Emotional Connection in Video Games: Give me a reason to care.

"After finishing L.A Noire, I found myself confused. I love serious games as much as the next person. But after some careful thinking, and a few naps, did I come to the conclusion that I can play a game intent on playing my heart strings only if I can somehow relate to the character I’m controlling. I speak for myself, because there many people who can dive deep in bloodshed and tears, knowing full well that the protagonist is a drunk and physically abusive husband who hates black people and wishes that Nazis would stand up and fight again. I can’t."

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RaymondM2450d ago

Great article, lots of good points and I'll be looking forward to reading more from you!

TopDudeMan2450d ago

I don't think a good story is exactly a necessity (You need only look towards mario for proof) but it definitely helps you get into it. The uncharted games would have taken me like 3 times as long (real time, not game time) to complete if the story wasn't as good.

Krugsy2450d ago

Totally agree, but I think it also depends on the individual gamer. I personally prefer a game with a strong narrative and emotional core. I love Mario, but being a movie lover I prefer a game with characters I can connect with. Playing Mario, I get enjoyment out of accomplishments and the joy of winning, but with a good story game, I become much more invested and feel a need to overcome.

My main issues with emotion in games is that many developers employ cheap tactics to evoke an emotional response. MW2 and MW3 are prime examples of this, with a airport massacre and little girl being blown to smithereens. These are simple cheap tactics to force the player to 'feel' something.

I played Journey recently and felt that it provided a truly satisfyingly emotional (ahem) journey. The sense of isolation was only matched by a sense of complete hopelessness and then joy towards the end of the game. There were no cheap tactics, but was rather done organically, and tapped into feelings that everyone can relate to.

Other games have been successful at making us care because of a sense of comradarie and connection we have with the main protagonist and those around him/her. Mass Effect is a simple example of that.

A gamer should organically feel emotion during a game and not feel as though they are being forced to feel something. I felt emotion in Enslaved because the writing and direction was done in such a way as to not force me to feel something, but rather the characters were so well rounded that I felt something regardless. I connected with them in a human way, and that is far more effective than some cheap shock tactic.

TopDudeMan2450d ago

I can agree with you to an extent, but I think there's a time and a place for shock value in gaming. Like, a huge twist in a story that flips your whole perception around. Then you get to see how the characters react to the new information and find out more about the characters and make a connection with them.

I guess an example of that could be that one cutscene in FFVII where *spoiler spoiler spoiler* happens.

Krugsy2449d ago


I think what you are referring to is a shocking twist to the story, of which I'm in complete favour of.

I'm referring more to a shocking instance occurring to artificially evoke an emotional response, such as the girl being bombed.

from the beach2450d ago

It's a mistake to think evoking sad emotions is the holy grail of videogames, so many games try it and just end up being laughable. I've no idea why Journey made people cry, other than in the "I wasted money on this crap" sense, heh.

Compare it to the emotions that are stirred in playing MAG amongst 256 players; rocket-boosting around the battlefield in Vanquish; shooting light beams from your fingertips in Child of Eden; drifting your Ferrari around OutRun 2's corners - stuff like that is where videogames really shine.

Krugsy2450d ago

I don't think anyone is championing 'emotion' as being the holy grail of videogames. I think it is only one part of videogames, and if done successfully it can help make a game better.

With Journey, I never cried, but I certainly felt something. It was a reflective game that gave opportunity to the player to feel any way they wanted. You mention the emotion felt when doing certain things in a video game (Vanquish, MAG etc), well that's the same kinda emotion that was being experienced in Journey. I felt joy of accomplishment and also the feeling of excitement at finding a 'friend'.

Games are not only about making it to X, or beating Z, or killing Y, they're also about how you feel when playing them. You said it yourself. Journey is just another way of feeling something, and to many it was a sense of joy. It tapped into something very human. And that is why many cried.

Quick question, did you play it?

from the beach2450d ago (Edited 2450d ago )

I definitely think the emphasis is being put on 'sad' or 'thoughtful' games. Kara, Naughty Dog on how their next title will "teach us about the human experience", the indie movement..

As for Journey.. maybe the 'something' you felt playing it was 'bored'?

I mean, there wasn't anything to accomplish, and plenty of games let you find a friend through drop-in online co-op.

Tapped in to something human? It was Crash Bandicoot without the obstacles, challenge and character design!

Krugsy2450d ago

I do agree on your first point, many story driven games seem to go for the 'sad' thing But ask yourself this, why is that? Is it a consumer driven fad? Do we see the same thing happening with books and film? Most entertainment mediums go through 'fads', and most times this is a reflection on society. The rise of horror in the 70s, for example, was a reflection on the Vietnam war. Are themes in games really that bad if they make the game a more meaningful experience?

And no, I didn't find Journey to be boring at all. yes, many games have drop in co-op; the major difference however, is that in Journey you have no assumptions about your partner due to the lack of voice and name. This makes the co-op more pure, as you, the player, rely on something rather than voice. You rely on your partner helping you without having to ask, and you both rely on each other to recharge your capes.

I don't think it's a game for everyone, but I don't think it can be easily dismissed as boring or worthless either. And it does have something to accomplish - your Journey, and isn't that the point of many games, to reach a goal? To rescue a princess, reach a Gorilla, or simply make it to a destination?

sonicsidewinder2450d ago

Heehee :D

Drifting around those corners in Outrun 2 man. Have to mind out you don't bump into anyone or your bird will get mad at you.

Woo! Yeah! What a rush!