I think that's part of the point of the friend zone is when that's a no-go to advance to more "sexual thangs". Games often make it so you can hook up with everyone without too much effort (except for the goddamn red head in Harvest Moon on GC). There's too many isolating factors for me to certainly call it a step-by-step process in anything other than a macro-examination and the very basic demonstration of how it goes (or all guys could follow said instructions to sexual/intimate bliss) . Unfortunately, games take the simplest version of this more "long term" relationship line and condense it to Meeting > Befriending > Romancing > Fucking is 4 steps (ie; 4 scenes) and have the context merely as padding to ensure it's not completely out of their ass ("my mom died and it traumatized me!!" "There, there").
There's way too many nuances, bumps, and troubles in a relationship before you earn your happily ever after (hell, Disney gets that, and even Persona games have characters get mad at you when you keep bailing on them; people move away, get mad at you, might hope off to university, some even rearrange their lives to be with the person they love). Furthermore game writers don't really give time for chemistry and force a lot of it.
I LOVE how you had to mention feminism and fedoras. You're damn fine at segueing yourself.
Fundamentally I don't really care that it's easy. Reading a book is easy, but I still find them enjoyable. Even books that contain romance. Of course, videogames are interactive fiction and as such they often impose challenges on the players, but I don't really think that's the culmination of game design, personally. It's fine if you just want to tell a story. Of course some player choice can make the player feel more involved, but even if that choice amounts to little more than "do I like person A or person B?" it's fine with me so long as the results are interesting
. Particularly when we're talking about romance as side stories I don't really see the need to throw artificial barriers at the player. The thing is, Dice, the things you describe are certainly issues in the real world, but how would you even fit them into most videogames? It has to make sense in context and if you're on some journey to save the world people aren't going to suddenly move away because they found a new job or something.
All I care about is whether or not it's interesting
. And that's something a lot of videogame romances fail at, for the reasons I outlined in my original response: Bad writing, lack of impact, and shallow character development. And yes, badly animated sex scenes, though honestly that's such an insignificant part to me that it isn't a big concern. I mean, the sex scenes aren't the point. I was fine in the old days when it was described with nothing more than text.
PS: What the heck is this business about fedoras? Sorry, but I don't get the reference at all...
PPS: I'll agree that the sex scene in Heavy Rain was completely unnecessary, unmotivated, out of character, and overall in bad taste. Though I just kind of chalked that one up to David Cage being French. Also, if I recall correctly (at least in my playthrough), I think Ethan had broken his ribs just before that scene. I'm not sure how he was even physically up to it...