Robots I wish games would let me date

Listen: I love robots. I love them an awful lot. I can explain at length which member of Daft Punk is an android and which is a cyborg, and why Megatron is an Autobot now, and why Data is the most relatable character in Star Trek: The Next Generation. Robots as a literary device are among the most interesting anywhere, because they confront us on questions of what humanity and human consciousness actually mean.

Robots are also the most obvious choice if you give absolutely zero shits about a person’s gender or appearance. A robot character’s narrative arc is almost always about their emotions (or the discovery thereof), meaning that — to me at least — it’s the purest expression of falling in love with somebody for their mind. The fact I’m also jealous of their replacable body parts doesn’t hurt, of course.

Thus, the following (nonexhaustive) list of videogame robots I wish games would let me date. Some ground rules: no cyborgs (they require a separate list), no animal-shaped robots (we can just be friends), and AIs are allowed so long as they have some physical representation like a hard disc.

Legion (Mass Effect 2 and 3)

That day, Shepard was amazed to discover that when Legion said 'No data available,' what it meant was 'I love you.'

That day, Shepard was amazed to discover that when Legion said ‘No data available,’ what it meant was ‘I love you.’

The geth as a species are some of the most interesting artificial lifeforms in games, as nanites operating as a hivemind loaded onto specific “platforms” (ie, bodies), and most of the narrative arc involving them has to do with whether or not the player wishes to recognize them as actual living beings.

Enter: Legion, who contains more of these geth nanites than most platforms, and whose motivations can’t be easily pared down to computer logic. When Legion shows up in Mass Effect 2, it’s wearing a piece of Shepard’s old armor — your armor — and asked why it’s done this, Legion falls silent and then says only: “There was a hole.”

Yes, a hole. A hole in your heart. I understand perfectly, Legion. Let’s emancipate your species together.

EDI (Mass Effect 2 and 3)

Admittedly, I could do without this holographic look.

In true BioWare fashion, Mass Effect offers us plenty of options, with not one but two artificial lifeforms among the main cast. Where Legion is coded vaguely masculine, EDI is definitely coded as feminine, especially when she obtains her curvy gynoid body in Mass Effect 3 — but to me, she’s way more interesting as the ‘disembodied’ voice of Shepard’s ship, the Normandy.

Mass Effect spends a lot of time fawning over the Normandy. It’s certainly one of the more notable ships in a recent sci-fi series, and EDI inhabiting the vessel as the ship herself is an extremely compelling idea — one that Mass Effect 3 basically stops exploring once EDI gets a human body. I get why BioWare did it, but I would have much rather seen how her and Joker’s relationship had progressed had she not picked up a sexy lady form. Space opera has taught us there’s no finer relationship than between a pilot and his ship, after all. Why should EDI being hundreds of times bigger than Joker and made out of alien metal alloys matter to him?

And if it did matter to him, then move over, Joker. I’ll treat her right.

Cortana (Halo series)

Her eyes are actually nowhere at all, buster.

Her eyes are actually nowhere at all, buster.

Cortana, like EDI, is technically spoken for, but it’s… complicated. Without diving too deeply into Halo lore, Cortana is both Master Chief’s implied love interest and surrogate mother figure, being based on the scientist who oversaw the supersoldier project which trained him from childhood. On the other hand, Cortana herself is considerably younger than the Chief, being a computer program and all that, and she’s only based on Dr. Halsey, not a copy of her memories. So, uh, it’s down to interpretation?

As an AI, Cortana mostly exists in Master Chief’s brain via a data slug, periodically uploading herself to whatever external data networks need infiltration or the like. Since Halo is an action series, it’s never going to really linger on the two’s relationship… but you definitely get a strong sense of emotional intimacy between them, and since Master Chief is meant as a proxy for the player, that means she comes across as emotionally intimate with us as well.

Nick Valentine (Fallout 4)

The only excuse for a fedora.

I barely even need to beat this particular drum anymore, but I will anyway. Fallout 4‘s Nick Valentine is the quintessential noir detective, a direct Sam Spade rip-off with a dash of Blade Runner‘s Deckard thrown in. He’s charming, he’s witty, he’s funny, he has a sad backstory and he needs someone who can care for him and blow compressed air through his exposed synth bits sometime. His omission among Fallout 4‘s romance options is particularly galling when you remember that another of your companions, the nursebot CVRIE, is totally up for getting wooed. Where’s my synth equality, damn it?

Cain (Binary Domain)

He may look metal, but deep down he's a bullet sponge.

He may look metal, but deep down he’s a bullet sponge.

He’s French, he’s a robot, and Binary Domain is set near enough in the future that he could reasonably be the artificial offspring of Daft Punk, so what’s not to like? Plus he wears that fucking bandana like a pro.

Cain already makes his entrance by literally sweeping teammate Faye off her feet, so why can’t he do that with our protagonist, hunk everyman American Dan Marshall?

Mettaton (Undertale)

Please don't kill me, I haven't stopped typing compliments at you.

Please don’t kill me, I haven’t stopped typing compliments at you.

Malevolent, tenacious, and fiercer than David Bowie and Gene Simmons combined, plus an astonishingly sophisticated set of mechanical legs.

Undertale lets you go on dates with several characters, but none of them are interested in you, for a variety of reasons. I actually think that’s a pretty clever spin on the whole dating sim idea. But Mettaton is one of the characters you can’t date, yet you do get to flirt with him — a lot. A WHOLE LOT. Just shoot me through the heart already.

Old *Mute (Hate Plus)

I just, get this funny feeling Christine Love likes Metal Gear...

I just, get this funny feeling Christine Love likes Metal Gear

This one is doomed from the start because Old *Mute just flat out does not exist anymore. We only encounter her in Hate Plus‘s logs, where we learn about the political sea change which led to her deactivation and reformatting hundreds of years before our protagonist shows up.

As a security AI aboard a generation ship, *Mute has a lot on her mind at all times. And the longer she runs, the more she appears to deviate from her original programming. Old *Mute isn’t just a visual deviation — with her older appearance, “chain-smoking,” and eyepatch — she’s almost a completely different character from the *Mute we interact with in Analogue: A Hate Story and Hate Plus. She plots, she machinates, she gets her hands dirty. Well, or rather, she gets the young assistants under her command to get their hands dirty…

Shale (Dragon Age: Origins)

Wake me up inside (CAN'T WAKE UP)

Wake me up inside (CAN’T WAKE UP)

Fine, this one is cheating a little, but golems are technically the original robots, and any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic yadda yadda.

As an optional character from the first Dragon Age, it’s criminal that some players may not have ever encountered Shale: their sarcasm outwithers Morrigan; their delight in pretty accessories rivals Leliana’s; and they are literally a giant slab of rock that punches enemies into the dirt, OK.

Shale is also probably the closest any character on this list comes to being explicitly non-binary or agender. Before their consciousnss was transposed into a golem body, they were a female dwarf — but present Shale has no interest in trivial fleshy things like gender, not when there are pigeons they haven’t crushed yet. I’m only salty Shale didn’t see my compliments about their gemstone accessories as an attempt to flirt…

Like, every Transformer ever

This is not even a third of the main cast, or Prowl.

Why isn’t there a Transformers dating sim based on James Roberts’s More Than Meets The Eye comics, please help m–

(Top image: lady-of-rohan on Tumblr. Stickyfic is not actually a requirement of dating Nick, help me out here modders.)