Thanks to commenter EmperorNortonI for suggesting this Inventory topic.
1. Fist bump, Army Of Two (2008)
Destroying your enemies is banal; showing a little love is special. So while any game can load you up with grenade launchers and lasers, it’s more notable when you can perform some small physical act of affection. A wink. A smile. Or in the “two buddies vs. the world” shooter Army Of Two, a fist bump. Real-world fist bumps can carry an ulterior motive—the gesture can be a way for a germophobic game show host to minimize human contact or a brazen signal used by a highly public terrorist cabal—but in Army Of Two, it’s simply about one muscle-bound gunman showing his probably-not-homoerotic love for his partner in arms. It’s sweet, really. Or at least it was, until EA took it too far and turned “Total Fistbump Destruction” into a bonus-granting achievement for the sequel, Army Of Two: The 40th Day. Now, instead of serving as a simple act of friendship, the fist bump is just one more cynical action to perform on your way to another 10 meaningless points of Xbox “Gamerscore.” Oh, EA. Don’t you realize how fragile these man-man friendships can be?
2. Kiss, Bully (2006)
Bully was the subject of a mass-media kerfuffle before its release, in the tiresome way that so many Rockstar games are, because the game places the player in the shoes of a common schoolyard thug. But if you play him the right way, pug-faced Jimmy Hopkins can have more heart than anyone else at Bullworth Academy. With a combination of flowers, chocolate, and applied emotional intelligence, Jimmy can melt the hearts of many a lonesome girl and then move in for a kiss that makes them swoon. Part of the controversy over the game stemmed from its perceived poor timing, as it was released just as a national movement to combat anti-gay bullying was gaining steam. But as seen above, Jimmy Hopkins is hardly a gay-basher. He rejects the divisive binaries of pre-postmodern sexuality. For an open-minded kid like him, a kiss is just a kiss, no matter who’s on the receiving end.
3. Crazy Good Job, Lost Planet 2 (2010)
Plenty of video game characters can high-five a teammate or humiliate a fallen enemy. What about a game that lets you jump up and down like a giddy schoolgirl, or smack your booty like a celebratory bongo drum? Lost Planet 2 lets you do both those things and more with its wide range of animated “emotes.” Your character can actually choose from over 100 emotes, and they’re so plentiful that the game has to break them down into specific categories. The cream of the crop is “Crazy Good Job,” which hails from the Respect category. Performed in front of a fellow player, your character emits a series of glowing lights and then gyrates on screen like a hopped-up rave kid. Anyone can cheer on a comrade-in-arms, but in Lost Planet 2, you can show your fellow arachnoid-killer just how much you care.
4. Petting pets, Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance (2012)
The latest Kingdom Hearts game allows you to customize the companions who fight alongside you, replacing Goofy and Donald as your go-to pals. In the game’s equivalent of a Build-A-Bear workshop, you concoct colorful bats, gophers, and other, stranger creatures using ingredients you find on the street. But the thing about Frankenstein’s Monster is that he loved his creator by default; your creations don’t give you such a benefit of the doubt. So you rub their bellies. You scratch their ears. You playfully pat their heads—all made possible by the Nintendo 3DS’ touch screen (or if you want to be snooty about it, you can use the stylus). A healthy, caring environment makes the creatures more loyal and stronger to boot. Yes, it’s odd to open a menu in the middle of a heated battle to get a few noogies in with your new best pal, but love conquers all, right?
5. Awkward back massage, The Sims (2000)
Most of the gestures used to foster close relationships in The Sims qualify as normal things people might do in social or public situations. There’s nothing odd about talking, joking, dancing, or even hugging in the right context. But back rubs? An impassioned, sensual squeezing of someone else’s shoulders is way too intimate for a house party or a barbecue. (Or a real-life summit of world leaders, for that matter.) So the sight of mute Sims wantonly massaging each other is always rather creepy. Of course, sequels to The Sims would later trump the awkwardness of the back rub with the ass-grabbing gesture “The Goose,” but that’s a whole other level of impropriety.
6. Food-sharing embrace, Kirby Super Star (1996) et al.
It’s tough out there on the mean streets of Dream Land. Sometimes you can bring a buddy along to back you up, but there’s still only enough food for one hero. No need to fight over it, though. When you grab some grub, just run right over to your friends for a bro-tastic embrace of solidarity, and everyone gets the full effect of the food. That’s right, the immense power of your mutual respect and appreciation has effectively made that one hot dog do the work of two. It works in pretty much every Kirby game that supports multiplayer. Of course, we can’t quite see how that food is being shared. Maybe Kirby is regurgitating it to his pal, mama-bird style, but what’s a little vomit between friends?
7. Friendships, Mortal Kombat II (1993)
The good people of America were so ruffled by Mortal Kombat—what with all the heart eating and spinal-cord ripping amid its digital fisticuffs—that only the creation of the Entertainment Software Ratings Board quell their case of the vapors. The first Mortal Kombat was so self-serious about its wanton violence that it was tough for grandstanding politicos like Joe Lieberman not to take it seriously in kind. That’s one reason why the follow-up, Mortal Kombat II, is so silly. Face punches in this sequel release geysers of ketchup blood, and the grisly Fatality finishing moves often see opponents explode in impossible piles of bones. Icing the proverbial (and in one case literal) cake are the Friendship finishing moves. Instead of finishing off your opponent, you can make nice. Kung Lao pulls a rabbit out of his razor-blade hat, evil wizard Shang Tsung makes a rainbow, and ninja princess Kitana bakes a cake on the spot. See, Mr. Lieberman? Everything’s cool here.
8. Hug, A Boy And His Blob (2009)
It’s hard to imagine anything more pure and innocent than the Blob of A Boy And His Blob. It’s undefined in form and pure white. And it loves jelly beans, like an infantile Ronald Reagan. Despite its seemingly limitless power, though, the Blob is easily rattled and relies on his Boy not only for guidance and sustenance but also for reassurance. Blob’s buttercream white turns a strawberry red when he gets frustrated or an unappetizing grey when he gets too close to enemies. Never fret, though! A mere hug from Boy makes everything all better. It’s the squishiest expression of love and appreciation this side of the Care Bear Countdown. The hugs don’t affect your progress in any meaningful way, but they’re pretty affecting nonetheless.
9. High-five, ToeJam & Earl (1991)
ToeJam & Earl are close. It’s all about trust and respect with these guys. And while they try not to show their fear as they face down giant hamsters, ravenous mailboxes, and ice-cream trucks, they both know it’s okay to be afraid. So when the two bros meet up on screen, they celebrate their brotherhood with that most customary of dudely gestures: the high-five. The two aliens’ health bars are evened out, raising one and lowering the other so that they’re equal. It’s a silent acknowledgment that the two of you are in this together, that your woes are his woes, and that the other guy’s got your back. As The West Wing’s Toby Zeigler once said, “defeats are softened and victories are sweeter because we did them together.”
10. Puff-puff, Dragon Quest series (1986-2012)
The Japanese language has a propensity for onomatopoeia, so when the Japanese creators of Dragon Quest decided that “pafu-pafu” was the sound of a buxom woman lovingly rubbing her breasts on someone’s face—“pafu” being the Japanese word for “powder puff”—it must have seemed perfectly natural. Nintendo’s American censors were somewhat more uptight about it—presuming that Western audiences prefer their breasts to be silent—so when the Dragon Quest games of the ’80s and ’90s were imported the U.S. versions of Nintendo’s consoles, all references to puff-puff were excised. There was probably no need to be so prudish. The joke of puff-puff is that it’s all innuendo, accompanied by a wink and a “tasteful” fade to black. Dragon Quest VIII marked the first time that American players got to witness puff-puff for themselves. In that game, the punchline is that, when the lights come up, your horndog avatar is enjoying a massage from two bountiful, heaving blue slimes. (Obviously!) The blobs of goo are rather effective mammary stand-ins, judging by the reaction of the horny male hero being puffed. Dragon Quest IX raises the kink factor further—in that one, the asses of two unwilling sheep provide relief for your sex-starved hero. Apparently, when you’ve been out on the dragon-hunting trail for a while, you take your kicks where you can get them.
11. Thumbs-up, Resident Evil 6 (2012)
Giving someone a thumbs-up is a universally swell way of saying, “Hey man, I see what you’re doing there, and I like it.” In the case of Resident Evil 6, such a sentiment is appropriate when your partner, say, roundhouse kicks a zombie’s head clean off its grubby neck. Yet as simple as a thumbs-up may sound, the characters never seem too happy to be doing it. (Nor does Conan O’Brien, seen above.) They jerk their hands free from their weapon as if in defiance of a holy scripture and just barely suss out a robotic “Good job—nice!” while raising a thumb that seems, somehow, terribly lonely.