Gamers, help me out here

I know a lot of video game geeks haunt these hallowed halls. And I need your help for a philosophical issue I’ve been thinking about. There are, like, no empirical data that tease out this issue.

One would think that the more one identifies with a fiction character, and the more agency one has in the fictional world, the emotional responses would be the greater. So in a game as opposed to a movie, where you control the actions of a character, the character has many more properties that are actually your own properties. You also have the agency to change outcomes in the fictional world when you play a game, but not when you watch a movie.

But here’s what I think is going on in video games. There is more total arousal of emotion in the game player than the movie watcher. The game player is much more mentally involved with what’s going on, much more apt to have tensed muscles and racing heart.

I think, however, the object of the emotions is much more likely to be your performance of the game, your success or failure, not the fictional world. You are excited about how you’re doing more than the events of the fictional world. But movies are different. You are much more likely to cry at the death of a film character than a video game character. You are more likely to get choked up or moved by a wedding in a movie than a game. You are more likely to feel embarrassed for a character who does something ridiculous. You are much more likely to reflect on the meaning of the events in the story after a movie than after a video game.

In short, I suspect that while you feel a lot more emotionally aroused while playing video games, what’s causing your emotions in that case is less the events of the fiction and more your success or failure. Whereas in a movie, the only thing that’s moving you emotionally are the fictional events.

But I’m not much of a gamer, so I could be wrong. So I thought I’d ask the experts.

Rose Woodhouse

Elizabeth Picciuto was born and reared on Long Island, and, as was the custom for the time and place, got a PhD in philosophy. She freelances, mainly about disability, but once in a while about yeti. Mother to three children, one of whom is disabled, two of whom have brown eyes, three of whom are reasonable cute, you do not want to get her started talking about gardening.


  1. It depends on the game, honestly.

    There are games that manage to kick you in the teeth because they make the emotions come out of things *you did* or realizations the gameplay makes you come to … a classic in the genre is Missile Command, which is literally unwinnable, and can (not ‘must’, as some gamers are very pointy-shooty and not very willing to even read the flavor text) lead to serious moral qualms:

    • How about most affecting game v. most affecting movie?

      • Play Fate/Stay Night. A fantastic game– and when you’re done going through the paths, watch the anime.
        That should be a reasonable comparison.

    • You’re taking that video seriously?

      You have been trolled. You have lost. HTH HAND

  2. Okay, so the empirical evidence I got is tooltime and a very poor video game world (valve, created on a research budget).
    Everyone hated tooltime, didn’t seem emotionally involved in it (especially hated having to rewatch again and again to rate everything).

    But a dog chasing someone in the video game world? We had someone freezing up, unable to move — and identifying enough with the entire situation to say “I’m bleeding all over the screen.” This is very much not evaluating “how well I am doing”… (I’ve seen that, on stroop tasks. people nearly reduced to tears on “why can’t I do this??”). It is dwelling within a dangerous world.

    We got the fMRI pics if ya want ’em. 😉 But what you’re looking for is some general affect rating.
    And I think that 3d video games are capable of just as much affect/connection. Play “Shalebridge Cradle.”

    • Yes, thinking about arousal levels. I’m wondering if fear is an exception. What about sadness, pity, sympathy, happiness, embarrassment, etc?

      • For a fantastic game to play, Play Thief 3’s Shalebridge Cradle. It’s not fear/shock… I’m not sure what you wanna call it, but I’d run it up against “Bloodflower” any day of the week. Haunting, sadness, atmosphere… it’s a great game.

        Hell, play System Shock. That’s got a dang storyline.

    • And specifically arousal of emotion with a specific object of the emotion, which of course fMRI can’t tell me.

      • … “with a specific object” of the emotion?? We have self-reports, and dynamic ratings as the game was played (post-game, post-scanner).

        • Self-reports would be more valuable. But I would want to see a comparison to movies. I’m not musing on the idea the fictional events in a video prompt no emotional response, just (counterintuitively) the emotional response to the fictional events specifically (as opposed to the game playing).

          I take object of emotion to mean the thing to which the emotion is directed (so when you’re scared of a dog, the object is the dog).

          • Okay, so we’ve got self-reports, post-scanner, where the person playing/watching was asked to rate their affect. (different people, actually), but you’d be able to run the numbers if you wanted to. (and be a lot less trouble than talking them out of fmri data).

            I’d say that the video game beat tool time, judging from my own qual analysis.

          • Self-reports would be useful more because they could name the object of their emotion (assuming that one is indeed correct about introspecting the objects of one’s emotions, but that’s a whole ‘nuther ball of wax). Less so, but still useful for level of arousal.

  3. Well, there are several different kinds of immersion into characters. Here are the first to come to mind:

    Red Dead Revolver, for example, was pretty much a railroaded story. As such, the experience was more one of discovering John Marston than being him. In Mexico, for example, he spends some time working with the government against the revolutionaries before getting backstabbed by the government and then joining the revolutionaries. A game with something akin to “choice” would let us say “we all know where this is going” and join up immediately with the revolution (even if we’d end up in the exact same place on a narrative level). Instead, we were stuck yelling at the television (!) and/or being saddened by the extremes John Marston was willing to go to in order to achieve his greater goal. When I “beat” this game, I felt like I had just finished watching an epic Western.

    Grand Theft Auto IV offered a little more choice. You still ended up in the same places on a narrative level when given choices, but you had opportunities to get revenge on people who had done you wrong… or to not get revenge on them. You still ended up fighting the final boss fight no matter what, but did you kill (spoiler) when you had a chance or did you let him go after seeing him for what he really was? The end of the game brought you to the exact same place, the only question was: what is the state of your soul? Assuming you have a soul, of course. This was not like watching a movie, exactly… or, if it was, it was like watching a movie that asked you to pick, on the fly, which deleted scenes you wanted to include (and which alternate ending you wanted to watch).

    The third category is the Bioware game (or *WAS*… the last two games have had serious mis-steps). This game is centered around customization. Choose what your face looks like. Choose what your responses will tend to be… will you go Full Paragon/Light Side/Open Hand or will you go Full Renegade/Dark Side/Closed Fist or will you go some other place in between? An example would be a situation where you needed a key… and the key is held by a kidnapper with a hostage. You could listen to what the kidnapper wants, find out that he has a legitimate beef with a crime lord, take out the crime lord, free the hostage, and then have the “kidnapper” give you the key… or you can shoot the hostage, shoot the kidnapper, and then take the key. On a narrative level, at the end of the day, you’re still watching a cut scene where you open the door while a squad mate says “I hope this was worth that…” but it *FEELS* 100% different depending on how you played. (And also gives you 100% replayability… you actually want to go back and see how the game universe changes when you do it again as a bad guy.) This one is not like watching a movie at all… it feels like collaborative storytelling.

    • Which makes you more emotional about what happens to the characters?

      • hmm…. I was focusing on “what happens to other characters” as that’s the perspective you get in a movie.
        It would seem that “caring about people who aren’t the protag” is a different ball of wax than “caring about the protag” (and might look to other games to evoke that…)

      • There’s an ownership for the Bioware kinda games that isn’t there in Red Dead Redemption (not Revolver, sorry… that was the less ambitious original XBox game).

        There’s currently a movement with regards to Mass Effect 3 called “Retake Mass Effect” (a play off of the game’s tagline “Retake Earth”) that is pushing for Bioware to change the ending to provide something akin to actual closure. They donated $80K to charity in the name of changing the ending, they sent 402 Gourmet Cupcakes to Bioware in the name of changing the ending, and there’s currently a discussion of whether they want to buy time on a billboard that is either along the commute to the Bioware building or facing it or something telling them to change the goddamn ending.

        (One of the biggest complaints regarding the ending is something to the effect of “BUT MY SHEPARD WOULDN’T *DO* THAT (OR THAT OR THAT)!!! HE’D PICK A FOURTH OPTION!!!”)

        Emotional? Hell yeah.

  4. The current levels of AI could certainly support better emotion in game characters. It’s been considered in projects like Kismet. In my opinion, people would hate their characters to exhibit any simulacrum of genuine emotion. They want to project. That’s why your own feelings are so amplified:

    Oh, I know where you are. Nay, ’tis true. There was never anything so sudden but the fight of two rams and Caesar’s thrasonical brag of “I came, saw, and overcame.” For your brother and my sister no sooner met but they looked, no sooner looked but they loved, no sooner loved but they sighed, no sooner sighed but they asked one another the reason, no sooner knew the reason but they sought the remedy; and in these degrees have they made a pair of stairs to marriage, which they will climb incontinent, or else be incontinent before marriage. They are in the very wrath of love, and they will together. Clubs cannot part them.

    They shall be married tomorrow, and I will bid the duke to the nuptial. But Oh, how bitter a thing it is to look into happiness through another man’s eyes. By so much the more shall I tomorrow be at the height of heart-heaviness, by how much I shall think my brother happy in having what he wishes for.

  5. I saw a piece on PBS a couple of years ago about a study that tested the brain when exposed to certain kinds of visual and aural stimulation. What it found was that if you read about something, it affected an “intellectual” thinking part of your brain. But if you were very focused on watching a movie, then that intellectual part would be triggered, but so would the part of the brain that is normally triggered when one is doing the activity the character is. So, for example, if you read a sex scene in a book, you might become aroused, but if you saw a sex scene that you were focused on in the movie, the part of your brain that turned on (HA!) when you actually had sex got turned on in the same way. And because there is more focus in games, the experience can actually be quite real in a person’s head.

    There was lots of other interesting stuff, like how this might account for our species being able to learn from observance better than other species and be part of why we are so much more technologically advanced than the rest of the animal kingdom.

    I know this isn’t really where you were going, but I thought I would share.

    • No, I had something exactly like this in mind when I was asking for a comparison to movie emotions rather than novel emotions. Especially true for the more basic emotions – monster jumping out, sex, etc.

    • All the research I’ve heard of has found this wrong, for what I remember. Put the image of a screwdriver up, put the word screwdriver up, you get toolusing portions of the brain…

  6. I am quite certain that the best video game ever written would trounce the best movie. Because in a video game, your role in the story is active — you discover it.

    That said, the best video game ever written is probably some text adventure off in some dusty corner of the internet…

    Anachronox created a feeling of wonder, and awe — and a real feeling of identification with people. “Eddie knows”

    Or play Grim Fandango….

    • I agree that that should be the case., intuitively. But it hasn’t been like that for me.

      • Have you played any of the games I’ve mentioned upthread?

        • No…that’s exactly why I’m asking you guys!

          • Kindly check them out. There are some choice bits of HILARIOUS dialogue in Thief… one starts out with “cat claws a hole in a sack” (you have to sneak up to listen…)

  7. And, moreover, a crappy movie can make me cry when someone dies. A crappy video game absolutely cannot.

    • absolutely? no, I’ve seen plenty of movies where death just made more bloodsplatters.
      I’ve been ready to kill that little puppy in ADOM for running out in front of me and getting killed when we were Almost Home. And yes, it was SAD. When the little girl you promised to rescue her puppy for, runs up and asks where he is? SAD.

      And this is for a little nongraphical roguelike!

    • Rose, I have this happen to me, too. Generally, it happens when the music does a certain Hollywood thing just as the death happens and the loved one experiences the sorrow, however awfully acted. I think it’s the music, really. Music can plug directly into emotions. I’ve been trained by movies since I was a very little child to cry when certain visual, textual, and music cues are combined. I don’t have enough bad occasions to really want to extinct that Pavlovian response.

  8. 4chan made a demo of a dating video game (nothing terribly sexual in the promo) about disabled kids. Surprisingly moving.
    Edelweiss is another game (particularly the “black cat” path) which is surprisingly moving.

      • umm… Good!
        My best friend submitted some worldbuilding for that game.

    • ho, ho, ho. I listen to the podcast of the reviewer who played the game and found it to be a bog-standard dating sim with characters whose cliches were “blind” and “amputee” rather than “has glasses” or “likes sports”.

      You should too, the guy’s from Philadelphia.

  9. I find myself much more emotionally invested in video game characters as fictional characters than as measurements of my success at the game, so I’m pretty equal affected-wise when it comes to video game characters versus movie characters.

  10. A few thoughts:
    It’s certainly true you can become emotionally aroused about your performance as a player, in addition to caring about the characters. I don’t think that means you can’t care about the characters, though, and I do think there’s something of a gray area, particularly when it comes to fear and related emotions.

    You say “[A] crappy movie can make me cry when someone dies. A crappy video game absolutely cannot.” “Crappy”, of course, is not exactly a precise word. It’s not like every movie where someone dies is going to provoke tears. But I do think you have a point about the fragility of emotional connection to game characters as opposed to movie characters. I think that comes back to agency, too. There are so many more things that can go wrong and break the mood and/or take the audience out of the story when the audience has agency.

    Even a relatively short game is generally much longer than even a relatively long movie, and, related to that, games are not intended to be consumed in a single sitting. That’s going to affect how they create an emotional response, and how the emotional response is processed.

    Finally, I don’t know how many video games you play, but consuming them does require a skill set which isn’t much used elsewhere. If you’re thinking about the interface, you’re not thinking about the story.

    • I don’t play a lot. That’s why I don’t want to think about this more unless I’m sure I’m on to something.

      • Well, I do think you’re on to SOMETHING. Video games do arouse emotions differently than film, and that’s probably worth thinking about.

        If you do continue, I would suggest considering media other than film, too. As I mentioned, agency isn’t the only difference between video games and film; pacing plays a significant role, too. It might be worth considering, eg, television shows as well, which, like video games, are longer than film and intended to be consumed over multiple sessions.

        And, of course, it’s worth noting that “video games” is a very broad class of media. Obviously you’re not going to see much emotional response to the characters in Mario Kart (much less Tetris).

        • also novels.
          … to what extent are our emotional responses to video games tied into how well they mimic/are other forms of entertainment? (text-based are choose-your-own-adventure novels, 3d games have video outtakes)??

          Minsc is funny no matter how you cut it.

  11. I was just wondering if the understanding that one’s characters are likely to die, only to be regenerated in the same form the next round, doesn’t create a buffer for forming an emotional connection to them?

    • It’s not that there’s not an emotional connection, it’s that we know that that particular ending is not canon.

      It’s a dream sequence. It’s an alternate universe. It’s a special “what if?” episode.

      The real ending is the real ending.

    • My students (to whom I put the same question, and who seemed by and large to feel that the fictional events were less the object of their emotions than success or failure in the game) generally thought that it was what you say Dr. Saunder – i.e., because you could regenerate. I wonder what would happen in a video game you could play only once? Or does knowing other people could play it make the difference?

      • Hmm… there are games that I’ve listed that more or less “have no wrong choices” It’s not the type of game that you die in.
        There are also games that I’ve listed where you regenerate (It’s well woven into the world).
        There are quite a few that I’ve listed (not exclusive to the regens) where you can play out multiple paths, and have very different gameplay styles.

        … but, AGAIN, I was looking at your emotional response to other characters in the world, and what happens to them.

      • I think there’s a fundamental disconnect that happens when someone dies in the game. For one thing, I am me, and I didn’t just die. (even with fancy voiceovers from John Paul Jones)

        That said, one can feel guilt, one can feel betrayed, one can see ones actions have consequences for yourself and others. It’s only at death where you get the disjoint.

        • It’s also worth noting that in games that aren’t ADOM, death is treated as “okay, figure out what you did wrong and fix it.” If a game puts you in an irreversible death state, it’s often a bug/problem with the game — leading to rage at “i just spent how long ??? THANKS infocom!”

      • In the MMORPG called EVE Online, it is actually possible to lose everything important about your character. You actually own stuff, and the ships you fly in can be (and are frequently) permanently destroyed, costing a certain amount of gameplay to regain. But further, though you have an escape capsule, quick players can destroy your capsule. Doing this means you regenerate automatically in a “medical clone” in a designated place, and a new medical clone is created. If one then goes out and gets “pod-killed” again without upgrading the med clone, almost all of their skills will be lost permanentlyIf one had been playing for, say, 2 years, all but a month of that time spent improving the character would be gone.

        It’s been done before, to a very powerful and well-connected player. A supreme act of espionage.

        Knowing this is all possible absolutely makes my emotional investment in my character a great deal more intense than it was in , say, WoW, and this is despite my having all kinds of ways of preventing this from happening to me.

    • This gets to the “video games is a broad medium” thing. For something like Counterstrike, yeah, you don’t feel much emotional connection to the “characters”. But for a more scripted game, things don’t work like that.
      (Spoiler Warning for Saints Row 2)
      After Carlos dies, he’ll always be dead. That’s part of the story, just as it would be in a film or a novel. Reloading a save game from before his death isn’t any different from rewinding a film. You could argue that it’s a betrayal of player agency in that the player has no chance to save him, and handled clumsily it can feel like that (which is part of why “crappy” video games may fail to produce an emotional response where “crappy movies” succeed). But I think a certain amount of compromise between player agency and storytelling is inevitable and beneficial.

  12. 3d video games excel at “atmosphere” — happy, cheerful, dark, melancholy — they’re really sink your teeth in and Believe. If you want good characterization, with the tech we have now (not uncanny valley), you want something more like text games, or a mystery (which obviates the need to interact with a lot of “fake-like” npcs).

  13. Here’s a further crazy example for you:

    In Mass Effect, you were able to create your character (who had whatever first name you were inclined to give him and the last name Shepard) and make him (or her) look the way you wanted him (or her) to. Hair color, eye color, ear orientation, cheekbones, neck width, eyebrow depth… whatever. I made a vaguely idealized version of me (he’s so skinny!) and beat the game. It was awesome.

    For Mass Effect 2, you were able to *IMPORT* your face and play through the game with “your” same character and continue the story.

    For Mass Effect 3, something got through testing and not all faces were able to be imported. A patch with a fix was announced. There is a nickname among the folks who play with a close-but-not-quite Shepard: Impostershep.

    I put the game back in the box and waited for the patch. I had no desire to play Mass Effect 3 with Impostershep.

  14. Okay. I’m getting from you guys that you do emotionally react specifically to the fictional events. It seems that, at best, I can say that it’s sort of counterintuitive that you’re not much MORE emotionally involved with games than you are with movies (i.e., that identification doesn’t make emotions that much more vivid).

    A couple more questions.

    A) Is there carryover from video games to real life the way there is with fiction? So because people were saddened by Uncle Tom’s Cabin, they became more likely to be abolitionist? Or the way reading Anna Karenina makes some people more sympathetic to be people who have cheated in their marriage or whatever?

    B) Has anyone here ever cried because of the fictional events of a game?

    • > A) Is there carryover from video games to real life the way there is with fiction?

      Too early to know for certain. Video games are still a pretty new medium, and most of ’em get more things wrong than right, when it comes to storytelling. I mean, if you compared video games to the best cinema since cinema was rolled out, it would be a poor comparison. But if you compared video games to “movies made right after the whole ‘moving picture’ technology was developed”, I think they’d both be predominantly bad. Even good silent pictures aren’t as good at emotion-capturing when taken en masse than black and white talkies, for example.

      > B) Has anyone here ever cried because of the fictional events of a game?

      No, but I’ve experienced anger and angst. I think most games are shooting for a different set of emotion-capturing, largely. Jaybird has mentioned something analogous once or twice.

    • A) Yes, definitely. Citing that 4chan demo for example, oddly enough. But Paco from Anachronox makes a profound character in of his own right, and might/does change opinions on what an alcoholic might be like.

      B) No. but I don’t cry often at movies either. (the “soul train” in grim fandango was pretty close)
      C) There have been quite a few laughter inducing moments in video games for me.

    • A) I don’t think anything major like that has happened, but I can’t really recall any fiction that has affected my worldview that deeply, certainly not in isolation. I’m sure everything (games included) affects who I am a little bit, but I can’t recall ever consciously changing my worldview in response to a story. The closest would be my response the The Autobiography of Bertrand Russell, but that’s not fiction, and frankly has as much philosophical argument from Russell as it does biography.

      B) I cried at the end of Planescape: Torment, I remember that. I’ve had wet eyes a few times I can recall, most recently playing Bastion.

    • I am finally getting around to writing a response, but gonna do these first.

      A) For me, yes. I remember back when WWII was the hot theme for FPS games (Battlefield 1942, Day of Defeat, Call of Duty all came out in a short span) – the experiences of playing in the meat grinder was very affecting and caused me to re-think a lot on war and, specifically, to gain a ton more respect for the veterans of the war yet become more anti-war than I had ever been.

      B) Yes, in Bastion, that I’ll talk about more specifically when I get down to my main comment. Of course, it should be known that I cry at movies all the time. In line with your earlier comments on music – the music in Bastion pretty darn moving so that surely plays a role.

  15. Thanks so much, everyone. I really appreciate it! You guys are great!

  16. There’s a game called Hatoful Boyfriend that came out relatively recently that did something to me emotionally a game never has before — it affected me the way Fight Club did. Which is to say, there was a surface level at which I was reacting to the story elements tossed my way (some funny, some sad or shocking, some heartwarming), and another level below it at which I was appreciating how it played with genre and went with or against the expectations of that genre (in this case, the Japanese ‘dating sim’ game, which mostly doesn’t exist in US game development) …. and then there was a sudden third bottom-most level that snuck up on me entirely and whacked me upside the hindbrain with a really, really big brick.

    It took me a while to reprocess the experience, recontextualize *my emotional reactions to the whole game*, and start to appreciate it as a whole.

    If you’re not interested in playing it, there’s a good “Let’s Play” of it ( ), which is basically one player screenshotting and commenting as they play so you can ‘sit on their shoulder’ and kibitz as they go through it, which gives some of the feel. If you can read through three or four pages of that and it’s still not interesting, don’t bother; but if you get to the crying in the rain bit and want to see how the rest (non-demo part) of the game went, the same player did another walkthrough of parts of it after purchasing the game, and THAT’S where the real Fight-Clubbery shows up:

    It’s not that I’m trying not to spoiler it … I’m not entirely certain I can even EXPLAIN it enough to be a spoiler without doing so at the same length the player does in her walkthrough. The mindflip involved isn’t quite as straightforward as the one in Fight Club.

  17. Firstly, did you see this Sunday’s NYT Magazine cover story? You might find it interesting related to the discussion.

    Now, for my personal perspective – I think there’s a fundamental problem with the approach. Video games are generally a really lousy narrative medium. Yes, the majority of media coverage and blog discussion of them acts as if 98% of video game-playing is narrative-driven “A” titles, but it’s not the case of what most time spent playing games actually is. Most of it is actually games like Angry Birds, Tetris, Bejeweled and Words With Friends-type stuff. The interesting stuff about how games affect our minds and lives is in there, IMHO.

    Most “A” title games are lousy narratives because the act of the game is irrelevant to the actual narrative. The basic version is you get cutscene, attempts to hit the correct buttons in response to stimulus, cutscene unrelated to the previous button mashing, repeat until a long cutscene concludes the narrative. There are more complicated versions (such as ‘during the cutscene, you press a button that determines if your next cutscene is version C or D’, and ‘previous button mashing may result in cutscene E, F or G’). The story is a reward pellet, handed out in between bouts of gaming.

    The point of the rant being, the act of gaming usually has minimal actual relevance to the narrative. They’re two separate bits of media that have been loosely intertwined. It’s no wonder most people don’t develop similar emotional responses to most narrative games when most of their attention and energy is based on something other than the narrative. Nearly all of them are, at best competing with Choose Your Own Adventure novels.

    The very best of the narrative-type games I’ve played over the last few years have mostly been pretty meta about the gaming/cutscene thing. The Portal games are largely engaging because of the way they use the cutscene/game/cutscene dynamic in a very engaging and humorous way, for example.

    The most emotionally involved in games I’ve been over the last couple of years was with Bastion.
    In that game, Supergiant Games eschewed the Bioware/Bethesda Rube Goldberg version of getting you from cutscene A to B to C, etc and instead overlayed a narrator that told the story as you play it. For 98% of the game, the things you actually do during the game only matter to the narrative in minor, superficial ways – the narrator will periodically make asides that reflect little things you do while playing through a level, but the main narrative is completely linear and drips out as the game moves along.
    When you get nearly to the end, you finally get to make a series of two choices – the rightness of those choices are deeply dependent on your reaction to the story. I felt only one set of choices could possibly be right (and I later played through all the combinations just to see ), and as I got to play through the final minutes I ended up very emotionally overwhelmed by the import of that decision, knowing how different it would have been to choose any of the other ways.

    • Thief and System Shock do something completely different — with very few cutscenes, your narrative, your exploration unfolds.

      There’s something profound about your last comment… “the ability to see how it would have gone, if I had only…” Must think on it further.

      • I’m using the term ‘custscene’ loosely, really I mean any scripted portion – Half-Life, for example, is loaded with fixed, scripted parts that I mean to count as a ‘cutscene’ but didn’t wan to spend a few paragraphs defining those terms. As far as user experience go, they are functionally the same as cutscenes. Aesthetically they are often much better, a big part of why Half-Life was such a monumental achievement as a game, though I still think it’s a pretty blase story, it remains a fantastic video game.

        I am pretty sure both Thief and System Shock do so similarly.

        • What thief and system shock do is put you in the detective’s seat. You discover clues, you put together the story — that has already happened, or is happening — and you can INFLUENCE it.

          These are not cutscenes, because you don’t need to do xyz to make the story all shiny. The shiny story is already there, and you can discover as much or as little of it as pleases you.

          (so If I have the opportunity to listen to someone’s log, from which I mgiht get a clue which will help me with the next level — and maybe the Puzzle as well…I don’t count that as scripted, because it’s not scripted — I make sense?)

  18. the movie that i feel caused me the most emotional impact has to be shawshank. but for all i felt watching that movie playing through FFVII still hits me harder. first time i played through i was about 15-16. watching (Spoiler) aeris get shanked like that made me cry. i had invested time into making cloud and aeris a couple. it felt to me like having a member of my family shot in front of me. the anger, rage and sadness one feels at such a time all hit me and made the rest of the game a revenge quest.

    save the world? no i did it to bring that sucka to justice!

    a good game makes you invest in the characters and the setting. a bad one does not spend any time on that hippy development stuff and just runs on rails. but i think a good game has a deeper impact precisely because you see the prog as you. a movie can have a charge but will always be somebody else’s story.

    • There’s a good point in here… It’s possible to have gameplay invest you in NPCs, like my example above of saving ADOM’s cute little puppy. Naive, stupid little puppy, who gets lost in a dungeon full of monsters. It’s actively sad and upsetting when he dies, and not just because you just spent time trying to free him, and aren’t going to get rewarded.

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