'Make Love Games, Not War Games,' Says Former First-Person Shooter Creator

Enough with the war video games, says Marin Hollis, former chief creator of the great first-person shooter GoldenEye and now one of the ambitious handful of people at the Digital Romance Lab.

The Lab is a group of game creators, academics and other thinkers and tinkerers who believe that it's time for video games about love.

At the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco today, Hollis made a pitch for the romance video game. He did it with a short presentation, much of which is quoted below, sans slideshow.

First, he reminded us that creation of games about violence, victory and conquest didn't start with any video game... they go back the Royal Game of Ur and Go, several thousand years ago.

Here is an excerpt of his pitch — his plea — for games about... love, delivered today at GDC:

"So [there have been] 5000 years of games about war. Zero-sum games in which one player loses and one wins. I sense a change is in the air. A fresh breeze. A sea change.

"There are many books, films, plays, etcetera, which are romantic. That is to say: concerned with love and loving relationships.

"The genre essentially does not exist in video games.


"I believe the answer is fashion. Everybody is swimming to make competitive, combative games. This leads to a vast blue ocean of opportunities for anyone who can deliver a romantic game.


"My goal with my experimental game is to produce the joy of being a matchmaker. My mechanic is very simple. Put two people together. Will they like each other? Whether this happens or not will depend on their personalities. It is basically a match-two game.

"So, will this little game change the world? I doubt it. But I think there is a sea change, and I think change is coming. When? In 5000 years, it will be GDC 7001, the latest games [will be] Call of Duty: Wrestle of Cowardice 6996 and Final Fantasy MMMMMX-Something. Is that all?

"Games have been about war for thousands of years. Why not change that?

"Really, my message is an old message for a new industry: Make war games, not love games.

"And, maybe, in 5000 years, half of the games will be about war. And half about love."

[audience applause]

Good luck, Martin Hollis. Everyone else, keep your eyes on the Digital Romance Lab.

(Top photo: Shutterstock)


    He should go to Japan lots of games about love there, just probably not the type he wants.

    Ive tried to make games about abstract things like love but its hard. In a medium that is essentially a bunch of on off switches it is alot easier to make something (a bullet) turn something off (kill them) that it is to make things fall in love with each other. Though I'm just a hobbyist game maker so my skill level is not the greatest. A company with dozens programmers should definitely give it a try and would probably come up with something fun to play.

    I think there is a reason people like war games, because shooting and killing stuff is fun and competitive.

    Good luck with your love games buddy.

    Now I think of it, some of the worst parts of games i've ever played were about developing relationships with different characters.

    For exapmple, DoA Beach Volleyball... You were required to develop relationships with others on the island by giving them gifts or whatnot... but in the end all I wanted were the skimpy bikini outfits dammit!!!

    "“The genre essentially does not exist in video games."

    Its called a Dating Sim. (Hentai may or may not be included.)

    Yeah, the first thing I thought of was Dating Sim, as well. I'm not a huge Otaku, so I've only ever played one that MIGHT fall in that category - a heavily westernized one at that. I'm not sure if it's representative of the genre as it stands at the moment, but it seemed more complex than I'd been led to believe by anime references to dating sims.

    It'd be nice to take a Mass Effect approach (writing approach that is, not 3-option dialogue wheel approach) to something political, and spend all that gunplay resources on coming up with more complex conversation techniques. That team's already proven that they know how to write complex choices with no obvious 'win' solution... just results.

    I think you'll find what you're looking for at NewGrounds.

    I'll only play it if it has a Hot Coffee mod.

    I can read poetry or fiction about romance. I can listen to love songs and even watch romantic movies (not rom-coms, they suck) but I think I'd find it hard to play a game about romance.

    I'm not sure where I could find it; but there's a perfect Calvin & Hobbes comic where Hobbes asks "Why don't we play any games about peace"?

    Someone find it. >_>

      You mean this one?

      One of my favs too.

    Romance games.
    Oh please.

    The matchmaking mechanic he describes for a love game seems counter intuitive since people don't generally care if other people are in love or not as it doesn't affect them. Pokemon uses this system well in it's battle system by making the player's victory dependent on matching the right types.

    Usually the player would have to be involved to immerse them in the game. To involve players I think they would either have to be one of the candidates (which has been done countless times before in dating sims and rpgs) or it would be someone they knew, eg, characters that they have invested in or maybe a facebook game.

    Also, games are often all about love, they just don't state it outright. Why do the Marios and Links of the world always save the Princess? Why do those Call of Duty characters fight for their country?

    The relationship a player has with a game can also be love. Just look at any fansite and you can see the adoration; in the non-stop coverage of the smallest inconsequential bit of news to the forums where flaws are complained about to make it a better product.

    And about the point he makes about there being books in the romance genre, well they all require conflict (like being separated or love triangles) and there's usually a loser.

    I would say it would be harder to make a sincere game about love than to make a player fall in love with a game. I think love in games should be a byproduct rather than the aim. Enjoyment should be first, I think. Kind of like reality.

    Sounds like he's forgotten where drama, and therefore interest arises from.

      Mills and Boon and Jane Austen would like to join this conversation.

    The funny and ironic thing is, these games do actually exist, just not in America. Well, they do exist in America, but only as indie/casual games in places that only those who know where to look find them. Kind of says something about society when people don't even realise these things exist because they only ever look at the violent and war-mongering games lining our shelves.


      I would also guess that Japanese dating sims have been written off (in the west) as being exclusively about sex, not romance, so most people don't consider them.

      It should probably be pointed out that a lot of Japanese games feature a love story as part of the main character development, even if the player has no control over it - I've always thought there was a lot of room for adding player choice in those cases. (Persona 4 springs to mind, as I really enjoyed the characters and the development of their relationships, but always felt there should have been more depth to it)

    There's also The Sims - although I can understand why everyone forgot about that, as its much more fun to terrorize the poor digital bastards than help them fall in love, but I digress...

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