Marriage In Gaming And The Lack Thereof

I am married! Officially off the market and happy to be so. Currently on last day of honeymoon and been craving to write and so I thought I’d talk about what’s been on my mind predominantly the past month, marriage. Don’t worry, I’m not going to bore you with my day. I’m talking about marriage in gaming.

When I decided to write about this topic I started to think over my 1/4 of a century gaming knowledge and I quickly realised how little marriage is in games. Considering marriage has been around for seemingly ever and is a tradition across most of the world, it sure doesn’t come across that way in video games. I can understand this to an extent though. Game publishers want the player to feel a connection to their protagonist or to want to play as a fantastical protagonist. Marcus Fenix from the Gears Of War series doesn’t look like an average gamer but the boulder in armour appeals to that fantasy element. Who doesn’t love pretending to be a badass? Marriage would only hold that fantasy back. Then there is the classic, regular person finds out they are the chosen one or falls into a situation where they save the world. I would be lying to say that I haven’t daydreamed about that in work now and then. Commitments like marriage, a job and family would also lessen that fantasy. Not saying I wouldn’t like that to be an element in games, but from a publisher stand point I understand. The average age of gamers is rising but I don’t think I’m far wrong in saying that the majority of game revenue is from the teenager to early 20’s demographic. As I’ve been ageing my game buying has decreased, as have my friends spending habits too. In my early 20’s I bought games willy-nilly but there is a reason I had more money and free time back then. I was devoid of commitments and any commitments I had were minor compared to today.  So I understand publishers aiming for that larger revenue.

As I said though, the age of the average gamer is rising and so I believe it’s time we see this being reflected in games. Not in all games it’d be a good way to distinguish your game from the crowd. Games like Mass Effect where you get a template character and a choose your own backstory section would bode well to have a marriage life option included. A checkbox that allows you to include a married life package or even create your spouse and children in a character creator. It would allow players to a wider range of character depth and for those that have a family, it’s nice to be able to experience that in a fictitious setting too. It doesn’t even have to be anything major in that marriage package. Could just be a home on a distant planet that you can visit now and again and have supper with the family. Or emails that you receive now and then about young Jimmy being bullied at his new school. In today’s games where we have an overabundance of things to do on the map, a little subplot about married life shouldn’t be hard to implement. The ability to play Commander Shepard as a family war hero rather than the swinging bachelor war hero would be a welcome change to some games. Is it necessary in all games? Absolutely not, stories function better at times if the protagonist is single and ready to mingle but in games where that doesn’t matter, a choice would be a welcome one.

Most games where marriage is a component, the marriage aspect is usually a story point. FFX and FFXV both have key plots that revolve around a marriage. The original Gears Of War trilogy has Dom’s personal mission of trying to find his wife Maria. Uncharted 4 has Nathan Drake struggling to adapt to a stable married life instead of his daring and dangerous past. While I enjoyed each of these, they are generally end goals or things to push the story in the right direction. Dom’s search is the exception there but it’s never the main story thread. There can be hours before Dom pipes up about his wife and even though I enjoyed that plot, it is a sub plot. What I want is a more natural married life situation. I want it to be there and to have meaning to the whole story or a majority of it. It doesn’t have to be the main focus but it should be there and not just something that dips in and out to add stakes or to propel a story beat. Even though those things are fine to do in games as well, I just would like to see it more fleshed out. When I was thinking about games that I’ve played that featured well done couples, I really struggled to remember any. There is one that I instantly remembered and one that I remembered really appreciating when I played it and that was Lost Odyssey.

lost odyssey

Lost Odyssey was a JRPG that came out on the Xbox 360 in 2008. It centres on Kaim, a member of the Immortals, a race of….well immortal beings. For some reason the Immortals lose their memories and what follows is a quest to recover Kaim’s memories and to save the land from disaster. Not a wholly original plot but what makes it for me is the introduction of the rest of the party. Specifically Sarah, Cooke and Mack. Sarah is also an Immortal who has lost her memory but it is revealed that Kaim and Sarah are husband and wife. Not only that but Mack and Cooke are Kaim and Sarah’s grandchildren. For the majority of the game, these 4 are together, traversing this world and trying to prevent disaster from happening. How often can you think of a game where husband and wife are a team in combat situations? How often are the children or grandchildren of these people involved? Not only are they an integral part of the combat and its mechanics but also the story. The kids and Sarah aren’t just chucked in for a bit of drama or aren’t the driving force at the start of the story. They all go on an adventure together as a family and I’ve hardly seen that in games. There are quite a few games where it’s brothers off on a mission together so why not couples? There is room to do a lot of creative things with marriage in gaming and not for it to be a basic mechanic in Fable 2 or some subplot to overcome. And while I don’t want those mechanics to disappear, I think it’s time we start seeing more representations of married, family or couples life in gaming.

Who knows, maybe I’m just high on married life. It’s only been a week since the day. Ask me how I feel about this in a year’s time. Maybe by then I’d vote to keep reality and fantasy as far from each other as possible. But until then, let me know your opinion and if you can think of any well done couple/marriage elements in gaming, feel free to share them as I’m quite interested in seeing more examples. Take it easy.

Game Subtitles! Come Out To Plaaaaaaay!

You get home, brand new game in your bag. It was pre-ordered ages ago and you’ve been waiting all week for it. You excitedly put the disc in, wait for the now mandatory 1 hour update and install before playing. The game starts up, you enter your first cutscene and…….why is the person talking so quietly? Why aren’t the subtitles on!

You can’t hit the start button out of fear that you’ll skip the opening cutscene so you listen intently to what’s being said. This is usually important information. Now, some games start with an action packed sequence with lots of noise and exposition. And unless you have a good soundbar or are playing with headphones on, a lot of details can me mixed in the audio of a thin TV speaker. It can be difficult to parse the relevant information.

So how come, subtitles aren’t on by default? Most people I know always want the subtitles on. I would imagine that over 90% of gamers feel the same way. I completely understand that it can break your immersion seeing text on the screen but nothing breaks my immersion like leaning my ear to the TV to hear what Captain Exposition is trying to tell me. To me, I think subtitles should be on by default with the option to turn them off in the options. Subs on seems to be preferred.

Or do what some games do and subtitles as an option when starting a new game file. I always appreciate this option as 9 times out of 10 I forget to go into the options before I begin my first playthrough of a game. I thoroughly appreciated that this was available on the new Spider Man game. It is the correct way to do it in my belief. Best of both worlds for everyone.

Spider Man Subs

Another reason for subtitles to be on by default and this is more peace of mind is for streaming purposes. This is more for LP’s but how many times have you watched a Twitch stream or Let’s Play and the player(s) are talking over the dialogue? Or they’ve started the game and then realised that subtitles aren’t on during the cutscene and have to go into the options once gameplay starts? Again, I know this is minor stuff but streaming is more common now and it just benefits the viewer to have subtitles on by default.

But let’s imagine we’re playing a new game. Let’s imagine Red Dead Redemption 2 as that’s out soon. We’ve started the game up and after a lengthy opening scene we’re chucked into the gameplay. That was a long scene and cowboys sometimes have gruff voices so it wasn’t an easy listen but we got most of the dialogue. But we don’t want to miss anything so the first thing we tend to do is go into the options while the lack of subs is on our minds. Now we get to play, find the subtitles!

Is it under the Video category? That would make sense as it’s something we see. It’s not there? Well, it must be Audio then, as it’s spoken words put into text form. *Gasp* It’s not there either. Game? It’s in the Game options…..I guess that makes sense since it is a part of the game but so is audio and visual and they got their own sub-sections. Why the Game options?

There doesn’t seem to be a rhyme or reason to where the subtitles are placed! I’m very good at moaning as I’m sure you’ve noticed about me writing this article about such a small thing but if it’s something that is easily fixable, then shouldn’t it be fixed? Can we not just all decide together which section in the options, subtitles belongs to? Then have it implemented in all future games.

Anyway I’m going to stop my whinge there. I could talk all day about subtitles and if you want more on that try my previous post, A Game Sin That Needs To Die: Small Text. Let me know how you feel on this matter in the comments and if you prefer your subtitles to be on or off and why. Thanks for reading.