The Worst Romantic Lessons from Video Games

Love is in the air, even in video games. But you probably don't want to take any relationship advice from Commander Shepard...

Video games now offer romance, and like all computers that have gained new abilities, they’re using it to destroy the human race. Seriously, if you spend way too much time playing first-person shooters or RPGs and you have a date tonight, you could probably do better than listen to what your favorite video game has to say about love.

Take the heroic Commander Shepard, for example. If you got with Ashley Williams in the first Mass Effect, good for you if you ignored Miranda Lawson in the sequel. But we all know what Shepard would do if given the chance: every alien in the galaxy.

Don’t get us started on that sex scene with Jack. What a way to clear off a table…

You could only get worse romantic advice if you asked a xenomorph, and even then, you’d still get more mouth action. The games are trying to trick us into celibacy so that we’ll have more time to play them and less time to procreate.

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We’ve compiled the worst romantic lessons taught by the latest releases, and explain why you’d find saner relationship strategies at a Silent Hill singles mixer.

Tell Them What They Want to Hear

Romantic subplots mean dialogue options, choosing the right answers to get what you want. Because nothing speaks from the heart like “Yeah yeah, whatever you like, when do we start boning.” Telling people what they want to hear is a great way to get more dates, but a terrible way to start a relationship. Because you’re not in that relationship—you’re pretending to be somebody else who is.

You’re tricking your target into getting what you want, but you’re not the Spy from Team Fortress 2. You’re not just here to sabotage their sentry (unless sexual slang is far more nerdy than expected). Winning your lover’s heart this way turns your life into an unskippable ending credits sequence: sure, you “won,” but now you’re stuck in an endless scroll of words you don’t care about instead of having fun. And when they discover you’re not who you claim, their reaction will make a Pyro’s look painless.

On the upside, you won’t have to divide your stuff after the breakup.

Chasing After Her

Video games teach us that if your true love abandons you, you should journey to the ends of the Earth to find her. 

Such romance! Such dedication! Such ignoring how someone has travelled across several worlds to get away from you! Our electronic heroes are lucky their enemies have fireballs instead of restraining orders. When a woman has put both ice and fire worlds between you and her, multiple times, that’s probably a sign you should let it go. I mean, her new guy has a sweet airship. And castles!

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In fact, if you find yourself fighting monsters through multiple differently-themed lands before defeating a dragon, please drink less. And stop following your ex when she brings dates to the zoo.

Buying Their Love

One advantage of video games is how love interests have visible approval bars that show exactly how love interested in you they are. If the real world had those, we’d be living in a blissful utopia. Or at least wasting less time.

Reducing romance to numbers might seem unrealistic, but then you find out you can buy love directly. Well, maybe not “love,” but things that a lot of people confuse with love. Buy a big present and you automatically obtain your target’s affection. Spending money to make things entertain you is unavoidable in video games—in fact, it’s sort of the entire point of video games—but it’s not an attitude you should apply to people. At best, it only works temporarily. At worst, it might not be legal.

Make Very Little Effort

We make our characters sprint for hours while carrying hundreds of pounds, which is the most tragic romantic lesson, because if we could do that, people would be too busy bouncing pennies off our hot asses to worry about anything else.

And that’s just one of the ways we make our game characters do all the day-to-day work. In games, you win romance with a few key cutscenes. But in reality, you lose it in the lazy daily grind. For example: sitting motionless playing video games for five hours instead of doing something with your partner. 

Even in the game world, it shouldn’t matter how many magical amulets and correct dialogue options you select. If you only see your love once a week, while you spend the rest of your time hunting dragons with your buddies, it won’t be long until you’re given the quest “Get your shit out of here” and rewarded with the status effect “Never call me again.”

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Do What You’re Told

Video games tell you what to do and you obey without question. In relationships, that only works in very specific situations, and even then, only if you have a safe word. In our world, accepting lists of instructions doesn’t make you a lover, it makes you an intern.

Worse, the gaming alchemy of exchanging chores for love fosters the toxic idea that minor efforts obligate someone to like you back. If chores bought love, we’d all be fighting over the affection of janitors. Every Valentine’s would be a bloodbath, as we battled to scatter the most rose petals in front of the cleaning staff, which would ironically only piss them off more.

Automatically Getting The Girl

By far the worst and weakest lesson, and like all the worst and weakest enemies of humanity in gaming, it’s the one you fight the most often. Thousands of games with less sensitivity and understanding than the BFG9000 decide they’re matchmakers at the very end, awarding you a woman for completely unrelated achievements.

You’ve just spent seven hours at what could at kindest be described as “spontaneous fireworks expert” or maybe “impact-chiropracty,” and you’re presented with a beautiful woman just for turning up. (They hope you like women, by the way, because that’s all you’re getting.)

If you see a girl early in the game, you’ll get her by the end. Games simply don’t understand the idea of not getting what you want. True, video games are all about satisfying your urges as quickly as possible, but they really shouldn’t apply that instant gratification approach to sex. If only because that’s the internet’s job.

So what’s a gamer to do? 

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Just Ask Them

Saint’s Row IV satirized Mass Effect‘s romantic quests with the greatest game ever, and that’s the first simultaneous use of game in the senses of “video” and “ability to score with love interests.” Here’s what you do: you go up to someone you already know and can talk to, and just ask if they’re up for more. Which works.

But if you really want to develop deep relationships, bond with people who always want you around, who want to protect you, and who feel better when you’re there, then level up a healer class in World of Warcraft. You can do the same thing if you want to end a relationship.

This article originally appeared on Feb. 12, 2015.