The movement toward better, deeper stories in video games has raised a multitude of new questions and issues within the gaming industry. Many surround how good stories can be, how vested the players can become in the story and if those stories and experiences could touch gamers on an emotional level.
I am here to tell you that simply will never be the case. OK, never is a long time and would be foolish to say but it makes a good headline. It will almost never be the case and, in the cases in which it is, it will be games such as Lost Odyssey, with it’s 30+ hours of cut scenes, which will bring about that emotion. The only problem it will be during the nongaming parts.
Steven Spielberg’s venture with EA is being touted as being a whole new experience which will raise the bar for emotional investiture in games. My question is why do I need to feel emotional about a game?
The key thing that a lot of people fail to realize is that, at their base, games are just that. Games. They are activities which can bring about emotion, such as anger when losing or happiness when winning, but generally don’t get you to feel introspective or emotional. The last time I played Monopoly I never felt on the verge of tears thinking of the plight of Old Uncle Pennybags and I certainly don’t think I will cry if and when (and this is the closest I would ever come) Master Chief were killed off in Halo 12.
Many of the “emotions in games” arguments spin off from the “games as art” arguments. The development and orchestration of a game are artistic but the end result is an experience that is controlled by the user who, more often than not, is trying to get to the next checkpoint rather than think about how hard it was to kill that last nameless enemy.
Gaming experiences are an active one which is different from movies, a passive experience, and the two should not be compared at every turn. Storylines in games have gotten better and deeper over the years but at the end of the day we (gamers) pull the trigger, press jump, shoot the ball, save the day, etc. and therefore the activity of games don’t allow us to sit back, be contemplative and emote as some would hope we would.
Do you believe a game will make you cry at some point or do you simply want to frag the next bad guy who peaks his head out?