboy admiration, but that was even less satisfying than missing my chance with Garrus. My “romance” with James was disappointing for exactly the same reason a match with Garrus was ideal. James and Shepard aren’t equals. Anything between them would always be tainted by hierarchical awkwardness and potential abuse of power. But Garrus knows what Shepard has been through, and whether romantically or not, he will stick by her until the end.

versailles_effect_by_nobunaga_chan-d5smznx

Versailles Effect by Nobunaga-Chan

Which I guess is where my real issue with video game “romance,” comes in. Is it any less romantic to be reminiscing with Garrus while taking pot-shots on the Citadel as friends than if we had managed to get a cutscene of implied intercourse? Can you have romance in games? Or are sexy cutscenes and undressing mini-games the closest we’ll ever get?

I’d like to say no, mostly because of way we as players get attached to these characters. While my FemShep never got the chance to romance Garrus herself, he’s still my favourite character in the series and I obsessively pin Shakarian fan art whenever I find it.

It doesn’t really matter than Garrus never won Shepard’s heart.
Because he already won mine.

Next Month’s Theme is Boss Fight

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11 Comments

  • Reply
    Amanda B.
    July 9, 2014 at 12:51 am

    Garrus is totally my alien video game boyfriend 🙂

    • Reply
      Mariko
      July 9, 2014 at 2:47 pm

      Thing is, he’s so genuinely awesome I don’t even think Rick’s jealous.

  • Reply
    Jenny Taylor
    July 9, 2014 at 7:42 am

    I am forever scarred by this relationship. They were perfect together and my femshep & alien man died. DIED!! I… I just… I cried for an hour or so. I’m still in shock.

    • Reply
      Mariko
      July 9, 2014 at 2:52 pm

      WHAT?! Oh no! I don’t think I could handle that.

  • Reply
    Stephanie Medeiros (@ohnerdjoy)
    July 9, 2014 at 10:42 am

    “And when I caught him cozying up to Tali in ME3, ooooh I burned green with jealousy.” Haha, yes! I typically did a male Shep and then romanced Tali, actually. But I really liked the dynamic both male and femShep had with Garrus, whether it was a bromance or real romance. Mass Effect did the romancing character thing really right, I think. The characters needed time to grow and sometimes it just wasn’t meant to be. Realism!

    • Reply
      Mariko
      July 9, 2014 at 2:57 pm

      Yeah, out of all the big guns, Bioware does seem to have the best handle on how to build characters that players care about.

  • Reply
    kaycreate
    July 9, 2014 at 4:57 pm

    I (and my FemShep) were always incredibly into Thane. Thane’s ending was so heartbreaking for me. Although it did help the final mission in ME3 be slightly less sad as I kept telling myself, “They’ll be together again!”. Ah the joys of getting invested in your characters!

    • Reply
      Mariko
      July 9, 2014 at 8:03 pm

      Thane was my hubby’s Femshep romance. He still gets teary thinking about him. lol

  • Reply
    GlimGlam LAK
    July 10, 2014 at 12:29 pm

    Garrus was my first alien crush! And my boyfriend is totally okay with it….

    Amy x

  • Reply
    Regina
    August 21, 2014 at 4:03 am

    Ah, there you said that 😀
    Well, I DID romance Garrus, but it made me feel bad. After I heard that he got together with Tali if neither of them was romanced, I felt even more bad. And no, I didn’t like Garrus/Tali. At all. It was as if FemShep imposed herself on him, pulled rank on him even. To me, it seems as if he isn’t attracted to her, but intimidated by her. But, if you go through with the romance till ME 3, I think it’s almost worth it. The last romantic scenes with Garrus actually imply that he really loves her. Somewhat. Even though his last hesitant “I … love you, too” could be interpreted as some kind of reassuring little white lie for FemShep before she goes out to save the world (and die in most cases) D: 😈
    Yeah, video game romances really ARE bad, most of the time. But Bioware takes the bisquit. I’m looking at the Twilight-like Anders/Hawke- or, even worse, Fenris/Hawke-relationship in Dragon Age 2.
    Sorry for my bad English, by the way. I’m not a native speaker.

    • Reply
      Mariko
      August 21, 2014 at 12:06 pm

      Thank you so much for your thoughtful comments, Regan. And don’t worry about English, I wouldn’t have noticed you weren’t a native speaker if you hadn’t mentioned it.

      I hate all the romance options in DA. I guess the biggest reason I like Garrus is that he didn’t fit the usual “super whiny and ineffectual” BioWare male, as best personified by Alistair (God I cannot stand that guy).

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