@InsightSBS recently aired a discussion about Heartbreak and Love (http://www.sbs.com.au/news/insight/tvepisode/heartbreak) and the audience was quite didactic – being either scientists studying it as a neuro-chemical process, or ex/participants who related their personal experiences.
What became clear to me is that Love is a highly chemical process, and we each have zero influence over what triggers our Love, and when it ends. Of course there are Love’s ‘kissing cousins’ of Arousal and Affection that run on parallel tracks and which it appears we can consciously effect the experience of.
Expert-panelist and Neuroethicist, Nicole Vincent, went so far as to explain that “When you break up, some of the things that you end up experiencing are not dissimilar to withdrawal from drugs and drug addiction.”
What does this mean for us (gamers/designers) in an in-game sense?
Well for a start it means that games than randomize (or externalize) the triggers for Love are more ‘mechanically correct’ than other games (and I’m looking at you #Monsterhearts.) After all, if we cant chose to Love in real life, why should our Characters have any more choice?
However, consider the Player experience. Love is not a voice in your head shouting “Love this person now, dammit” until you give in. No, you feel like you want to fall in Love with the person you want to fall in Love with. If anything, that voice in your head could be the ‘environmental expectations’ the cause dissonance with what you want to do. On this basis the RPGs that provide a more accurate Player experience could be the games that actually have no social/Love mechanic (after all, what you as a Player experience will be completely unlike what your Character experiences if the Love interest of your Character is so different to what you would prefer – of course, that just brings the ‘roleplaying’ to the forefront, plus you get to experience the ‘pressure of social expectation’, and frankly if you already confirm to most societal norms then roleplaying is probably one of the only ways to experience this and gain a valuable understanding of other people.
Personally, I’d love (no pun intended) to design/play a game that places more emphasis on these topics, and mechanics. Existing games that spring to mind are Monsterhearts, of course, Blue Rose, and Lace & Steel. I’m always on the lookout for more such systems, so hit me up if you know any good examples?