Video games are terrible at romance, falling somewhere in between a Harlequin paperback and the sundry scribblings found in a teenage girls' diary coated with glitter and half-peeled stickers. One of the few video games to not get a Game Over in the game of love is Chrono Trigger. The fateful meeting at a breezily balmy bustling summer fair; heroic rescue and teenage hormones; a love which literally transcends time.
It's a fairy tale romance alright, but what Chrono Trigger excels so well at is why some gamers find it hard to take seriously: the modern gamer, you see, is a cynic. Apparently gamers only talk about love when that's what they did to "your mom" last night, if XBOX Live is any indication. In the West the fantastic has become the mundane, filtered over half a century of TV sitcoms, gaudy magazine articles on HOW TO MAKE YOUR MAN WIIIIILD, and lurid late night cable talk shows sponsored by Girls Who Have Gone Wild: the expectations and ability of a people to wonder and be amazed
diluted, cleansed away by THE AMAZING POWER OF OXY CLEAN!
More people believe in UFOs than magic. Unicorns are nearly extinct but Bigfoot roams from California to Connecticut.
There is a spiritual solipsistic stupor in modern society, it cannot believe in anything greater than itself: the first requirement for magic. A fairy tale romance like the one found in Chrono Trigger requires the player to breathlessly believe that all of history can come to fruition in the quick, furtive glance shared by two strangers who find each other in a breezy summer fair in a slumbering backwater kingdom in a rather rustic and unremarkable era of the world.
But "All politics is personal" is the adage of our age, and the personal has become the political, meaning everything is viewed through the perspective of the identity politics of the Left, Right, and everything in between. Poor Cinderella wouldn't catch a break in the modern world. Maybe she wouldn't be a princess, but a She-Devil
"Magic" has become just another word for "trickery", the audience feels cheated
if a relationship is extraordinary. A character not a sniveling coward with more faults than San Andreas? A Mary Sue / Gary Stu. What Plato describes as:
the soul when touching anything which has essence, whether divided or undivided, is stirred to utter the sameness or diversity of that and some other thing, and to tell how and when and where individuals are affected or related, whether in the world of change or of essence
or what is commonly referred to as "love at first sight" is now viewed as trite and cliche, not liberty but narrative baggage, the hallmark of a hack writer better off writing Hallmark cards
Alternatively dismissed as "trash," "smut", or "women's pornography," popular romance novels--and their readers--- are often criticized, marginalized, and mocked...Romance novels have much in common with traditional fairy tales: both are highly formulaic; invoke a fantasy realm; focus on the creation or reconciliation of a romantic pair; exist in an infinite variation of text that fall into distinct types; and are often dismissed as "trivial." With their prototypical marriage endings, criticisms are levied against both narrative forms for their failure to challenge the system of social relations and norms from which they arise.
So like the world of Chrono Trigger after the events of Zeal, magic is gone from our world. Yet is a modern "realistic" romance any better? Considering all the messed up and freaky things people can be into, perhaps not [and frankly, some of the things people can be into scare the hell outta me].
Here's lookin' at you, snookums.
There's just something.....pure about the love between Marle and Crono. Being a scholar, one is trained to speak in the realm of the provable and not the non-empirical, however making such a claim just feels
right: there's an emotional honesty in Chrono Trigger modern gaming lacks. I'll take this:
over a late night Cinemax-style fade-to-black awkward sex scene any day. Because the M.E.s and the Dragon Ages of modern gaming seem to say that sex is the true end goal of every relationship, "Happily Ever After" replaced by the morning after. Relationships in modern gaming involve the literal manipulation of the relationship between the player-avatar and their romantic pursuit(s!) all towards the end game of a momentary fling (marriage is at least possible in The Elder Scrolls and Fable, but general player behavior tends to treat these with the same brevity and callousness of a Las Vegas wedding). For all the talk from some gamers and developers about wanting to make gaming more mature, "stick figure sex theater" seems to be the best the industry can offer right now. After all:
What's the difference, playa?
For more musings on Chrono Trigger, video games and geek culture, and deep fried bacon mac & cheese, visit my blog at dreamsofadistantplanet.wordpress.com
Or follow me on Twitter @CodeNameCrono
* Works Cited:
1. Reisman, Mara. "The Shifting Moral Ground in Fay Weldons' Fiction." Womens' Studies 40.5 (2011): 645-647, 661
2. Lee, Linda J. "Guilty Pleasures: Reading Romance Novels As Reworked Fairy Tales." Marvels & Tales 22.1 (2008): 52
** Artwork Contribution: