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There are a variety of reasons for this pattern of impersonal interaction, perception of limited intimacy, and a lack of human love. Obviously the relatively impoverished opportunities for representation in low resolution technologies like the original SpaceWar! make it difficult to illustrate the complexities of personal relationships. Early digital games were too low fidelity to allow for responsible development of affection games, it might be argued.

While games like Pong, admittedly required two-person interactions that clearly must have involved some person-to-person interactions at the personal level, it could do little to offer a more representation-rich personal experience between player and computer. The subsequent big hits of arcade and console history biased away from two player experiences and scaled toward conflict at large scale. Most notably the historically noteworthy games, like Space Invaders (Taito 1978) and Defender (WMS Industries 1981), continue where SpaceWar! left off. Some might perceive this as a kind of representation of the players’ developmental psychology, as players evolved their play styles to the paradigm of digital play (Grace and Spangler 2014).

Additionally, early generation arcade success biased toward the specific conflicts of life and death. Players through the years are far more familiar with the abstract notion of how many lives they have left than how many loves. It’s important to recognize that “lives” as a concept is far more abstract than most players recognize. Generally, excluding cultural and religious beliefs like reincarnation, “life” is generally considered finite and singular by the North American developers that generated these early hits.

Yet players never balk at the idea of multiple lives because they understand each life as a new try. So too, love, could be portrayed as tries if love lives had been incorporated into such play.

Ultimately, the choice to focus on life and death situations, instead of love and love lost (or other themes), has mixed sources. These design choices may have to do with power fantasies of certain types of play, with who was playing, with who was designing, technical limitations, and more. To situate both the value and propensity for designing love and affection into games, this chapter outlines a design history to illuminate relevant threads and themes that effected the development of games focused on love and affection. It is an admittedly selected history that aims to explain why the rhizomes of love and affection, particularly in digital games, did not proliferate as well as other common lived experiences.

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