Monthly Archives: February 2012

How Deep is Your Love?

Zach Gage pointed out this fascinating video of researchers asking people to think about someone they love (or an experience of love) and then run an MRI scan. They stage this as a competition which I think is a bit odd, but the staging of the experiment is super interesting because each participant has such a different way of talking about what love is in the brief interviews.

The Love Competition from Brent Hoff on Vimeo.

It’s also intriguing to me that the participants found the experience so transformative, even being moved to tears. One described a sense of warmth just bubbling out of her; another said he felt like he was in outer space and he could have stayed there for a long time. Imagine being in a small chamber and focusing on LOVE for five minutes!! Is it overwhelming? Is it meditative? One participant said he felt “depleted” by the experience, that he had expended all his love. It seems simply reflecting on someone you love can be a powerful experience.

The brain is still full of beautiful mysteries!





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Don’t Call it a Comeback

Welcome to the new-and-slightly-improved home for the Digital Romance Lab! We decided to use Valentines Day as a nice excuse to do a bit of a soft relaunch. We’ve moved over here to a new blog, which we’ll be using far more frequently than our previous incarnation. You’ll also notice we’ve added a place for us to actually share both our previous, and any future, game experiments.

Oh, we also have a new Facebook fan page. If you like love, please ‘like’ us!

And finally, in order to mark this auspicious day of romance, we’ve also added a few new posts:

Finally, our newest addition is a renewed resolve to continue exploring love, and romance in games. The Digital Romance Lab and friends will be at the Games for Change Summit at Game Developers Conference 2012, speaking on the panel: “How Designing for Love Can Change the World”, moderated by Jane McGonigal, on Tuesday morning. We’ll also be hosting a meetup the Tuesday evening, so do watch this space for more details if you’re interested!

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Well Played Call for Papers: Romance in Games

Welcome to the relaunch of Digital Romance Lab!

Valentine’s Day is the perfect time to reflect on love and romance! And to celebrate today I want you to think on the following: Well Played is doing a special edition on Romance.  Below is the Call for Papers. I urge you all to submit an essay!


CfP: a special issue of Well Played, edited by Jane Pinckard and focusing on the theme of romance in games.

ETC Press is accepting submissions for this special issue of the Well Played journal.

All submissions for v1n4 are due 14 May 2012 (5pm (EST).

Jane Pinckard, co-founder of the Digital Romance Lab (, is editing this special issue and encourages contributors to write essays that explore games that engage emotions associated with love, romance and flirting. Topics might include such themes as developing an attachment to an NPC, falling in love in-game with another player, critique of romance subplots, depiction of loving attachments, experiments in making love a core mechanic of a game, and more.

All submissions and questions should be sent to:

drew ( at ) andrew ( dot ) cmu ( dot ) edu

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Our Romantic Moments of 2011

As we celebrate Valentines Day this year, it gives us an opportunity to reflect upon our top romantic moments of the last twelve months; in games, that is!

We asked members of our mailing list:

“What were your favorite romantic moments in games from last year? Noteworthy achievements, innovative game mechanics, new depths of storytelling. Or, anything else that you’d like to highlight around love and romance.”

We ruminated on these key moments in games over the last twelve months (or roughly thereabouts!) – some of our fondest moments were highly subjective, others less so. Some of our responses are collated below, after the jump! We’d also love it if you leave a comment with your fondest romantic/love-related moments in games from the past twelve months.

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Battle of the Bads

A story can be offensive yet critically valid as long as the overall message is one grounded in its conviction. Take for example A Clockwork Orange, a film by Stanley Kubrick. A horrible story to witness, yet within lay many things to think about and reflect on of which the creator is attempting to convey. Without the surrounding frame the content would fall apart as the scenes would be nothing more than brutality, pornography and an insult to any thinking human being.

Two games of late that have made me think about this is Test Drive: Unlimited 2 and Saints Row: The Third, as both have received their fair share of criticism for offensive depiction of female roles, and critics thoughts oscillating back and forth as to which is more insulting. Let’s have a look at two outlet’s views for comparison:

Giant Bomb
Saints Row: The Third – 4/5 Stars
“Saints Row: The Third finds the series all grown up. Not in sense of humor, mind you (very much the contrary there), but simply in confidence, wisdom, and overall comfort in being very much its own thing. Whatever similarities Saints Row: The Third might have to the GTA series at this point are purely mechanical. In truth, it has more in common with the imaginary game every obnoxious parent group, pandering state senator, and hack activist lawyer believed Grand Theft Auto was during those tumultuous San Andreas years. It’s Grand Theft Auto filtered through the mind of a fucking lunatic, pushed to boundaries of ludicrousness that make things like giant dildo clubs and man-launching cannons seem altogether reasonable compared with much of the other batshit nonsense going on in here. In a sense, Volition has succeeded in making the mayhem and murder simulator that Rockstar never even tried to make in the first place, and it’s hard to argue that we, the video gaming public, aren’t better off for it.”

Saints Row: The Third – 6/10
“Saints Row’s weakest parts are hand-me-downs from its GTA source text, uncomfortably echoing the squalid business of pimpin’ and hustlin’ in the form of a lame cartoon, a whooping fratboyish endorsement of crime and female degradation, devoid of any conscience or commentary. GTA takes pains to voice moral unease. In doing so it may not offer up reconciliation with the violent mechanics of the game, but the best solution to that dissonance cannot be to pitch the entire thing into a swamp of near-uniform toxicity.

By the time you’ve ploughed through the mission in which you murder dozens of busty stripper assassins (‘Trojan Whores’), dabbled with the option of slaughtering waves of sex workers (‘Whored mode’) or packed whimpering trafficked sex slaves from one container crate into another to either be sold back to their pimps at a premium or put to work in your own prostitution ring (‘The Ho Boat’) you might find the sheer amount of violent abuse of women reaches the point of being oppressive, a sensation so bleak that the taste has to be swilled out with back-to-back episodes of Adventure Time. Clearly it’s possible to take dark themes and spin them into effective humour, but if there’s a hilarious joke about sex trafficking to be told, then it’s not found here. This representation serves no purpose other than shock value. We’re not saying the creation of something in which women only exist to be sold, killed or fucked shouldn’t be allowed, but what does it say for gaming as a type of entertainment?”

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Filed under characters, digital romance lab, dirolab, narrative, Saints Row, Saints Row The Third, Test Drive Unlimted