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Why Games Fail to Emotionally Connect

TheGameReviews writes: "In my youth I spent as much time as possible escaping reality and entering the fantasy worlds of books. Those characters and their worlds were totally engrossing, and I naturally found myself making emotional connections with them that enriched the story. But now that video games have taken over my world, I've found my new medium of escape doesn't produce the same effect. Why do video games fail to make those connections when they seem to draw the best from both books and movies? I don't believe it's because they're totally incapable of making the link, as I've found glimpses and fragments of it happen throughout my gaming life. Ever since the wire-frame magic of Elite did its best to draw me past its vectors and into another world, I've wanted and expected video games to develop further, and delve deeper. Yet this advance has rarely shown itself, and for this I lay the blame at the failure of games to get even basic storytelling right."

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cain1414010d ago

I think they fail, because to be honest a lot don't even try to...

I'd say a good few are successful each year, but emotional connecting is normally less important than making money...

bnaked4010d ago

There are MGS4 and Uncharted 1&2..

GWAVE4010d ago

If Prototype, Infamous, Lost Odyssey, and Cannon Fodder are the only games this guy can cite to show why games do/don't emotionally connect, he's a pathetic gamer. This article was three pages of trash.

WhittO4010d ago

so true !!

One of the reasons i love Heavenly Sword so much is because i actually CARE about Nariko and what happens to her, same with Uncharted.

If you care about the characters in a game, it just makes it soo much more exciting/tense to play because you want to get to the end of the story and their fate.

Maddens Raiders4010d ago (Edited 4010d ago )

If I've said it once, I've said it a billion times: Heavenly Sword pushed some real emotional buttons with me too (actually dropped a tear at the end) - for a short game it was deep as hell. Twing-Twang all day!

MGS4 - Resistance 1 and especially Resistance 2* were very emotional and really shocking* for me.

I am also a sucker for the "parallel universe" stories of Ace Combats on the PS2 from Mobius 1, to the Yellow Squadron, to the Rhazgriz - those always tied me in and made/make for a great ((attached-to-the-characters-i n-game)) experience.

Since I am one of those kids that played KILLZONE 1 (story and online) on the PS2 as if it were a religion at times, the ending and the whole roller coaster ride of KZ2 were outstanding. Man I've seen some awesome endings on the PS3 thus far - almost puts an older, "artificial age" on the console if you know what I mean.

4010d ago
Arnon4010d ago

I think MGS4 was one of the most emotional gaming experiences I've had.

4010d ago
PinkUni4010d ago

i think a lot of you guys are confusing emotional connections with shocking moments

something that shocks you like people dying or people taking advantage isn't necessarily an emotional connection

what really makes that connection is charater building, getting to know the characters for long periods of time

books are probably the best way to do this since you usually don't read a whole book in one sitting, its over time and you get really rich character development from all of the description and time that passes

and a lot of developers don't even try because they're focused on making the game running well instead of story driven situations

i felt absolutely no emotional connections in mgs4 even though i had played all 4 games

its an amazing game, and the story is done very well, but its a cold game, its not driven towards emotionally moving you

mxdan4010d ago

I couldn't disagree with this article anymore. My ENTIRE time as a gamer I've been getting emotionally attached to games. The ones I get attached to the most are the ones that are truly ground breaking in my book.

MGS 1, 2, 3, 4
Final Fantasy 6, 7, 8, 10
Flower
PixelJunk Eden
Shadow of the Colossus
Ico
Shin Megami Tensei: Persona, Nocturne
Kingdom Hearts 1, 2
Legend of Zelda: OoT, MM, WW, TP
Mass Effect
Kotor 1, 2
Star Ocean
Rogue Galaxy
TES: Oblivion, Morrowind
Dark Cloud
Chrono Trigger
Super Mario 64
Hell at the time I even had an emotional connection to Star Fox 64...

In Fact, maybe it isn't that games aren't emotionally attaching and more of the author is either A) Unable to become emotionally attached or B) Has convinced himself that these prime suspects are novelties...

Tony P4010d ago

Legacy of Kain. I was completely and utterly invested in it. I cared a great deal about the fate of Kain and Raziel and even smiled a little on the rare occasion the two got along somewhat. The solid fatalism in that series is brutal and beautiful imo.

SuperM4010d ago

Actually the main reason is because the author has become older. I remember when i used to play games as a little kid, it was a totally different experience. Now that ive become older its not like that anymore.

Maddens Raiders4010d ago (Edited 4010d ago )

Well said. Bra-vo!

@1.11 - totally opposite for me. I've been playing games since my little hands were able to grip an Atari tennis paddle & as I grew older, and better able to understand history, politics, & current events it just makes me appreciate the games' (stories) and what the creators are trying to convey even more - and grow attached @ the same time.

JaPo4010d ago

I don't understand how one could become emotionally connected to Uncharted, or indeed most of 'mxdan's ridiculous list. Super Mario 64? Come on, man - you're confusing genuine emotional connection with dumb nostalgia. We all do it.

The defining factor in a videogame's inability to elicit emotion from the player is that player interaction exists. With books and films, you are taken on a journey as a witness, with no opportunity to alter the reality laid down for you or distance yourself from the subject matter.

I don't recall ever being emotionally connected to a game. With some films and the vast majority of good books I've read, I feel a deep emotional connection.

mxdan4010d ago

Then I'm sorry for you JaPo, I truly am.

I can think of several occasions when I was awestruck at not only the visual beauty being presented to me but the fact that I am interacting with the story and having a part in it to me has the potential to be far more emotionally impactful then any other medium... Then any other industry BY a landslide. Granted games are linear in the sense that what you see is what you get, we aren't at the time when we create the vision as we do in books, but we do get to interact with the vision in ways not possibly in books.

In books you follow the character and the story, you do the same in games occasionally, but the bridge to create your own path is there. In many ways this can lead to a far more invigorating and emotional journey as it's YOUR path and it's YOUR journey, not the AUTHORS. When you fall then the fact that you know that you had control is all the more humiliating, when you beat a boss the fact that you struggled to defeat him gives you a sense of accomplishment that books may lack in many areas.

When I'm in a game the Fact that I am in control and that my triumphs are my own is what makes me emotionally engaged. This is a very broad thing. For example it can be an open world game accomplishment, a linear game accomplishment (like a boss battle), or an indie game accomplishment. Fact is, I'm very engaged in the game industry.

Just recently I beat MGS4 again, and it struck me, games have the potential to reach the hearts of far more people then anything else, because you participate in it...

It's as simple as that

Regardless, I was ten when I was emotionally connected to Super Mario 64, and no, I don't think it was dumb nostalgia. A little kid tends to connect with very imaginative places. Like disneyland for example. I think I was very much emotionally attached to the game.

Pika-pie4010d ago

There are games these days that do emotionally connect. They are just few and far between. Im hoping FFXIII and The Last Guardian are the next games that do that for me

boodybandit4010d ago (Edited 4010d ago )

"I think I lost my mojo for gaming"

Maybe Adam should pick a different subject to write about. Maybe he just lost his passion for gaming. It happens. I could name several games I connected with this generation. I really am not following what he is talking about and I have been gaming since the 70's.

MEsoJD4010d ago

Have emotional connections.

ryano232774009d ago

There was a point in inFamous where I was drawn in to a game I was already drawn to. Once Trish dies, the story pulled me in. Because I went from exploring to what happens.

MGS4 had me drawn in at MGS1. The way the last act played out is gaming at its best. From the moment you start crawling through the (Microwaves I think they were called) and it felt like you were going to die and the final battle with Ocelot was just pure Gold. Then the finishing cut scence had the eyes starting to go blurry and I had to cover my sons eyes when he rose the gun up.

shadow27974009d ago

In Shadow of the Colossus, Agro was my best friend. Seriously, how could you not be emotionally attached to that horse?

Uncharted is another game that connects emotionally. If you don't believe that, you obviously didn't see the backlash when it was rumored that Elena and Sully weren't going to return in Uncharted 2. Granted, there's no tear-jerking moments, but you do actually care about the characters.

Metal Gear Solid (series) manages it to, though not quite at the same level.

But in games like COD4, Gears, and Killzone 2, I really don't give a rip about what happens to the characters. I actually dislike most of the characters in the latter two.

Most games don't connect emotionally, but not everyone wants an emotional experience. Sometimes I just want to shoot things. Emotional experiences are possible in videogames, but most developers are trying to create them. It's not their goal.

Admiral_Benson4009d ago

Completely agree.

SOTC definitely has an emotional impact. You become attached to Agro without a doubt and that's the only game i've ever played where i actually felt guilty for killing a character (All of the Colossi).

When you first come across one it's like "Game on, i'm taking this thing down!" but once you've actually done it and you watch the Collosus die you get that pang of guilt. Quality stuff and an emotional impact that not many other games strive to achieve.

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Haly4010d ago

Love the Cannon Fodder reference. I was a huge fan of that game back in the day.
Lost Odyssey is the only recent game I've played that really made me emotional.

SirLarr4010d ago

Hear hear, I man-sobbed during every dream sequence.

Viewtiful4010d ago

The problem is that games are generally made by software engineers, not story tellers. They're simply trained in another discipline. It's not their fault, but they need to stop trying to be epic, and just make fun games.

cain1414010d ago

I think more companies need to look to hire more story tellers. That's a very good and solid point.

JBaby3434010d ago

Naughty Dog had writers come in if I'm not mistaken and I think they should all have writers. They have professionals develop the music for games and it wouldn't turn out good if developers tried to do it so I think writers is the way to go. Although the Force Unleashed was very well written.

Timesplitter144010d ago (Edited 4010d ago )

Software engineers are not all a bunch of radical scientists, you know...

I think most of them have what it takes to create an emotional game if they're passionate about making games. The problem will always be the publishers. I read a book on game-making and the game industry, and it's REALLY sad how publishers are always preventing good games from being created.

And I'm also pretty sure every game company regularly hires writers

somekindofmike4010d ago

It is not just professional writers they need, but editors, directors, artists as well as developers and coders. I would say a game's developement should have all the same crew as a movie, except for having developers & coders instead of cameramen etc

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gidzilla4010d ago

I'd argue its more to do with the fact a book is written by one person.
A game is written by hundreads!

iTZKooPA4010d ago

I did a double take when I read "worlds of books." Nice article and as much as I hate to agree with cain, story is generally an after thought, often shoe-horned in, or crafted mid-development, in most games.

somekindofmike4010d ago

I definitely had that feeling with red faction, it was like the developers concentrated so much on creating this game engine with destructible environments, that they just stuck in this lame story to give the character a reason to blow buildings up! it was all just very forced!