Over the past week, I've been thinking about what I prefer in fiction and interactive fiction -- I'm a characterphile (rather than a plot hound), and I like stories that revolve around inner turmoil and decisions rather than events driving the characters forward. What's interesting to me is those inner stories, and sometimes those involve romance. Or avoidance of romance. Or both. And I express that in games as well -- I'll replay a BioWare game just to see if I can achieve all the relationship unlocks with the NPCs. I have trouble thinking of more than a handful of my D&D character who weren't romantically involved with an NPC/PC in the story. (Heck, even the NPCs in games I DM often have a love interest at the table, known to the PC or not.)
So you'd think that when I'm writing games, the romantic interests would come easily for me. My first attempt in Choice of Kung Fu had two actual romance stories, then some extra NPCs thrown in just to be spouses, without having much character of their own. For Showdown at Willow Creek, I made all the romantic interests recurring NPCs, and I think it's better done -- although one of my playtesters showed that the coding didn't allow for quite as much snogging as she attempted. (There's still time to fix those bugs before it launches next month, so hopefully, you'll all have a seamless play experience!) I'm starting work on my next Choice game, Choice of Pirate, and I'm thinking about how the romances might work even more smoothly.
But along with accommodating for a number of romance options, it's also important to me to have an option to not get involved with romance at all. Several of the players I've DMed for over the years have run away from romantic hooks like the plague. (And sometimes the hooks were actually plague-bearing monsters of some kind or another, so they weren't wrong in that play style...) So, without losing out on any fun, the option to skip romantic entanglements should be there, too.
I started thinking about this last night after my second Black Gate blog post, which actually had nothing to do with romance, but a lot to do with interactive fiction.
How do you like romance in your games? If you write games, how do you create compelling romance stories?