Game Development Journal XII: Grand Romantic Gestures are Creepy

say anything

One of the first things that popped into my head when I was brainstorming ideas for my Manic Pixie Dream Girl dating sim was the notion of the Grand Romantic Gesture as portrayed in Hollywood and on television.

They are meant to be sweet and endearing, but they are often creepy and coercive… especially those that take place in public.  They essentially dare the recipient of the gesture to spurn the advances of the gesturer (go ahead and see what happens… all of these people will think you are a bitch).  Take, for example, the Sporting Event Marriage Proposal.*  Listen to the people in the background shouting “Yes is the answer!” and then grumbling and booing when she runs away.  And if you want an extra dose of sadness, read the comments under the video.

The comedy writers at Cracked know all about the Grand Romantic Gesture.

I immediately knew that I wanted to send up the kind of thinking that leads to these gestures in my game.

The scenario I’m contemplating is this: the Player Character, CJ, finds out that the love interest has a date.  CJ decides to go all in on a Grand Romantic Gesture and starts researching famous examples on the Internet.  Players will choose between scenarios like:

the Say Anything boombox gesture

or The Graduate dramatic interruption gesture

In a typical dating sim, one of these would be the “right” choice, the one one secret move that unlocks her heart and tears her away from her date.

But in my game, neither one of these choices will work.  Instead, both of them will result in her getting mad at CJ for attempting to circumvent her own choices in public and embarrassing (and, in some respects, aggressive) ways.  There is no secret cheat code that will get a woman who doesn’t love you to start.  In fact, trying to manipulate and pressure someone into loving you is a great sign of disrespect.  It is an attempt to control the other person, not a demonstration that you love them as they truly are.

Do you have other suggestions for Grand Romantic Gestures I should shoot down in this game?  Let me know in the comments!

* Note that many believe that this proposal was a stunt to promote his documentary film.  The filmmaker claims that the incident was real and was actually the inspiration for the film.  But whether or not the incident was real, I chose this example because of the reaction of the audience at the game.  They were not in on the prank, if it was a prank, and their reaction demonstrates the kind of pressure that public Grand Romantic Gestures put on women.

3 thoughts on “Game Development Journal XII: Grand Romantic Gestures are Creepy

  1. Getting a girl to love you (the man) is basically down to the girl loving the way you care for her, what you do to protect the beautiful world she has created in her mind and showing her total respect. It will take time and consistency for her to notice, so create ‘scenes’ for CJ to exhibit actions that portray care and respect for the girl. CJ doesn’t have to say anything until the timing is right.

    • Thanks for the comment!

      A couple of things you might find interesting:

      1) My goal is to make the character CJ gender neutral. That way, all kinds of people can see themselves in the game.

      2) My goal is to create a game in which there IS no right answer. Even if you respect and care for someone, that doesn’t guarantee that they will be attracted to you. It’s a game about acceptance of this melancholy fact. But it is also a hopeful game in that, once you accept this painful truth and move forward, you can open yourself to other possibilities for love instead of remaining hung up on trying to “make” someone love you who doesn’t.


  2. Grand gesture gifts. Flowers and candy and jewelry might not seem overtly aggressive, but it often operates to create a feeling of indebtedness in women and certainly an illusion of ungratefulness if they are unmoved by material advances.

    While this obviously stems from historic economic inequities between men and women and structures promoting women’s financial dependence on men, I don’t think that socialization would disappear in a relationship between two women. Just look at how many people called the woman in the proposal video an “ungrateful bitch”; women, as a social construct, are supposed to be “grateful”, and not to be makes you a gendered insult (the only time men are called “bitches” is to insult them by saying that they are women).

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