“Fable III,” which I reviewed yesterday on the blog and in Friday’s Press Democrat, is rare among video games in that it allows players to marry and have children, even over Xbox Live with other players. As a married guy myself, the prospect of getting “married” in a video game to another real person seemed a bit odd to me, so I confined my relationship-related experimenting to the random villagers I seduced and courted. (Before any moral panic starts over “Fable III’s” sex scene, hanky panky in the M-rated game consists of a black screen and some comically suggestive noises coupled with tame dirty talk.)

Once you get into the (entirely optional) business of getting married, having sex and raising a family in “Fable III,” it’s clear Lionhead has changed up the experience from “Fable II.” Whereas in “Fable II,” children were born babies and stayed that way until a key moment in the game, “Fable III’s” kids grow up fast, as in the time it takes you to leave town, complete a quest or two and come back. It’s a little jarring to leave your baby, then return a day later to find a 4-year-old who desperately wants a present. It’s clear Lionhead still has some work to do.

But honestly, children didn’t hold as much interest for me as testing the limits of the concept of marriage in “Fable III.” I immediately became desperate to find out what the game would and wouldn’t let you do.

In “Fable II,” players could have multiple spouses, but it was best if you kept a spouse in each town because otherwise, they’d find out about each other and become jealous. Not so in “Fable III,” where my wife didn’t even utter a peep when I asked another woman on a date right in front of her. I soon set to turn this little loophole into a modern day soap opera.

With one family already living in the swampy district of Mourningwood, I adopted two children from the orphanage in Bowerstone. I tore a page from the Daddy Warbucks playbook and settled them into a mansion in Millfields, the game’s toniest district. If you settle your adopted kids in an empty house, the game puts a nanny in charge of the household.

Then, I decided to woo and marry a noblewoman, and see if she was progressive enough to want to help raise my two children. But when it came time to settle my new wife into one of my myriad properties, the game wouldn’t let me choose the house with two orphans in it, because it was already considered settled. Disappointed, I had my new wife move in next door as I chuckled at the idea of having a spouse in one mansion and two adopted children she doesn’t want anything to do with in the house next door. My new wife and I soon had two biological children, as I was desperate to see if the game would let me have more than one kid with each spouse.

After that, it was time to get really freaky. I seduced my children’s nanny and proposed marriage, hoping the game would just switch my “nanny” to my wife and let her continue living in the same house with my adopted children. No dice. The game had already replaced my first nanny with a new one, so I was forced to settle the nanny in a third empty house on the other side of the lake. (I should also point out that after I married the nanny, in a desert town on the other side of the world, she was totally down with consummating our marriage in a property I was renting out to someone else. Maybe it was best that she wasn’t raising my children.)

So at the end of this little experiment, I had two children living with my noblewoman wife. Next door to her were my two adopted children and their new nanny. Just across the lake was my old nanny, now childless and unemployed, with plenty of time to wonder whether anything was going on between me and the new nanny across the way.

All this meant that literally every time I came back to town, I had a basketball team worth of children and two or three women chasing after me, ready to give me gifts, to say nothing of the random catcalls my handsome fellow received from men and women alike. It’s a tough job, being the world’s greatest family man.

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