By Sara Hardin
Television history was made in 1994 when Rachel Green entered the Central Perk in her sopping wet wedding dress on the pilot episode of Friends. “The One Where Monica Gets a Roommate” turned the expectations for portraying a wedding on its head—instead of the glitz, glam, and giddiness typically associated with the Big Day, Rachel left her fiancé at the altar after realizing she didn’t truly love him. Thus, Rachel is thrown into the ragtag group of friends the world quickly grew to love.
Weddings and romance—happy endings or otherwise—are an excellent way to develop characters in any narrative, and casual game stories are no exception. Multiple developers—most notably, our own client Metacore—have even capitalized on the failed-wedding trope for themselves as part of their marketing, and there’s little doubt as to why; the idea of a love turned sour is compelling. If we’re immediately asking, “Why? What went wrong?” then the content has already hooked us.
While there’s plenty of room for gossip and drama in casual game narrative—in fact, it’s something we at Brunette Games are constantly encouraging our clients to explore—the same can be said for happy and healthy relationships. Watching a romance grow from nothing to a-lot-more-than-something is hugely rewarding for audiences. A great example of this type of relationship development is seen in The Office between Jim and Pam. By the time they shared their first kiss, viewers who had been around since the beginning were crying happy tears (and maybe I’m projecting since that was definitely my experience… but I don’t think I’m too far off). Their friendship turned forbidden-crush turned passionate-romance is a hugely successful representation of the art of the slow burn. The payoff continues as we watch them get engaged and eventually married, and their relationship arc remains one of the most enjoyable parts of every rewatch for longtime fans.
Even if a game’s narrative leans more “playful comedy” than “mysterious drama,” the potential for exploring budding romance remains. In Redemption Games’ Sweet Escapes, the diva poodle Cherry and cantankerous hyena Buzz are an adorable representation of when opposites attract. They even get engaged and married, a development that was warmly received by long-term players. This kind of relationship growth has huge payoff for games with hours upon hours of gameplay: If the audience is dying to see if a romance is going to go somewhere exciting, they’re eager to continue playing to find out more.
In addition to romance in general, we think mature romance deserves more time in the spotlight. In ZiMAD’s Jigsaw Puzzle Villa, side character Emilio starts the game having silently pined after Valentina for years. Valentina, heart shattered by a disastrous marriage to an unfaithful man, takes some time to come around to Emilio’s affections—but when she does, she’s ready to embrace the quality of love she’s always deserved.
Twenty-somethings aren’t the only people falling in love, and they certainly aren’t the only ones playing mobile games—all the more reason to make space for this type of romance in our narratives. This is an area of representation that often gets overlooked. We occasionally find a sense of reluctance to explore the dynamics of existing marriages and long-term relationships in our stories, which feels like a missed opportunity; these situations lend themselves to drama just as often—if not more—than a new, blossoming romance. The conflict in these instances is often more nuanced, less petty, and complicated by years of intimate connection. The interest in these storylines doesn’t have to taper after the wedding bells have rung.
All this to say, we hope to see more opportunities for weddings and multi-faceted relationships in our future. The appeal, charm, and heartstring-pulling potential can’t be overstated—happy ending, or otherwise.