Kicking off my Romance in Video Games blogging with the extreme comedy end of the spectrum, here, and the Elaine Marley/Guybrush Threepwood romance definitely pulls some things you can’t get away with in anything more serious. Like confessing your love ten minutes after you meet someone: in a more serious game, I would have called shenanigans, but this is right after you use a staple remover on a giant angry yak. Plus, the dialogue involves the phrase “plunder bunny”, and that does not fail to crack me up.
So, yeah, played for comedy–but it’s an example of how to do extremely comedic romance right.
For one thing, the comedy doesn’t revolve around the supposed differences between men and women. There is, in fact, a total absence of the stale-and-offensive Mars/Venus “humor” that frequently comes into play when dealing with heterosexual romance. It would have been relatively easy to make jokes about shopping or commitment, and nobody does. Thank God.
Relatedly, Elaine Marley? Is *awesome*. She’s witty, she’s smart, and she has a life prior to, and outside of, Guybrush. (In fact, the Wiki entry on her says that she was originally going to be a much more ruthless character, and male, and not a romantic interest at all–and I think it really does help to create a character gender-neutral and outside of romance plot at first, a theory I’ll go into in more detail later.) I want to be her when I grow up.
Second on “how to do comedy romance right” is the fact that Monkey Island doesn’t do the stalking-is-funny-and-sweet thing. Guybrush doesn’t fall for Elaine and then follow her around until she loves him. (Yeah, he does break into her house, but that’s not romantically-motivated: it also, from the dialogue, seems to be a wacky Melee Island tradition.) The guy who tries that is the (hilarious undead) villain. It might seem weird to quibble about this in light of the aforementioned love-at-first-sight dialogue, but…I’m all right with comedy presenting situations that don’t happen; I’m less okay with presenting as awesome things that actually happen and are creepy when they do.
It’s really, really easy to do comedic romance badly; it’s really, really easy to do video game romance badly. (And there will be examples of the latter on this blog, ohh yes.) Monkey Island does video game comedy romance well, and for this it deserves some sort of shiny medal. Or at least ectoplasmic fireworks.
Soon: Dragon Age, Shadow Hearts, and the October Silent Hill WTFStravaganza.