Sunday, May 29, 2011

Did Bethesda Just Make A "Date Game?"

I love me some co-op. I can pretty safely say I find gaming the most fun when I'm co-operating with friends. If many of my best memories of such are from 2 player scenarios, it's simply because I've very rarely been able to get more than 2 of my friends to get the same game on the same console at the same time in order to organize larger scale games. That, and the fact that the industry's recognition of this practical matter has lead to a few absolutely excellent 2 player co-op options.

Yet, this trailer doesn't exactly make me want to grab my usual co-op buddy and give the game a run through. Something about the (excellent) song choice, the available characters, and overt sexual tension makes me think that scenario could get a bit uncomfortable.

"Dude, I'm not checking out your ass!" "Then why is my tank behind me?"
Actually, it looks as if the game may best be played not with my buddy, but with my lady. She's not a big gamer, but she is loving our co-op trip through Portal 2 right now. Maybe I could present this as a "well, we just beat this. How about this next?"

The very idea strikes me as novel in the industry. In film, the "date movie" is an absolutely classic cash-in. It's a simple excuse for him to ask her out. She'll agree because, either way, she gets a free movie out of it. If they're already together, she'll force him to see it anyway. In every scenario, the studio makes bank regardless of the product's quality.

Did Bethesda inXile Entertainment just make the first real "date game?" Previous games have been good for playing ON dates, but this looks positively designed for a male/female co-op experience. (Sorry for my LGBT friends, but it's gonna be a bit before you notice any developments in this field.)  The growing camaraderie between the characters even hints that their might be a love story in here. Hell, the dialog might even end up qualifying it as a romantic comedy.

Could have worked as a horror FPS.
And the thing is, if it is, Hunted: The Demon's Forge could work so much better than When Harry Met Sally or Pretty Woman ever did. (Those are the only 2 rom-coms I, as a man, am allowed to remember exist) First, the guy is actually guaranteed to be engaged with the activity at hand, rather than simply waiting out the "we've now been sitting next to each longer long enough for you to touch me" phase of a first date. More importantly, the couple is actually engaging with one another. Movies are passive, but a game requires you to actually communicate, the key to building any kind of a relationship.
The place where we first met.
Partner refuses to provide you with vital intel? Bad communicator. Rushes ahead rather than taking on obstacles as a team? He's the center of his own world. Willing to thrown himself between you and waves of enemies while you hog the glory of the kill? There's a keeper.
Fencing skills are all I look for in a woman.
Worst case scenario, such a genre would give me something to drag my fiance to. And, really, such a move shouldn't surprise me. The disproportionate split of male/female gamers is shrinking every day. As games move from traditional male-centric design perspectives, and we see more quality content aimed directly at women, it seems that seeing rom-coms on consoles is more of an eventuality than anything else. I just hope they stay as fun as Hunted looks like it's going to be.
This is what threatens your relationship in the third act.

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