The weird ways developers approach hand-holding in video games

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This piece contains spoilers for Ico.

Why is it so rare for games to replicate emerging relationships in any meaningful way? We enjoy seeing friendships develop with great nuance in books, for example, yet it’s an interesting blind spot in the gaming world. That’s not to say nobody’s tried, however – particularly when it comes to the most simple yet intimate gesture of all: holding hands.

The first game that used hand-holding in a memorable way was probably Fumito Ueda’s 2001 classic Ico. The story follows the titular Ico, a boy who is locked away by guards in a coffin inside an abandoned fortress. He’s been shunned and left far from the rest of the world due to the two horns growing from his head, which are considered a bad omen. After breaking from the shackles of his coffin he meets Yorda, the daughter of the evil queen who rules the castle, and who wants to extend her lifespan by taking over Yorda’s body. Throughout the game, you’re tasked with moving Ico past obstacles, puzzles and shadow-like enemies, all while making sure Yorda is safe and by your side. To do this, you hold her hand for the entire journey.

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