"You don't have a date on Valentine's Day," your mates in relationships have probably announced piously, suddenly all Pamela Stephenson fucking Connolly because they've managed to achieve one February 14th without wanking forlornly to Wild Things, "because you spend too long sitting indoors playing video games."
A tired cliché. Reductive. Bollocks. Like all art forms, video games are an invaluable aid to successful courtship. Films, for instance, have been instructing humans on how to go about jiggling secret bits of their anatomies inside other secret bits for a hundred years. What lessons are there about wooism that can't be learned from When Harry Met Sally, or the dithering buffoonery of foppish tooth-tent Hugh Grant? None that'll get you noshed off, that's for darn tootin'. And the same goes for books and music – use Mills & Boon as a pull-template and your fun-hand will soon atrophy; go for a drink with someone on Monday and then spend the whole of the next Sunday chilling, silently thanking Craig David for the clarity of his unfettered genius. And so it is with video games.
Far from being an activity generally undertaken in lieu of more romantic, Durex Play-assisted bum-poking, games teach us a litany of lessons about how to instigate a stanza or two of the horizontal arts. Here are a few of them.
TRY TO SHAG ABSOLUTELY EVERYONE
Anyone playing Dragon Age: Inquisition will be familiar with the little heart icon that flashes up as a conversation choice on occasion. This is the "flirt" option, with which you can change the flow of discourse from drier topics involving the end of existence – "I wish Corypheus would stop with this nonsense," and the like – to more salacious fare, like, "A peer inside your smock, perchance?" and, "I can smell your junk from here, and it smells terrific".
You can try this with any gender or race in the game, meaning you can simultaneously try and finger louche conjure-oaf Dorian and steely scar-fox Cassandra, while also having a stink-fumble with the dwarven scout Harding and the Howitzer-abdomened horn-bastard Iron Bull (pictured above). The lesson here? Lose your inhibitions, abandon shame, decide not to give a shit about being found out, and scatter your fuckoats as far and wide as possible.
How many times has Princess Peach been kidnapped? Once is too many, but how many is it now? Five? Ten? And Mario hasn't thought to upgrade castle security? He's a plumber for fuck's sake, surely he knows a bloke called Robbo who'll give him mate's rates. And Peach? Convenient she always leaves the back door open, isn't it? Almost like something's going on with her and Bowser that, whenever discovered, becomes "Oh, he's kidnapped me, again." Come on, nobody believed Mary with all that "immaculate conception" bullshit, and no-one believes you, Peach. All in all, it sounds like a clusterfuck of a relationship, doesn't it?
Well think again, because it's a relationship that's 30 years strong. They're actually smashing it. This is how it all started after all: Mario wooed Peach by "rescuing" her from Bowser in the first Super Mario Bros. – a case of history repeating, as he'd (as "Jump Man") also saved past squeeze Pauline from the then-antagonistic Donkey Kong in 1981 – and then they went home for the most riotous sex it's possible for two clumps of rudimentary pixels to attempt. And they've been doing the same merry dance ever since. This keeps things fresh, electric. Any nascent relationship needs excitement. Emulate this IRL by hurling a drink in a potential mate's face, pushing them in front of a tram, or telling them you thought you recognised them because you fucked their mum and/or dad. Then strap in for several decades of bliss.
TAKE A FUCKLOAD OF PILLS
Pac-Man and Ms Pac-Man have been an item for even longer than Mario and Peach, so they're clearly doing something right. But that's where the similarities end: rather than the Nintendo pair's basing of a relationship on explosive rutting, like a pixelly take on Crash starring James Spader, Namco's yellow icons' kinship rests solely on the ingestion of frankly reckless amounts of class-A contraband.
Take their advice cautiously: the first time you meet your new squeeze you'll be so busy discussing your granddads, the worst jobs you ever had and exactly what happened during the recording of Second Coming that you'll forget to make your move. Plus, penises won't work properly. And, after 30-plus years, both of you will look like, and have the cognitive wherewithal of, Bez. And nobody wants to fuck Bez.
DEVELOP A BIOLOGICALLY IMPOSSIBLE PHYSIQUE
If games have taught us anything it's that, whichever sex you are, the opposite one finds even the slightest physical imperfection repellent. So, for men, this decrees that – in order to copulate – you'll need either the rugged E4 handsomeness of Nathan Drake or the tiny-bollocked 'roid-stackery of Gears of War's Dom Santiago. Either way, full heads of hair and six-packs like cattle grids are totally non-negotiable.
For women it's even worse: Dead or Alive (pictured above) and Tomb Raider stipulate that, if you aren't packing a stomach firmer than the middle of a neutron star and tits like vast bouncy Moomins' noses, passing men will actually vomit all over you, possibly drowning you. Both sexes might as well accept this and get to work. This will probably mean extensive surgery for all of us, not to mention foregoing fun and life itself in favour of six hours a day in the gym, like insecure people from Llandudno do. But focus on the endgame: when we all look as we should, we won't be able to pass someone in the street without diddling them silly. The only problem then becomes where to drown all the ugly kids we produce.
BECOME A PRICK
Duke Nukem (pictured above) was a misogynistic, violent, stripper-ogling luddite prick. Kyrie from Devil May Cry was a prick who had a corrosive ball of pulsating dullness where her personality should have been. Far Cry 3's Jason Brody was a mass-murdering, extreme-sporting, "WHOO-YEAH!" American prick. Heavy Rain's prickish Madison Paige jumped the bones of the apparently bereaved Ethan Mars (prick) at the first available opportunity, like a prick would. Harley Quinn was a criminal and a prick. Yet all of them got their funtimes at some point. Are you being too nice? Is that pesky personality of yours getting in the way? Do you have some kind of ingrained moral code? Well then. You know what to do. You prick.
SAVE THE WORLD OR DIE TRYING