I recently posed the following question on twitter and facebook: "For those of you who play romance games, what's an instant turn off in a pursuable character?" The seed of this question grew from a romance game I'm currently playing with characters that I've found to be wholely unlikeable. I found it a chore to get some of the "good" endings, because I disliked the character so much that a romantic end seemed like the worse way to go. I wondered, "Do people out there actually like this stuff, or am I just being unreasonable about my fictional dating life?" So I figured I'd ask if other people has things that are an "instant no."
Answers ranged from serious character flaws (things that would probably result in a court order, should someone IRL behave that way) to things that others would actually consider a turn on or a good point (especially in the looks department).
A lot of people noted that if the writing is solid, or if the character manages to grow, then they'll happily follow any romance path. It's a good point, because in any story, characters need to grow and develop. Character flaws make for interesting stories, and learning to overcome negative points is part of the standard journey. I read a review of The Flower Shop by someone who quit after five minutes because Steve was a creeper and a jerk. While I definitely wrote Steve as a jerk in the start, I wanted to show that he grew and matured as a person over the course of the game (and he winds up being the most empathetic suitor in the sequel). It disappointed me that someone would throw away the game so quickly, but then I wondered if players feel the same way about potential suitors.
Is a very negative point enough to turn you off from the start? On the flip side, one of the most frequent turn offs was a "perfect" person. I'm not entirely sure if there's a final conclusion to this post. I just want to organize my thoughts a bit and hear your ideas on it.