Unless I’m playing The Sims, I don’t really want to do buddy-buddy things like playing darts and going for a walk and having a beer with someone in-game. Especially when we’re talking about Grand Theft Auto IV, where the majority of the focus is on…well, shooting drug dealers in the mouth and running over hot dog stands. Nor do I want to go on dates, but that mostly has to do with Niko Bellic not being the suave gentlemen your dates might think he is. Seriously, how can anyone be charmed by this masochistic, hollow shell of a goon? His response to every demonic task put on him is: how much will I get paid? Right.
I wish there was a way you could lose your cell phone in GTA IV and then have to go to a local Sprint store (I bet those Rockstar devs would be hilarious and call it, I dunno, Splint) to get a new one. After losing it, I would never get another. I don’t even care if that meant no more missions; I just want to walk and drive around in peace, listen to the radio, take in the sights. No, I don’t want to get shit-faced with you, Roman; you’re a horrible human being, possibly less horrible when drunk, but horrible nonetheless, and to have some drinky drinks with you would take up the following:
Plus, these in-game friends always call at the worst time ever. Like, you’re sneaking around a building, getting ready for a shootout, and then you have Little Jacob mumbling something about hanging out in your ear. Sorry, can’t. Why didn’t you call me during the 15 minutes it took me to get to this location? Chump.
Another example of bad cell phone usage in videogames: Pokemon HeartGold. During your course across the many regions, you will meet a bunch of trainers and strangers all eager to give you their phone number. In return, you must offer them yours–and your very soul. Seriously, if I could turn back time, I’d give my phone number to NO ONE. Not even my mother, that money-tossing fiend. Stand still for a minute or so, and ring ring ring, it’s Joey to tell you all about his RATTATA. Great. Just about every phone call I’ve gotten has been pointless; there’s no reward, no missions, just a bunch of BS and wasted time tapping through. I’m guessing this is the game’s way of making you feel connected to more than just pocket monsters, but it is an empty mechanic, beyond annoying, and a waste of precious time.
Dragon Age: Origins handles in-game relationships better…but not great. For one, thanks to Ferelden’s serious lack of technogadgetry, the Grey Warden does not have a cell phone. Instead, he/she has a mouth and two ears, and using them they can affect how other characters feel. Some might grow to hate the Grey Warden, others will fall in love, and a couple will remain indifferent no matter what you do. You can give gifts and listen to their stories to maybe pick up an important sidequest. Also, depending on who you are traveling with, certain key events will lead them to voicing their opinions, and it’s up to the Grey Warden to decide how to react. At least there’s rewards here: useful skills are unlocked as companions grow in friendship.
So unless in-game relationships do more than just annoy and waste time, they need to get out…and get out fast.