A Boy And His Blob

Nice touch: 11 affectionate gestures in video games

A kiss, a hug, a spastic full-body dance. It doesn’t take much to show a little love.

By Anthony John Agnello, Steve Heisler, Matt Kodner, Derrick Sanskrit, Ryan Smith, John Teti, and Adam Volk • December 6, 2012

Thanks to commenter EmperorNortonI for suggesting this Inventory topic.

1. Fist bump, Army Of Two (2008)
Army Of Two

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)
Dream Drop Distance

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)
A Boy And His Blob

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.

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749 Responses to “Nice touch: 11 affectionate gestures in video games”

  1. Victor Prime says:

    “Friendship! …Friendship?”

    • Fluka says:

      Flawless Victory…

      • Merve says:

        I’m choosing to treat this as a Worms reference, even if it isn’t.

        • Aurora Boreanaz says:

          The first of many!

        • Dikachu says:

          I cobbled together 3 sets of custom sounds for Worms II back in the day… one team was South Park sound clips, one team was Monty Python, and one team was Duke Nukem. 

          It made the game about 10x more fun, and hilarious.

        • Merve says:

          @Dikachu:disqus: That sounds awesome. I tried cobbling together a custom speech bank or two when I was younger, but I could never find all the right sound clips. I suppose that would be easier in this day and age.

          Speaking of Worms 2 sound effects, back in high school, I had to make a PowerPoint presentation for French class. For some reason, the teacher made us include a bibliography slide at the end. I didn’t think she was going to make us actually show the slide when we presented it; I thought she just wanted it for the print-out. So as a joke, for that slide I set each letter to appear on screen, one-by-one, accompanied by the Worms 2 “Ow!” sound effect, thinking that nobody would ever have to see or hear it.

          But when I got the end of my presentation, the teacher asked to see the bibliography. Nervously, I pressed the right arrow key on the keyboard and watched in horror as my sources appeared on screen, each one accompanied by a torrent of “Ow! Ow! Ow! Ow! Ow!”

          I was really lucky that the teacher had a sense of humour.

        • George_Liquor says:

          I did that with Three Stooges samples, after being disgusted with the fake ones bundled in the game. 

    • caspiancomic says:

       My favourite Friendship is Cage’s. Everyone else seems to make some sort of genuine attempt at a bit of courtesy, but Cage beats you to a bloody pulp and leaves his autograph on your carcass. It strikes me as that much more cruel than just killing your opponent.

    • LoveWaffle says:

      Friendship again?

  2. George_Liquor says:

    Don’t forget the co-op mode in Portal 2.Lots of awkward robo-friendship moments in that game

    • BarbleBapkins says:

      And the similar high-fiving in TF2, accompanied by a manly “SLAPADAP!”

      • AHyperkineticLagomorph says:

        A lot of TF2 players bind “explode” to a key so they can blow themselves up as they high five someone. Now THAT is a hell of a gesture.

      • It’s so sad to see the losing team throwing up half-high-fives at the oncoming enemy during ‘humiliation’ at the end of a round, vainly hoping that just this once they won’t just be unceremoniously splatted across the walls by a critical rocket.

    • caspiancomic says:

       Yeah, I was surprised not to see that here. I only got my sister to agree to try co-op mode with me because I told her you play as robots who can hug.

    • GaryX says:

      Yes! This is what I came to see. Though I’ve never played Co-op on it myself.

      Which, hey if any of you guys have a PS3 and want to let me know! 

      • Enkidum says:

        I’m down for some good old piss3 Portal II co-op. My PSN name is the same as here.

        Probably can’t do anything scheduled for the next couple of weeks, though – it’s a bit of a crazy time at present…

      • Destroy Him My Robots says:

        I never tried it myself, but Portal 2 co-op is supposed to be cross-platform, so you can play with PC users as well. Broaden those search parameters! Broaden ’em good, oh yeah, that’s the stuff.

        • Enkidum says:

          Yeah, I’ve done it cross-platform, although we frequently had connectivity issues. Once it started it was no problem, but getting it up and running was a bitch.

      • Captain Internet says:

        It’s best the first time through, so try and find someone who hasn’t already played it to partner with if you can. 

        There’s one puzzle in particular that is a nightmare to work out but so very, very rewarding to solve, and someone who’s played it might rob you of that feeling. Still, if it comes to that, better to play it than not at all.

      • Girard says:

         I’m keeping my fingers crossed that in a year when I’m done with grad school and have more than scant free time there’ll still be someone in the world who hasn’t already gone through co-op Portal 2, so I can give it a go.

      • Jackbert322 says:

        Me, me, me! I’ve never done Portal 2 co-op, so I’m down for that. Only problem is I don’t have a mic. So…Steam text chat? Unlike @Enkidum:disqus , I could probably do some this upcoming weekend. Add me on Steam if you want, same as here.

    • D3ADP0OL says:

      I nominate ‘robobromance’ as 2012’s Word of the Year

    • logicalDemoness says:

       No matter how many times I hug my partner, the big screen in the hub says I’m not doing it enough. :(

  3. Cloks says:

    The mention of Bully really helps to showcase what I love about video-games. My Jimmy Hopkins wasn’t really interested in romance, hetero or homosexual because he was more interested in slugging small children and running from authority. In fact, as I progressed in the game, he stopped beating on innocents altogether and started hiding in trashcans just to observe what the other “normal” children would do. This was, of course, when he wasn’t too busy running circles around the prefects and happily throwing his face against all manner of inclined planes.

    • Destroy Him My Robots says:

      >hiding in trashcans just to observe what the other “normal” children would do

      Achievement unlocked!
      Added to federal watchlist

    • Dikachu says:

      I really need to go back and play Bully… I played it when it first came out and enjoyed the shit out of it, but I haven’t played it since (and haven’t played the “extended” edition).  I really wish Rockstar would do more games like that, with the GTA formula but without the grimness.

      Also, a Hot Coffee mod for Bully. :D

  4. Spacemonkey Mafia says:

    Thanks for the world summit mention.  The very first thing that came to mind when I read the header for number six was Merkel hulking out on our cautionary tale of a former president.
       Were real life anime, Bush would be lying in a quarter mile-wide crater halfway across the globe after that attempted massage.
       For all of Fable II and III’s adolescent delight with vomit-inducing farts and exaggerated smooching noises, any time you choose to pet your dog, it’s one of the sweetest and most naturalistic moments in the series.
       Though, holding down the button for too long in III does bring the two awful close to soul-kissing.
       Maybe it’s best that Molyneux has moved onto non-representational games.

  5. Fluka says:

    Damn it, and here I was going to go and post the Resident Evil Canadian thumbs up!  

    Good work!  Good work!  Nice!  Good work!  Good work!  Good work!  Nice!  Nice!  Good work!

  6. caspiancomic says:

    I would like to respectfully nominate both Ico’s hand-holding and the horse-petting from Shadow of the Colossus. If The Last Guardian ever sees the light of day, you just know it’s going to be full to bursting with moments like this.

    • Mercenary_Security_number_4 says:

       Ico’s hand-holding and the little tug when he starts running and she doesn’t was such a great subtle little part of that game.

    • GaryX says:

      Well, it has to be full of those moments to effectively kill your soul fully when the animal is inevitably killed in order to save you.

      Of course, at this point, I think they’ve just gone meta and realized the bigger heartache would be to kill the game.

  7. Citric says:

    Alright, so I don’t know if this counts, but in Persona 4 if you’re trying to pick up a girl you often seal the deal with a hug. I was trying to get my bone zone on with the long haired party member, and then being monogamous, but given the nature of the game I was being super friendly with others too. One was this girl who did this move of turning her back on me and saying I could either hug her or leave. And I couldn’t bring myself to leave, it just seemed like I’d destroy her, even though she was totally fictional.

    After that, I never talked to her again, so I wasn’t exactly a good boyfriend, but she was on the side anyway and it’s not like our friendship rating went down so whatever.

    • Fluka says:

      …games are weird…

    • caspiancomic says:

       Related observation: Hahaha, Persona 3 has me acting the same way. Because so many of the S-Links turn romantic at higher levels, and there’s no gameplay reason to revisit a maxed out S-Link, I’ve turned my player character into a real “hit it and quit it” sleazebag in the name of emphasizing gameplay advantages over narrative monogamy.

      Semi-related observation: Oh man, my aunt’s out of the basement now, time to get in a bit more Persona 3. If I really keep my head down I might still be able to beat the game by this week’s WAYPTW.

      Unrelated observation: Citric dood, you’ve got to get an avatar. I see you around often enough but I need an artificial face to go with that name!

        • Citric says:

          I’ve been thinking of changing that for a while. I think I went with it for the purposes of one joke and it just stayed.

      • Jackbert322 says:

        Finish Persona 3! *glares menacingly*

        Nah, it’s okay if you don’t, but what day are you on?

      • PaganPoet says:

        Fuuka: I…I love you…

        “You spent a special night together with Fuuka.”

        *goes out with Yukari the next day*

      • Citric says:

         There I got one now.

        I’m actually a bit weirded out though, since this image was saved on my Disqus account, even though I’m pretty sure I never actually used it on a Disqus account. I did, however, use it on a completely different account. So that’s confusing.

    • I liked that P4 let you go with romance and non-romance options in its social links. In P3, you have no choice but to be a bit of a douchebag (hilarious though it might be, at times.)

      • AHyperkineticLagomorph says:

        In P4 the original, you could literally date at least 6 girls simultaneously with nary a punishment in sight, other than a few awkward moments which are brushed over.

        P4G turns this around and delivers a powerful player punch. *SPOILERS, IF THAT WEREN’T OBVIOUS* One of the new events is Valentine’s Day. At the start of the day, you get a text from each of your lovers to spend the day with her. You can only accept one text. The other girls… you must visit and personally reject. And it’s not just a “You have turned down Rise. Rise seems saddened.” No, you get a full scene of her reacting, nearly bursting into tears. And it’s fully voiced.

        Though P4 in general is full of heartwarming moments if you play it right.


    puff! puff!


    FRIENDSHIP! friendship?

  10. HobbesMkii says:

    That second link in the Army of Two paragraph is to Don’t Break the Chain, instead of anything to do with the Terrorist Fist Bump.

  11. SaintStryfe says:

    Don’t forget the dance moves of World of Warcraft – the interfactional symbol of “I’m here for a good time” is an Orc Male breaking out into MC Hammer-style jamming, or seeing a Draenei female’s scintillating version of “Hips Don’t Lie”, or going newer, the Pandaren female’s cute interpretation of “Carameldancen”.

    • You just know that the Pandaren males are going to go Gangnam Style in the next patch.

    • Asinus says:

      In the first guild wars you can  not only dance (elementalists do a variation of Elane’s horrible kick-thumb dance from Seinfeld), you could enter commands like /flute, /guitar, or /drum and get a whole air band going. There are a few changes that bum me out regarding GW2 (loss of cut scenes for what look like puppet theaters, generally weak narrative, bad dialogue) but the loss of the air instruments is sorely missed. They also homogenized dances across classes making dance parties far less interesting. 

      • Mooy says:

         Lord of the Rings Online had something similar except you could play actual instruments, with the number keys playing different notes. Getting together a little party and actually playing some songs was pretty fantastic, and a feature missing from way too many games.

    • Moonside_Malcontent says:

      My personal favorite was from City of Heroes.  The “/drumdance” made your character powwow around like Navajo extras from a mildly insensitive Western flick.  And then when you were done, everyone’s character defaulted to the standard “hands on hips” heroic stance, adamantly refusing to make eye contact or have a frank discussion about indigenous rights.  Not when there’s a city to save, citizen!

      • AHyperkineticLagomorph says:

        Well, there’s no city to save anymore, so dance away.

        But seriously, I’m gonna miss that game and its ridiculous dancing.

    • Aurora Boreanaz says:

      Male Draenei is still my favorite.

      Tunak tunak tun DA DA DA!

  12. duwease says:

    Everyone keeps talking about petting dogs.. what about BEING petted??  
    P.S. I’m talking about using ‘Bloom’ on people in Okami, not Japanese porn games

    • Enkidum says:

      Sure. Sure you are.

    • AHyperkineticLagomorph says:

      Hey, some people you didn’t even need to cast bloom on to get them to pet you.

      Also of fun in Okami is making a field of flowers around little girls and seeing them jump for joy.

  13. Basement Boy says:

    No “gestures” per se, but in The Binding Of Isaac, you might end up with a parade of weird minions; it’s always nice to have buddies plugging along with you through the many hours, even if only a few circling flies.

  14. D3ADP0OL says:

    How about sharing food and health boosts with your AI companions in Beyond Good & Evil?  Not many games ask you to give a permanent increase to your companion’s health instead of your own.  BG&E is this week’s featured game at

  15. PugsMalone says:

    I’m surprised that Galgun didn’t get a mention. It’s a Japanese rail shooter where all the schoolgirls are in love with you, and you have to shoot them with the Galgun to get them to stop chasing you.

    Don’t ask what the game’s equivalent of a headshot is.

  16. Markthulhu says:

    Don’t forget Harvest Moon, where you express your love or friendship for a person by giving them the exact same gift every day for a year.

    Also, while part of the story and not something you can do on your own, Faith hugging her sister in Mirror’s Edge is an adorable little moment.

  17. HobbesMkii says:

    There’s a Borderlands 2 mission where one of the objectives is to high-five Claptrap. I think he does it again later on after you complete a mission, but the game didn’t register my melee as a high-five as it did in the earlier mission. Possibly because it’s not trying to teach you how to play it at that point.

  18. doyourealize says:

    While emotes are standard fare in most games playable online, I’d point out the Dark/Demon’s Souls bow (as in, “I bow to opponent”, not “I’ll shoot you with my bow and arrow”, as the latter isn’t really all that nice) as a special example of gamer camaraderie. In a game where death is around every corner and other players can choose to come into your world while you’re trekking through a poison swamp that slows you down, take a couple swings at you with a powered up ultra weapon, and end your progress in a level that you probably died plenty times trying to get through without the help of invaders, showing a little respect for coming to your aid or even before fighting to the death can make everything seem a little bit nicer. The Artorias DLC added those weird wood blocks for communication, but a simple bow was enough to say, in any situation, “Hey! We like games, so let’s play together.”

  19. Effigy_Power says:

    I am surprised that Fable3’s famed and somewhat flawed “touch and grab” system isn’t in this list, which I’d think is a lot more visceral and banal than many of these.
    Not only did Molyneux make his usual big whoop about it, but it was integrated so nicely without mattering at all that it really shone.
    Holding hands to guide a child through a cave full of wolves, dragging a wanted fugitive by the wrists to a police officer, all of those were so cute and so immensely pointless, at times horribly messing with the game itself (you can’t even fire a one-handed pistol while holding hands with a little girl), that it became a superb metaphor for all of Molyneux’s gaming ideas.
    It was beautiful and cute and rather emotional, but gamewise it had nothing to offer, got old really quickly and became more of a hindrance with time, which the developers must have recognized as it is featured less and less throughout the game.
    Truly a touchy-feely metaphor.

  20. Mookalakai says:

    Came for the hug with Leonardo DaVinci in Assassin’s Creed 2, left massively disappointed.

    • Effigy_Power says:

      Not as disappointing as the torrent of AC2-Yaoi it spawned on deviantArt… don’t search for it. It may damage your soul.

  21. Chuck Spear says:

    I remember in Street Fighter Alpha 3, when certain characters are matched up, they do a fun pre-fight animation. The best I believe is Ryu vs. Ken, where Ken is smiling as he has Ryu in a headlock, giving him a noogie, and then Ryu good-naturedly throws him.

    I’m trying to recall the others.

  22. I like the dancing whenever you get a power cell in Jak and Daxter.

  23. Halloween_Jack says:

    Not sure if this counts as a gesture per se, since it involves no physical contact, but in Mass Effect 3, at one point you can go up to one of the ledges that overlooks much of the Citadel with Garrus, who throughout the game (particularly in ME2) is defined by his sniping excellence, and have a can-shooting contest… and make the choice to deliberately miss, in which case Garrus proclaims (in another shout-out to ME2) “My name is Garrus, and this is my favorite spot on the Citadel!”