If my friends had to describe me in two words, they would probably be “emotionally” and “dead.” All right, that’s probably a bit of a stretch, but I am fairly sure that I do have some sort of psychosis, not entirely undue to watching 90s cartoons like The Ren & Stimpy Show and the like (seriously, those original Nicktoons were kind of messed up). The advent of the Internet didn’t help either as otherwise disturbing, saddening, or whatever things instead became litmus tests for normality.
The number of movies that have significantly moved me emotionally could be counted on two fingers. Every evocative piece of art usually only brings about a singular feeling of mild curiosity but definitely nothing substantial. Some songs make me want to dance and some pictures make me want to fall asleep in a sunlit meadow, but books have the greatest kill count of feels for me, the most recent being Ready Player One by Ernest Cline.
The most consistent medium, however, for eliciting some sort of deep, unfettered response has been video games. Per title, each game brings out more unique or extreme emotions than any of those other forms of entertainment. That’s not to say it happens a lot, but it is more consistent. Both The Walking Dead and Journey, for instance, get me all riled in up in vastly different ways but to almost equal extent.
I bring the entire topic up because yesterday Justin Korthof of Robot Entertainment sent a tweet asking, “What is the most emotional a game has ever made you?” The common responses he culled were Halo 3, Journey, Gears of War 2, Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, Red Dead Redemption, and Heavy Rain. That’s a pretty good list, although really I could only personally agree with Journey. The rest I’d felt little more than saddening indifference. I actually thought Halo: Reach and Gears of War 3 were more moving than Halo 3 and Gears of War 2, but hey, to each his own.
Red Dead Redemption was an interesting notion, though. True to its name, at the end of the game, I felt an immense sense of redemptive closure after the epilogue. The pseudo-end was bittersweet more than sad to me as it was building up to that moment since the start of the third act, but the ending ending was—dare I say—incredible. Perhaps it was the combination of the low key cowboy lifestyle preceding the final all-out action sequence with melancholic topper, but it really hit hard once the credits started rolling. It was closure I’d rarely felt in life let alone in a video game.
So when I found out a friend of mine had just made it back to Beecher’s Hope (he’d just picked up the game of the year edition for cheap), I told him to pause it so I could drive over and watch him play it out. I wanted to know that after these past couple of years, my time with John Marston was not wasted.
My friend is a bit of an oddball in that he has a very…unique take on locked doors, i.e. he doesn’t. Neither do his parents, which I guess is where he gets it. He does, however, lock his car, which is strangely enough the only thing to ever be stolen from him. This makes it interesting to drop in on him because you don’t need to stop to call him or ring the doorbell or anything. You just walk on in.
And when I walked in, I saw him not playing Red Dead Redemption but rather Shadow of the Colossus. I’d only lent it to him via the Ico HD collection two days ago but I knew he’d burned through about 10 colossi on the first night. The first thing I see, however, is something I’d likely repressed. Repressed for seven years and now brought forth by witnessing him make the last move to the 16th and final colossus.
Agro had fallen.
Agro, the horse you’d spent the entirety of this incredible journey with, this companion that has been with you long before you arrived in this forbidden land, had been taken away from you. It suddenly all came back to me that not only now was I feeling everything that I’d felt all those years ago but also so much more. Even though I knew she was fine in the end, watching Agro fall after seven years of pent-up and unchecked depression was overwhelming in the most severe of ways.
And when my friend dropped his controller and looked back at me, mouth agape, bewildered by what had just happened to his one friend in this dire, empty world, I just had to walk back outside. It was just too much.
No tears were shed, though. I am, after all, mostly dead inside.
Feel free to discuss in the comments below. Have you revisited any games and come away with a new regard? Has a game ever impacted you emotionally before? Shaped the way you lived your life? Tell us all about it!