In it, Short recounts her first brush with Fable II's romantic interaction system. She was told non-playable characters would have gifts for her, so she mistook the ring icon above a villager's head as being the thing that would be gifted to her if she raised their relationship stats. It's an easy mistake to make, I guess — and you do get that gift in a manner of speaking. But Short took issue with the whole system, because it made a cock-tease out of an otherwise honest woman.
[W]hen he'd fallen in love with me and wanted to get married, I was startled and not at all pleased. I realized what the ring on his meter indicated then, when it was too late and I'd led him on. I had no intention to get married, but when he started to follow me around (a mistake thanks to more confused socialization on my part), I let him.
Then she led him out into the wild where he was killed by bandits. Bummer.
But it got me thinking about dating in video games and how the courtship ritual is either over-simplified or confusingly elaborate. Take the entire Sims series, for example — in the early days, you couldn't even Ask Out On Date, just Flirt. Now, in the Sims 3, you can sleep with somebody you're not even in love with, but damned if you can get them to marry you without sinking a ton of time into the Flirty interactions. And then there's weirdness like Final Fantasy VII's Gold Saucer date. Which you can wind up having with Barret, despite not being able to pursue any other romantic interaction with him.
Strangely enough, the only "normal" dating scenario presented to me in video games comes from Grand Theft Auto and Bully. That's even funnier to me than Short's misunderstanding.
Column: 'Homer In Silicon': Communicating Character [GameSetWatch]