The headline of this post might look silly, readers, but it’s fast becoming a seriously existential question for me. That’s because I’m currently playing through Mass Effect 2, possibly the kinkiest videogame since Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball. To an outsider, the Mass Effect series might seem like another space-marine game — galaxy in peril, aliens with funny heads, an endless amount of rocket launcher ammunition. But the genius of the series is the character interaction: You decide every line of dialogue your character speaks. You can even flirt with several members of your crew… and, ultimately, consummate your relationship with one of them. And, since you can play through the Mass Effect games as either a man or a woman, the replay value is extraordinary. In some cases, you can romance the same character as a man and a woman. (See what I mean about kinky?)
I’m playing through Mass Effect 2 as a dude, and the possibilities are dizzying. Should I pursue Miranda, the genetically perfect type-A ice queen with daddy issues? Or the flirty Yeoman Kelly, Mass Effect‘s version of Deanna Troi? (I know, I know, it’s improper for a Commander to fraternize with his Yeoman.) There’s also the mysterious Tali, a member of a nomadic alien race who all wear Boba Fett helmets to stave off disease. I’m pretty sure there are even more romantic options in the game; I’m only 17 hours in. (Don’t get me started about Mass Effect 1, which I played through as a woman. I haven’t been so confused about my sexuality since that time Megan Fox made out with a robot version of herself.)
The Mass Effect franchise literalizes something that my friends and I used to talk about back in high school: The weirdly complex emotions you can feel for videogame characters. It’s a bit different from the affection you have for characters in a book or a TV show; in a very visceral way, you’re literally getting to know videogame-people, with the parallel illusion (delusion?) that they’re getting to know you. I can remember playing through Final Fantasy VII back in my Dashboard Confessional days and thinking that no one understood me as well as tomboyish teammate Tifa Lockhart. If Tifa suddenly appeared in the real world thanks to a magical PlayStation controller, I’m reasonably certain that she’d find me at least charming enough to humor me by going on a couple of dinner-and-a-movie dates.
Conversely, I could never understand Mario’s obsession with rescuing Princess Toadstool. Its bad enough that she’s a total personality vacuum, but let’s be honest here: She’s clearly a serial cheater. (Sure, sure, she just happens to get constantly kidnapped by every rich, handsome turtle-dragon in the Mushroom Kingdom.)
I’m interested to hear from you on this, PopWatchers: Which videogame character would you actually want to date in real life? And no, “Lara Croft” is not an acceptable answer. I’m not asking “Who’s the hottest?” I’m talking serious emotional compatibility here: Which guy, gal, anthropomorphic animal, or asexual pink cream puff is right for you? Who would you want to romance, or be romanced by? Snake from Metal Gear Solid? Chun Li from Street Fighter? Princess Zelda? Prince of Persia? Any of the myriad androgynous protagonists from the Final Fantasy series? Don’t be shy! And while we’re on the topic of videogame romance, does anyone else secretly pray that Samus Aran and Master Chief will get together and have beautiful space-marine babies?
Follow Darren on Twitter for terrifying updates about his videogame dating life: @EWDarrenFranich