The Game of Love: Romance, Authors, and Casual Games

Mamlambo reported that in 2004 “at the annual Game Developers Conference in San Jose, California, three top game designers were given a challenge – to architect a game with a love story.”  Not surprisingly, the three whose stock in trade revolves around guns and mayhem had a difficult time doing so.

In fact, “Ultima producer Warren Spector struggled to come up with a love story game premise that did not involve giving the characters a gun. After a lot of research on the nature and physiology of love, he came to the conclusion that a true love story was impossible to develop.”

Obviously Spector doesn’t know how to use Google because games surrounding love and some based on romance books not only exist but are bought and played by casual gamers. Most are hidden object or puzzle games in which players not only don’t have a gun but also don’t need one to complete their objectives.

Norah Roberts’ Vision in White may have been the first of the romance author-generated games. In it the player aids Connecticut wedding photographer Mackensie find love—just like the plot in Roberts’ 2009 best-selling book.

Other romance games aren’t necessarily based on a novelist’s work. One of the older series is the Dream Day games that include Dream Day Wedding, Dream Day Honeymoon, Dream Day First Home, and two games specific to locations—Las Vegas and Manhattan. Each game is built around a relationship and a couple’s fictional life.

One game in particular, Dream Day True Love, follows the romance of Dream Day creator Cara Ely’s grandparent’s love story beginning during World War II and spanning 70 years. Gamers relive Helen and Bill’s life from their first meeting throughout their years together. The game includes actual photos of the couple as well as facts and correspondence between Helen and Bill.

Romance publisher Harlequin also got into the casual game market with Harlequin Presents: Hidden Object of Desire. This is a fairly standard Harlequin plotline: a photographer goes to a mythical foreign country to cover its Prince’s 30th birthday celebration. While there, she discovers a plot that threatens the Prince and falls in love with him as she tries to save his life. Included in the game is a PDF version of the novel on which the game is based.

Games based on authors’ works are not uncommon in the casual game platform. In fact, author Charlaine Harris of the Sookie Stackhouse series has put her name to Dying for Daylight, in which players are Dahlia, a fashionista vampire who’s looking for a sun potion.

In addition, author James Patterson has an entire series based on his Women’s Murder Club series, for example Women’s Murder Club: Little Black Lies. In it players follow four women in San Francisco—a detective, district attorney, medical examiner, and reporter—as they solve murder cases.

The most beautiful of the novel-based games as far as I’m concerned is the series based on the Agatha Christie books. Each has lovely graphics and a beautiful soundtrack making the gaming experience even more enjoyable than the standard fare.

Finally, the ultimate love story, The Phantom of the Opera, has been made into a casual computer game complete with its dark, murky setting and haunting organ music.

If you’ve never tried one of the romance games, I’d urge you to look into them. Unlike gun-centered games, casual games allow players to dip in and out of the games in increments and for the most part are happy ways of breaking up your day.

Have you played any of these games? If so, how do you like them? Are there any other romance-based or author-based games you like?

-Pat Henshaw

12 thoughts on “The Game of Love: Romance, Authors, and Casual Games

  1. My younger daughter and I enjoy playing hidden object/puzzle games together. She hooked me with the gorgeous graphics of the first Dream Chronicles game, and now we look forward to gloomy afternoons we can justify spending glued to a computer screen.

    We’ve played the Agatha Christies, I’ll be looking up some of the others you mentioned. We tried Tiger Eye: Curse of the Riddle Box (from the Marjorie Liu book) but the pacing, puzzles and graphics were not very engaging so we gave it up.

  2. I’ve never heard of any of these. I’ll have to check them out. I do play a lot of the Sims, and can make up my own love stories there.

  3. I love most of the games you mentioned — and that Nora Roberts one got me to pick up the book! :) I had not tried her by that point, and while I knew that the game was going to be the bare bones version of the story, I still really liked it. Definitely too bad they didn’t do versions for the other books as well. Oh, and I read all the books together, boy did I miss those characters at the end! :)

    Lois

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