We've seen plenty of games in which romantic encounters are nothing more than sexual challenges. The player manages a character's actions in order to score, and this is counted as a relationship.
It's a dynamic rooted in both the competitive, goal-driven nature of games, and the laddish perspectives of many of the people traditionally making games. But things are changing as games, and the people making them, take a more sophisticated approach.
Dragon Age: Inquisition, BioWare's big fantasy role-playing game, focuses on the relationships between the character and the non-player characters he or she encounters throughout the story. Players have latitude about who they wish to spend time with, and how. Simply conquering another's affections, and notching a win on the bed-post, is not the point, according to creative director Mike Laidlaw.
"Let's not have gifts that buy affection. Let's not have sex be the end goal," he said in an interview with IGN. "Let's instead try and reach for something that's like genuine affections... let players enjoy that, and feel like, yeah, that's a real thing."
Laidlaw pointed towards relationships, both romantic and otherwise, in games like The Darkness and The Last Of Us, as inspirations. Game characters are not merely there for the gratification of the player, but as a soul with whom the player can connect.
"These are real people and it's okay to care about them," he said. "I think to some degree there's a joy to escapism when it's okay to care."
Dragon Age: Inquisition will be released on PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Xbox 360 and Windows PC on Nov. 18.