Bromance (Noun): two dudes who have what can only be described as a loving relationship but keep it purely platonic. More often than not the best way to get this across to the uninitiated is to use the phrase “Brother from another mother”. It’s a sense of camaraderie and respect that would normally be seen in a married couple but is usually viewed in men in the mid-twenties to mid-thirties.
In video games there has been some wonderful examples of this phenomenon. Sometimes this just flows over the player because of bad writing and bad acting, but every so often a game has genuinely touched me in the way it’s portrayed hetro-love.
In a very “meta” way these examples are co-op games that I have played with my own “bromantic partner” Adam.
Gears of War series: Marcus and Dom
“Brothers to the end” is the tag line of the latest instalment of the big bodied, chest bumping, kill anything that’s not us series. The Gears games have always been mocked for its continuation of the ever so slightly formulaic big booted arse kicking marines but there is some great writing to be found, mixed in with some atrocious. Something that the series will be remembered for, negatively, was the portrayal of Dom searching for his wife who had been taken by the enemies in the franchise, The Locust.
Dom’s kids had died on Emergence Day and his wife disappeared a little while later. 11 years on Dom is still searching, admittedly this does lead to the inevitable “I’m looking for my wife, MARIA!” repetitive script just to hammer it down the throat of the player, but it also leads to some touching moment between the two lead characters.
Marcus is a tool, there is no denying that, but every so often he shows a fleck of humanity and a heart under that grizzled 60 inch chest. Marcus and Dom clearly care for each other, unlike many other gaming sites, I’m not taking this opportunity to write easy gay jokes, I firmly believe in some of the writing that these characters have been through a lot together and other than the obvious “look out for your comrade” side of things, I think they’re friends and they would kill and be killed to protect the other.
Now some of the writing in Gears is quite simply as subtle as a brick to the face. The ever so slightly pointless euthanasia of Dom’s wife was a perfect example of melodramatic writing taken straight from 1950’s cinema. When Dom finally spots his wife’s coffin there is a moment of fantasy he falls into, which his friend has to snap him out of. The graphics aren’t amazing but lets not beat around the bush here, however few words are said by Marcus, his reactions speak many. The Dom and Marcus post matricide reactions are excellently scripted and put together throughout the rest of the game and clearly a man on the edge is having to be guided by a arrogant beefcake, it’s the space marine equivalent of the blind leading the blind.
In the third game Dom rocks up with his widow beard, continues the bromance and plays an integral role in the game. I’m not going to come close to a spoiler here, but the game plays out the non romantic love between the characters well and the sense of camaraderie that can only be empathised with by the co-op partner sat beside you on the sofa. That is what my main feeling is towards all of the games I have put forward for examples of bromance. You feel like a Vietnam Vet at times, looking at others as if to say “you weren’t there”, of course other people have played the games but in this day and age with AI and gameplay as it is, only you two know what went on in that session and how hard or fun it was.
To me these games are the epitome of “Life Mirroring Art”, if you find the right co-op buddy and you can even remotely put yourself in the characters position you know what you would do. Co-op gaming is a double edged sword for story telling, you either get into the plot, or you rip it a new one. Emotions are hard to gauge with co-op, on one hand your sat there with a friend who you would never show emotion in front of, but sometimes, once in a blue moon, something happens on that screen that makes you both sit back on the sofa and say “Jesus…”
Army Of Two : Rios and Salem
I mentioned in my intro that some games have truly touched me, this is my prime example. The majority of the gaming world turned it’s back on Army of Two and it’s sequel Army of Two: 40th day, but I genuinely believe these are good games.
Don’t get me wrong, they have their flaws; a difficulty that goes up and down as much as a badly treated teenage gymnast on a trampoline, and a level design that seems to have been created by someone with both ADHD and OCD. But look past these issues and you’ll see a fun 3rd person action game that is just the epitome of co-op joy.
Rios and Salem are the bullet proof masked private military “heroes” in these games. In the first instalment they’re trying to stop a war and start a war at the same time all the while being screwed over by their boss. In the second they’re trying to comprehend and escape a terrorist bombing raid on Shang Hai. It’s hard not to describe them as dicks with guns but the relationship between them is something that has fascinated me for years.
A lot of negatively was caused out of the fact you can make your characters fist bump after killing someone. What most gamers don’t realise is that quite often “we” as nerds will do the same. Obviously we’re not stood over a real bloody corpse in China when we reach across the sofa to our co-op partner to lock knuckles, but the principle is still there; it’s taking pride in your work, it’s just a shame that work happens to be pulling off a sweet head-shot from 200 feet away.
The first game had an awful level based system around trying to make it down a river on a boat and having to stop every 200 meters to mess around with water locks like you’re on your annual canal holiday. During one of the water level sections you’re set upon by helicopters and masked militia. Mid way through the gun fight Salem turns to Rios and asks “Who’s your favourite member of the Wu-Tang Clan?”. This to me is a wonderful bit of design, when myself and Adam are playing a game, we’re not sat intently staring at the screen in silence, we’re talking about everything and anything, and this is replicated on screen with such accuracy, sure it’s not accurate in a real world gun fight sense, but in another I honestly believe it’s truthful. If two friends are mentally inclined to be happy with killing people, why wouldn’t they just talk crap like they are sat in a bar?
Rios and Salem bicker like a married couple but there’s a respect for each other; this to me is the true definition of bromance. When your back is to the wall and there’s 30 masked enemies charging at you with heavy machine guns, you can turn to your best friend, hi-5 them and reminisce about that time in San Diego where you were so drunk you might have “enjoyed the company” of a nearly extinct creature.
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