Friday, 1 March 2013

Post 400: Of Emotion, and Memory

Where we're going, where we've been. The two aren't as different as some would think.

I know I said that I wouldn't be covering anymore things from the Playstation 4 unveiling, but this is less about the system or what's going on with it, and more about my thoughts and feelings regarding video games. You can probably even say that this is why I'm even here, doing this right now. Frankly speaking, it all comes down to emotion.

David Cage talked a little about emotion when he spoke at the unveiling while showing off the tech demo of an old man. Rather than try to quote him verbatim, I'll just let him speak for himself:

Now, he goes on for a spell, but I think that the main crux of his message is summed up in the following statement that he makes: "In a medium like ours, technology is very important. It is what we rely on to get the player emotionally involved."

Now, I realize that I'm just a humble bedroom blogger. I can't do what David Cage has done, I can't make games, or demos that show realistic faces. To that end I respect Cage as someone who can push the medium forward in certain ways. However, in regards his overall message regarding technology and emotions, I really can only say three words.

He is wrong.

He is wrong by the very dint that I am here typing this rebuttal right now. Do people like Cage really think that only now can games be emotional experiences because we can have realistic faces and voice acting and powerful technology in them? I can't believe that way of thinking, not for a second. If video games weren't emotional experiences then there's no way that I would have been playing them this long.

It's probably different for every person, but I can remember even as far back as the SNES era, being moved by Cid's death and Celes' suicide attempt in Final Fantasy 6, feeling the torment and desperation of James Sutherland in Silent Hill 2 a game for the original Playstation, understanding the detachment of Solid Snake in Metal Gear Solid. The list goes on; Chrono's death and resurrection in Chrono Trigger, the worries of X throughout the original Mega Man X series, even the jolly adventures of Kirby. None of these games had HD sound and graphics, none of these games had thousands of polygons or any sort of emotion engine behind them. All of these games, however, made me feel for them and their characters one way or another.

Polygons in and of themselves do not make a compelling experience. If that were the case then games like Bastion would never be made, games like Crush would not be powerful experiences they are while still being simple. You cannot tell me that a game like Ico, for the blockyness of the characters, is not moving. Hell, to pull something recent, did Journey need such advanced technology to evoke a response from players?

Even in cases where technology is good, it's not the be all and end all. I look at that demo, and I see impressive use of impressive power; what I don't feel is an emotional resonance. Even GLaDOS and Wheatley -- characters which I need to mention don't have faces in the strictest sense of the term -- manage to convey more emotion with their actions and their words.

Technology is important, but it's not what we need to make emotional connections to games. It never has been. What has is the drive to create wonderful, unique experiences. Part of me thinks that the industry seems to be on the verge of forgetting that fact, and the day they do will be a dark one indeed. I hope it never comes to pass, because I want to be doing this, talking about games, loving games, and just playing games, for the foreseeable future. Here's to the next 400.

1 comment:

  1. Oh, hell...I remember that.

    You know, a part of me wonders if these guys on-stage ever run their speeches past Sony (or any company) before they get up there and start speaking. I'm starting to think that's not the case, because there's no other way these conferences can be so consistently embarrassing.

    Now, I'll go ahead and be honest. There's no denying that the better technology gets for games, the more possibilities we -- gamers and developers alike -- have. And as much as we hate to admit it, there ARE some returns to be had for good visuals (I don't think Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword would be quite the same without the technology powering it).

    But there are key differences. First of all, Cage is out to pursue pure realism, and that's something that can be detrimental to the creativity AND overall effectiveness of a game. I just mentioned Skyward Sword, and though it's the most graphically-powerful Zelda to date, it's overflowing with style that lends itself to unique expressions, sequences, and of course worlds. (It's also worth noting that Nintendo is recreating Wind Waker, one of the most visually-striking Zelda games ever.)

    Second -- and I wish I could get a room full of developers, Cage or otherwise, together to explain this -- video games are about more than DEM GRAFFECKS. Do I really need to list some of the games that have been visual masterpieces, but failures in every other category? Do I really need to point out how games can stumble so much on fundamental elements of storytelling in spite of the literal millions of dollars used to create them? Do I really need to point to significantly less-powerful games that succeed triumphantly in being emotional, memorable, know, actually good? No, I don't.

    I don't understand this industry anymore. How is it that gamers and bloggers know these things by heart, but the ones putting out these products have yet to even understand such basic concepts? How?

    Jeez Louise. I sincerely hope that Cage is in the minority when it comes to this way of thought. He can't -- he just CAN'T represent the mindset of the gaming industry.


    ...On a more positive note, congratulations on your 400th post. Celebrate by eating...I dunno, 400 of something. I recommend grapes. Nice and healthy.


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