Video Gaming and Narratives of Love as a potential stance of cultural-political meaning in current societies: A study of It Takes Two, 2021


Video games
Participatory culture
It Takes Two
Covid-19 Pandemic

How to Cite

Yao, X. “Video Gaming and Narratives of Love As a Potential Stance of Cultural-Political Meaning in Current Societies: A Study of It Takes Two, 2021”. Mutual Images Journal, no. 11, Dec. 2023, pp. 61-84, doi:10.32926/2023.11.5.


In 2021, arriving shortly after the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and the social distancing it required, a creative co-op video game, It Takes Two, created by Swedish developer Hazelight Studios and published by American gaming giant Electronic Arts, gained huge popularity on a global scale, including unexpected success in the Chinese market. Although the game is not officially available in China, has no publishing license, and no official promotions, still half of its sales come from China. The game is based on a divorce-themed story, and by integrating cooperative gameplay mechanisms, it enables players to engage in constructing their own “narrative of love” that reflects and coincides with specific cultural indicators. Bringing the dynamics of marriage and divorce to the forefront, the game has generated enormous discussion in mainstream Chinese online platforms, and drew attention to political-cultural notions of what it means to be married and then to struggle and go through the (emotional, practical, and legal) divorce process. The aim of this article is to approach video games such as It Takes Two as a cultural form that should be understood as part of our politics as citizens and individuals in a broad sense, and as part of a wider and more complex connection we have with each other and with society (Street, 2007). Drawing on an analysis of the function of gameplay mechanics in relation to video game setting and structure, this study provides a discussion of the visual and narrative representations of an ostensibly “typical” universal love and divorce issue within the sociocultural context of a Western family, and examines how Chinese audiences make sense of such “lessons” and ideology, and how they work (or might not work) for them. It Takes Two raises awareness of and questions about how games can elicit emotional responses and deep reflection in real life for its players about the vicissitudes of marriage (and love relationships in general) and the culturally specific, at times legal, and broadly visual political implications of their successful or disastrous unfolding.
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