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Rejoice, millennials: The vampire boyfriend is cool again

A composite image of two video game characters, Vincent Valentine of "Final Fantasy VII," and Astarion of "Baldur's Gate 3."Video game world’s hottest vampy boyfriends are here to take over TikTok and ruin our lives.

Square Enix; Larian Studios

  • The last time vampire boyfriends were cool was in the era of Edward Cullen of “Twilight.”
  • Video game companies seem to have collectively decided to bring the vampire boyfriend back in 2024.
  • Matthew Mercer and Neil Newbon, the men behind the hottest vampy video game edge lords, are here to tell us about the beautiful boys they voice.

Who among us hasn’t looked upon the pallor of a distinguished, red-eyed gentleman and felt like being bitten wasn’t too bad an idea? Just me? Sure, I guess — and thousands of people on the internet.

If you’ve spent time on TikTok or X in the past few months, you may have spotted a proliferation of videos and posts about two video game characters. There’s Astarion from “Baldur’s Gate 3,” and more recently, there’s Vincent Valentine, a fan-favorite character from Square Enix’s “Final Fantasy VII” remake.

Which leads me to say: It looks like the goth, vampiric boyfriend is cool again.

The last time the vampire boyfriend was this cool was in the halcyon days of “Twilight,” when Edward Cullen sparkled in the sun and stole many a millennial heart.

And while Edward might be the unofficial face of the trend, he’s not alone: There are also the massively popular TV shows “Vampire Diaries” and “True Blood,” to name just two. In the realm of animation, there’s also been “Castlevania’s” Alucard, a blonde, Dracula-style thirst trap — and with him, a stacked legacy of anime bloodsuckers from ‘Trinity Blood” and “Vampire Knight.”

Perhaps it’s no surprise that video game creators are now leaning into the trope: Vampire boyfriends have historically shown they are good for the bottom line, too. After all, the “Twilight” saga made more than $5.28 billion worldwide.

And the thirst (pun intended) is real. Hundreds of thousands of people tried to romance Astarion on the game’s opening weekend, and nearly 100,000 of them failed. Players can’t romance Valentine in-game, but they sure can make thirsty TikToks about him.

I attempted to unravel the re-emerging allure of the eternal-lived lover. And what better way to do so than by speaking to the men responsible for bringing these characters to life: voice actor Matthew Mercer, who voices Valentine, and the BAFTA-nominated Neil Newbon, the voice of Astarion.

‘Who dares disturb my slumber?’

A composite image of animated character Vincent Valentine. Voice actor Matthew Mercer (right) voices the character in "Final Fantasy VII: Rebirth."Matt Mercer, of “Critical Role” and “The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom” fame, voices Vincent Valentine.

Square Enix; Gregg DeGuire/Getty Images

Mercer’s opening line in “Final Fantasy VII: Rebirth” is now a fandom legend.

With the deep growl of “Who dares disturb my slumber?” from within the depths of his velvet-lined coffin, longtime “Final Fantasy” fans were introduced to the super-cool, uber-goth gunslinger. (Spoiler alert: Valentine looks like a vampire. But he’s not really one in the strictest definition of the term — he just has multiple monstrous forms, and takes long rests in a casket.)

“Vincent is like the dark edge lord of emo sadness on the outside, and then has this kind of burning fire of passion on the inside that begins to kindle as his story revs up,” Mercer said. “I’ve always had a thought in my head of how he would sound. And now I just have a chance to let it out.”

I ask him about the fandom’s love for vampire-like characters, and he agrees they are so back in the limelight. Mercer also voices a vampire in “The Legend of Vox Machina,” an Amazon-backed animated series he created with his friends at Critical Role.

“Vincent definitely embodies a lot of the classic fantasy, media-informed kind of antihero protagonist vampires,” Mercer said.

He also said he thinks the essence of a vampire’s allure — and its tragedy — is that it’s “steeped in its own mythology.”

“This is a person who is plucked from the cycle of life, and to subsist and exist is to feast on others,” Mercer said. “The very vibe itself is tragic and romantic.”

“Vincent very much borrows that aesthetic of ‘the monster within,'” he added. “The idea that ‘I try to be as good as I can, but there’s something dark inside me that I’m ever having to keep at bay.'”

It’s also “wild,” Mercer says, to be immortalized in a game like “Final Fantasy VII.” He told me he grew up with the series, played early versions of the game, and cosplayed characters from it, so clinching this role has been a “white whale” for him.

“Vincent’s kind of emerging from his cave, shaking off the dust a little bit, learning how to be social, and coming out of his shell of self-loathing,” Mercer said. “Playing that subtle arc and the slow opening of that cold exterior has been a fun journey to explore.”

Video games’ vampire boyfriends are also a lesson in vulnerability — and navigating trauma

A composite image of actor Neil Newbon and his character from "Baldur's Gate 3," Astarion.The BAFTA-nominated Neil Newbon is the voice of Astarion.

Scott Garfitt/BAFTA via Getty Images; Larian Studios

I also caught up with Newbon, who’s won multiple accolades for his role as Astarion — a beautiful, 200-something-year-old vampire who’s captured the hearts of many a “Baldur’s Gate 3” fan.

It was tough to navigate the pain written into Astarion’s harrowing vampire-origin story, Newbon told me. Because there are several ways Astarion’s character arc can play out based on player choices, Newbon says those who befriend the vampire in-game get to see him “shake off a cloak of caution,” and be vulnerable and genuine.

He said he’s heard that people relate to Astarion because of how the character survives the trauma of his past — and the player gets to help him through it all and see his tragic tale to its end.

“For a lot of people it has meant that they’ve been seen, and they don’t feel alone in their personal experiences, some of which can be horrific, difficult, and leave a scar,” he said.

But an important aspect of the character that likely appeals to people, Newbon said, is his pursuit of freedom.

“Astarion’s prime objective is to be free,” he said. “I like the idea that people can be free to choose to love who they want and how to live their lives.”

And he, like many fans, loves Astarion deeply now — and would play him again in a heartbeat.

“I hope viewers of the work see, too, that there’s more underneath the surface of a person than the trope of this decadent, hedonistic, theatrical vampire,” Newbon said. “There’s a soul worth saving under there, so don’t judge a book by its cover.”

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