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.
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.
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.