At this point, I would like to press charges against Bethesda for stealing away countless innocent gamer lives. Not only have approximately one jillion hours been carried off by the first four entries in The Elder Scrolls series, but yesterday’s news that Skyrim will feature marriage means the game threatens to replace normal life entirely.
But guess what? The fact that you can marry other dudes or hot axe wielding chicks isn’t the important part. No, it’s the marriage/relationship/adult theme thing that needs to come out of this without making gamers look like perverts or naïve kindergartners.
This isn’t the first time gay romance or marriage options have been available, so cross off that historical footnote. Dragon Age 2 recently let players get their groove on with pretty much anyone walking past, Fable did the same thing a generation ago, and Mass Effect 3 is ready to do it all over again…in space. But since relationships beyond hooking up with an elf by the campfire so rarely happen, Skyrim has the chance to take digital relationships a bit further and help give bloggers another reason to say “games are mature.”
It essentially boils down to one question – if you can marry anyone regardless of sex in Skyrim, does that mean there’s actually going to be characters that we’ll want to marry? Or will it be an immature gigglefest of manly grunts like Fable?
If players will have the potential to marry anyone, then we damn well better want to actually marry at least some of them. This is a chance for serious issues like relationships to move forward in an adult manner, regardless of the gay aspect, because the game is very much unlike the regular RPG. Since there are no prescripted parties and situations for you to fall in love, you presumably have to go out and make it happen. So naturally, we should get to a point where we *want* to propose to some lucky Redguard or Argonian because we like them without being forced into it in the way that, say, Mass Effect pushes you towards your teammates. Not only does that require some pretty fancy writing (read: 1337 skillz), but a level of interaction with seemingly random NPCs we have yet to see in a game.
And that’s another amazing possibility. Making believable people that can be interacted with on so many levels, coupled with the unique NPC schedules and personalities already a part of the Elder Scrolls series, would push world creation in video games to fantastic new heights. Bethesda has already been pushing those boundaries since the dawn of time on Tamriel, so this next step with marriage makes perfect sense.
This is incredibly difficult, though, since Bethesda would have to figure out some way to quantify sexiness/attraction for the computer system to work out while simultaneously hiding it from players. The minor scripting alone could take months of effort, but it could all be beautifully worth the investment. It’s time for games to move on from holding a girl’s hand in Ico to something with more commitment.
Or, they could go the easy way and let you give chocolate to someone until they decide to love you, then let the screen fade to black while you groan away. You know, the Fable way.
…Which is why I’m afraid that the entire marriage aspect, gay or straight, will end up as something attached to a quest or inexorably linked to how much chocolate you can give someone. A tacked on feature that only merits a fade to black sex scene, some childish laughter, and ten gamerscore points would waste so much potential to move games forward as serious reflections of the world.
Come on, Bethesda, you can either do this feature all the way and give another reason why Skyrim will be a benchmark game for years to come, or take the easy way out and serve a tacked on mess of half thought out ideas.