Gamers’ NPC Romance Preferences

Dr. Jarryd Willis PhD
7 min readMay 24, 2021

RPG Gamers have a type/preference when it comes to the npcs they romance across games

Consider the npcs you’ve romanced in various games (e.g., Mass Effect, Dragon Age, Fallout, Elder Scrolls, Greedfall, Cyberpunk, Outer Worlds, Life Is Strange, etc).

Do you date npcs of the same personality across various games?

Figure 1

Most RPG gamers (65.45%) indicated that they tend to romance npcs with similar personalities across various games, χ2 (1, N = 55) = 5.26, p = .022.

This is consistent with research indicating that we tend to date similar people over time.

Knopp et al. (2017) found that people who have been cheated on are likely to date someone with traits similar to their disloyal ex & end up being cheated on again.

Park & McDonald (2019) found that people tend to be drawn into relationships with a particular type of person, just like introverts are drawn to Barnes & Noble & extraverts are drawn to Coachella.

Brumbaugh & Fraley (2006, p. 558): These findings are consistent with “the clinical observation that people often re-create the same kinds of interpersonal dynamics that have characterized their relationships from the past-even in situations in which there is no obvious connection between the features of past and present partners (Johnson, 2004).
Indeed, “people may be compelled to seek new partners that resemble those from the past, possibly because they anticipate these types of people will confirm their self-concept (Swann et al., 1992).

Andersen and Baum (1994): Consistent with research on intergroup prejudice, people feel worse when they’re about to meet someone who resembles an ex they had a negative experience with.

Lisa DeBruine et al. (2017): The eye color of lesbians’ & straight men’s’ lovers matched their mom’s eye color whereas the eye color of gays’ & straight women’s lovers matched the eye color of their father.

Figure 2

This was particularly true for women, χ2 (1, N = 33) = 5.12, p = .024. This is consistent with research indicating that women are more selective & are more likely to form romantic relationships with someone who fulfills their desired romantic preferences.

— Rantala et al. (2010): Women whose fathers have a hairy chest tend to have partners with a hairy chest too.

— Paola Bressan & Damian (2018): Straight daughters of fathers with light (blue or green) eyes showed a stronger preference for light-eyed men than daughters of fathers with dark (brown or dark brown) eyes did. The eye color of moms was irrelevant to women’s lover eye color preference.

— US Census, 2020: There are fewer White women married interracially than there are White men married interracially in the United States.

Bereczkei et al. (2004): Even women who were adopted are likely to marry a man who resembles their genetically-unrelated, adoptive father. husband-father resemblance being observed even among adopted women who were not genetically related to their fathers.

This suggests male gamers, much like males in human romances, may be open to more variety.

Figure 2

Figure 3 (this data was NOT collected by me).

Female gamers are more likely to romance female npcs than male gamers are to romance male npcs.

Figure 3

Sidenotes. (assume direct quotes)

Digitally Mediated Self

Loneliness predicts motivation to fulfill social needs in digitally mediated environments (Al-Saggaf & Nielsen, 2014; Bonetti et al., 2010; McKenna & Bargh, 1998; Lixuan Zhang et al., 2017).

Loneliness is a positive predictor of Facebook self-disclosure (Blachnio et al., Przepiorka, Balakier, & Boruch, 2016), and lonely women may even share relationship information & their address (Al-Saggaf & Nielsen, 2014).

Myers Briggs of Mass Effect (Team #iNTJ)

Inquisition & Andromeda are the two greatest single player storylines of the PS3/PS4 era. Andromeda deserves a sequel.

Transference (Wolf et al., 2021)

Transference means that the traits of a significant other, which are seen in a newly encountered person, activate the mental representation of the significant other, which is then applied to the person. In other words, the beliefs and feelings toward the significant other are transferred to the target person, thereby biasing the first impression of the target.

Karney & Bradbury (2020)

(The textbook authors I assign in Interpersonal Relationships classes)

“…the initial connection and optimism that characterize spouses on their wedding day is hard for many couples to maintain. Indeed, one of the most consistent results in longitudinal research on marriage is that, on average, marital satisfaction declines significantly over time (e.g., Kurdek, 1999; Umberson, Williams, Powers, Chen, & Campbell, 2005). This dispiriting pattern, which has been described as a “typical honeymoon then years of blandness” (Aron, Norman, Aron, & Lewandowski, 2002, p. 182), is as close to a truism as exists in marital research: Marital satisfaction declines on average in nearly every longitudinal study of marriage ever conducted and in newer and older marriages alike (VanLaningham, Johnson, & Amato, 2001).

However, disaggregated research of the past 10 years found trajectories that differ from the average truism. Your textbook authors, Karney & Bradbury (2020), found that suggest that “emphasizing the average trend in marital satisfaction masked theoretically interesting variability across people” & that “for most couples, marital satisfaction does not decline over time but in fact remains relatively stable for long periods.”


During the past decade, this assumption has been questioned by burgeoning lines of research on Hispanic marriages (e.g., Orengo-Aguayo, 2015), African American marriages (e.g., Cutrona, Russell, Burzette, Wesner, & Bryant, 2011; Stanik, McHale, & Crouter, 2013), and most recently same-sex marriages (e.g., Chen & van Ours, 2018) to mention only a few dimensions of diversity that the field has explored. To illustrate the consequences of broader sampling for deepening our understanding of marriage, we devote this section to reviewing one dimension of diversity that was examined at length during the past 10 years: income.

The possibility that marital process may vary at different levels of income is worth highlighting because, a decade ago, this possibility was distinctly overlooked. When the federal government launched the Healthy Marriage Initiative in the early 2000s, the goal of the program was to promote stronger, more stable relationships among lower income couples (Office of Family Assistance, 2012). Yet at the time data on the relationships of lower income couples were scarce. Nevertheless, the development and implementation of skills-based relationship education programs proceeded apace, guided by the assumption that the conclusions of prior research on relationship processes among relatively affluent, mostly White couples would generalize to the lower income, more diverse communities targeted by the new initiative.

Within the past decade, the results of nationwide, multisite, longitudinal evaluations of these programs were released, and they were not encouraging. Despite their great cost and the sincere efforts of well-intentioned administrators and educators across the country, the impact of relationship education on the well-being and stability of lower income couples proved to be negligible (Lundquist et al., 2014; Wood, Moore, Clarkwest, & Killewald, 2014). Abandoning the assumption that the foundations of satisfying and stable marriage are common across income groups, leading observers called for research directly examining how basic processes contributing to successful intimacy may in fact vary among different segments of society (Johnson, 2012; McNulty, 2016).

By the time a couple gets married, many of the factors that ultimately determine the trajectory of the relationship may already be in place. Where couples start, in other words, appears to reveal a lot about where they will end up (Lavner et al., 2012). Yet because research on marriage begins with couples who are already married, we know very little about relationship satisfaction across the transition into marriage. Collecting data from couples prior to marriage, and even prior to their engagement, holds great promise for illuminating the paths into marriage that result in more or less satisfied newlyweds.

Research adopting the latent class approach confirms that couples in which marital satisfaction declines most steeply are indeed much more likely to divorce. Yet these studies also report that couples in stably happy marriages divorce at nonnegligble rates (e.g., 14% more than 10 years; Lavner & Bradbury, 2010), similar to earlier work on national datasets that observed substantial numbers of couples divorcing without preceding signs of marital distress (Amato & Hohmann-Marriott, 2007). One possible explanation for such results is that long intervals between assessments in longitudinal studies fail to measure declines in satisfaction that are in fact occurring shortly before couples make the decision to dissolve.

Still a third possibility is that

some couples may be motivated to end their marriages even when they are relatively satisfied.

For example, as social exchange perspectives have long argued (e.g., Levinger, 1976), couples who hold each other in high esteem may still dissolve if they (a) experience few barriers to leaving the relationship or (b) perceive superior alternatives outside of the relationship. Evaluating the evidence for these diverse possibilities will require higher resolution assessments of the dynamics of this highly significant life transition. Finally, the relatively high degree of stability that characterizes most marriages has implications for interventions that are devised to prevent relationship distress.”



Dr. Jarryd Willis PhD

I'm passionate about making a tangible difference in the lives of others, & that's something I have the opportunity to do a professor & researcher.