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Can Games Make You Cry? 379

Ground Glass writes "'Can games make you cry?' is a ridiculously simple question to ask about a hideously complex issue. Worse, it's possible that the very question itself muddies the answer. Next Generation's approach is a little more thoughtful; by figuring out what questions each medium tries to answer free of the art issue, it cuts to the heart of what games can do. With the tools made clear, it then theorizes what said tools can do emotionally." From the article: "In film, you can show a character staring at a point before him and then change perspective to show what he was staring at; it is the proximity and timing of the imagery that lends significance to the second shot. In painting, you can play with the two-dimensional space and qualities of the material at hand to create similarly suggestive juxtapositions of imagery, color, symbolism, perspective, lending greater insight into the workings of the medium, the subject at hand, the painter herself, and - ultimately - the viewer and his own perspective on the world around him."
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Can Games Make You Cry?

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  • Of course they can (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Cloud K ( 125581 ) on Thursday July 27, 2006 @01:43PM (#15792600)
    The Final Fantasy series has made me shed tears (however mildly) on a number of occasions. I am a 24 year old male.

    It's difficult to pinpoint what it is, until you turn the sound off. It's the music. I can watch (FF7+10 spoilers) Aerith die and Cloud's reaction, Tidus fading away as Yuna tries to hug him and falls through (end spoilers) without the sound on and barely batter an eyelid. Put the sad music in there and I'm blubbing like a girl. The emotions are there with or without, but the music is like a magnifying glass.

  • Re:One Word... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Conception ( 212279 ) on Thursday July 27, 2006 @01:52PM (#15792713)
    I have to put my money on Wing Commander 3. When Hobbes betrays you and you see the death scene for Angel... man... I've never been so engulfed by both sadness and rage by fictional characters.
  • by eddy ( 18759 ) on Thursday July 27, 2006 @01:59PM (#15792810) Homepage Journal

    As someone who just completed Planescape: Torment [wikipedia.org] for the first time about an hour ago [klopper.net], I can say YES.

    FFG: "No cage shall separate us, and no Plane shall divide us." Fall-From-Grace's face becomes like stone. "Keep thinking of me, and we shall meet again." TNO: I SHALL NOT FORGET ALL YOU SACRIFICED FOR ME.
    FFG: She shakes her head. "Just do not forget me."
    FFG: "Time is not your enemy. Forever is."

    PS. Best. Game. Evar.

  • How i see games. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by EnsilZah ( 575600 ) <EnsilZah AT Gmail DOT com> on Thursday July 27, 2006 @02:00PM (#15792817)
    I think story-based games are basically movies that give you illusion of control over what happens.
    I think that illusion sort of breaks your identifiability with the character, there sort of an ambiguity for me between me as the character and me as the guy playing the character and i sort of find it easier to identify with a character that's not supposed to be me.

    Examples for games that i can think of right now that stirred emotions for me are:

    Fallout - I remember the end especially, when the hero saves the vault for the second time he is told he can never return to his home because he changed too much and would be a bad influence on the vault dwellers.

    Homeworld - I love it how they added a whole spiritual side to what could have been just a space strategy game, and the music in the second one really contributed to the atmosphere.

    Planescape Torment - The whole "What can change the nature of a man?" theme, search for identity.

    There is a place for games that concentrate on skill developmenet.
    But i think that as a form of art, a story-based game that doesn't stir emotion in you is missing its purpose.

  • Re:One Word... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by meanfriend ( 704312 ) on Thursday July 27, 2006 @02:21PM (#15793016)
    I have to disagree with this example. The whole Aeris thing is a pre-rendered cut scene with no interactivity. It's just a movie and we all know that movies can make people cry.

    The question posed here is can a *game* make you cry. Not a video stuck into the middle of a game, but from the actual gameplay. How many times have you cried while actually playing a game as opposed to sitting there with the controller in your lap watching some CGI whose trigger and resolution you had absolutely no control over? Not many, I'd wager.
  • Grim Fandango (Score:3, Interesting)

    by nuzak ( 959558 ) on Thursday July 27, 2006 @02:32PM (#15793119) Journal
    The ending of that ... more of a happy tears thing, but it was so cute. "This little light of mine ... I'm gonna let it shine ..."

    Also the flashback in the sensorium in Torment. And that was just text.

    Serpent Isle was trying to be a tearjerker in the scene where Dupre dies, but since most of my party had died and been resurrected dozens of times before, it's just too hard to get attached. That and LB really just can't write drama (as U9 showed us)

  • by amrust ( 686727 ) <marcrust.gmail@com> on Thursday July 27, 2006 @03:06PM (#15793458) Homepage
    That came as close as anything ever would. Very emotional ending (showdown with The Boss).
  • by NealokNYU ( 779603 ) on Thursday July 27, 2006 @03:39PM (#15793814)
    I was JUST going to say Planescape: Torment.

    (I agree: Best Game Ever. I actually have 12 legit copies expressly to give to avid gamers who missed it for whatever reason.)

    Depending on how you played through the game and what choices you made at the end, P:T could be deeply, deeply affecting. I always liked video games, but it was P:T that convinced me that my pretty graphics could be just as involving and compelling as a book or movie or even a television commercial.

    I cried while playing Final Fantasy VI, VII, VIII, and X, but over time, I've grown agitated from the lack of any real role-playing. Really, how is the story resolution mechanic different in Metal Gear Solid versus the last four or five Final Fantasy titles? What makes a role-playing game? I think it's short-sighted to say numbers and turn-based combat and mechanical character development, so how exactly is the Metal Gear series that different from the Final Fantasy series? After years of playing hand-crafted, dice-rolled characters with pencil/paper RPGs, eventually it stopped sitting well with me to call a somewhat interactive movie a "role-playing" game. (Even though I love the Final Fantasy games, to be sure. I only feel that the nomenclature is disingenuous.)

    Indeed, the only parts where a player interacts with the game in the Final Fantasy series has little to do with the story. At no point do you make any choices that change how the story resolves itself. In Planescape, subtle choices throughout the game can impact your condition when you meet the Transcendant One as well as the options available to you when/if you choose to defeat/fight/negotiate. Moreover, the game explains the linear track far better than any other because your character faces the juggernaut of time's inexorable flow and the pain of potentially losing his identity yet again; it really is like TNO doesn't have a choice, and if THIS TNO didn't perform the acts in the game, a TNO somewhere down the line WOULD.

    Crazy brilliant game, and it damned sure made me cry.

  • Re:One Word... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by nat5an ( 558057 ) on Thursday July 27, 2006 @04:08PM (#15794100) Homepage
    At the end of Metal Gear Solid 3, you have to kill one of the main characters (trying to keep this spoiler-free), and, instead of a cut scene, the game forces the player (i.e. you) to pull the trigger manually. Likewise, at the end of Shadow of the Colossus, you have control but you cannot prevent the inevitable from happening. The inevitability and lack of control is what makes it tragic (see every tragedy written for the last 3000 years). Games provide an interesting medium for this, since the gamer has a great deal of control throughout the game. When real control is taken away and the gamer is forced to do something they don't want to do (and they can't go back), it enhances the emotional response. Just look at how many rumors and hacks sprung up to resurrect Aeris in FFVII.

    Metal Gear Solid 3 is a great example of this, since you can play the entire game without killing anyone, and it still forces you to carry out the execution at the end. Compare to a similar scene in Metal Gear Solid 1 when Snake battles Sniper Wolf and he does a similar execution in a cut scene. The scene in MGS3 is much more poignant because the player is forced to be a part of the action.

    To sum up, yeah, games (good ones) can make you cry.
  • The Longest Journey (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Phoenixhunter ( 588958 ) on Thursday July 27, 2006 @04:13PM (#15794152)
    The original The Longest Journey has been the only game wherein I found an ability to empathize with the protagonist, even when the graphics were already considered subpar. I've never found a way to put to words the reason why. I played Syberia and other similar titles, but I never really felt the same degree of connection. When I recently picked up the sequel, Dreamfall, I was let down.

    Any recommendations on titles?

  • by kinglink ( 195330 ) on Thursday July 27, 2006 @04:52PM (#15794541)
    Guys, I applaud you for being symmetrical down to the clothes, but come on. I don't come to Slashdot to hear the same thing three hundred times. Why not make one thread of it rather then all posting your own "unique" way of saying it in new topics.

    Yes Final Fantasy VII may have made you cry but one game in 500 making you cry doesn't prove the theory. The question is can they make you cry, not which one.

    And even worse, thanks for NOT reading the article, he clearly discusses Aeris' death and why he doesn't feel it really matches the standards he sets.

    However at the same the question is "duh". Games can be beauty and are portrayed with stories, how can they not be impactful. It's the same as reading books, or watching movies, but even more involved. I would be willing to say games can have a large impact on our emotions. It's not just crying.

    Rage, and fear came to me early, through a game called System Shock. Shock and despair in Chrono Trigger (the major character dying? not saying who). Happiness and Joy comes from many games.

    So why focus on Crying, it's obvious games while interactive are just as story driven as any industry. It's true stories are not required (see madden or other sports games) but at the same time for a book or a movie you don't need a story. (See Comedy, books of stats, and a few movies that just show images rather then tell stories)

    But if you want to know can games make you cry, ask any serious gamer. One who tries all types of games, they'll tell you, yes. For me it was Final Fantasy VI, tears of sadness when Cid died in the world of ruin, tears of joy when you find all your friends, tears during the opera scene (truely great).

    There's others too of course, but that's one of the major ones. Chrono Trigger's reunion. The FFIV where rosa rejoins the group. Legend of Zelda Ocerina of Time was wonderful. Shadows of Colussus. Metal Gear Solid (more of tears of rage when I realized what had happened to Meryl).

    So yeah the answer is yes. It's true almost all these things are non interactive but that's the point. If you really want to see if something interactive can make you cry that's fine, there's a couple games when a friend dies in a battle, but at the same time it's either extremely scripted so it's like a cutscene or it's a chance happening and a random guy dies you have little connection to.

    If you want an example of interactive versions look into things like Knights of the Old Republic. However it's uneffective in getting people to tear up because they always seem to give an obvious way out, and the fact is you probably arn't going to get people killed unless you're trying to go down the evil path, and if you're evil you're not going to be crying, you're going to be cheering the death.

    So the long story is yes, games are emotional and can move people to tears, however we are not yet at the point where a game can have a true moment of sorrow with out it being completely planned out to drive the maximum impact to the player. This is not because of bad game design but because we have yet to have true "freedom" even in open-world games.
  • Re:Can they? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Sabaki ( 531686 ) on Thursday July 27, 2006 @05:18PM (#15794741)
    Not if those parents *warned* their kids that the movies may scare them

    Yeah. Not only that, but movies themselves tend to warn kids -- the dramatic music, the mere fact that it's a movie allows the viewer to distance themselves as much as they want. Tricks like this game (and the related videos and animations) rely on the exact opposite -- they're usually trying to get you to spend all your attention on something, usually something that promises to be very faint, which makes the ultimate surprise vastly more effective.
  • It's hard to make a game that truly uses the medium to create powerful emotional scenes. Take one example, the death of Aeris in Final Fantasy VII. Most people acknowledge that it was a powerful scene, and with good reason. In some sense, you'd grown to know her character throughout the game, and so seeing her die was an emotional moment. Still, how does that use the nature of the medium? If I'm watching a good movie, I'll have the same reaction. If anything, the Mines of Moria scene in Fellowship of the Ring was more powerful. Might it be possible to use the interactivity of a game to create a branching path, with powerful and resonant consequences, no matter which way you choose?

    I'm not saying this because Final Fantasy VII was so heavily FMV-based, either. In fact, it would be possible to create a game which was 95% FMV, but still used the interactivity present in a game to create emotional impact. The difference lies in the fact that FFVII had very little in the way of hard moral decisions. What if it were possible to save Aeris, but it ultimately meant the destruction of hundreds of other, innocent lives? Imagine this:

    You're given two options. One, you can use some kind of evil materia you've picked up earlier in the game. It summons the life out of hundreds of others, and uses it to channel some sort of force which turns Sephiroth's blade aside, and drives him away. Cut to a scene of a small child desparately crying for his mother and father, who have died simply so your friend can live. Pull back and see the devastation - hundreds have died so that you could save Aeris, you selfish bastard. She stays with you, but never sees you in the same way. Or, choose option two: Cloud enters and watches Sephiroth kill Aeris, knowing that he (and you) could have done something, but that the end couldn't ever justify the means. Neither one is satisfying, but the choice defines who Cloud is, and what he's willing to do for his cause and his friends.

    It's difficult to create a game which can allow you to make weighty moral decisions, but the result of a game which does this well is nothing short of incredible. Consider Planescape: Torment, or, to a lesser extent, the Knights of the Old Republic and Fallout games. They're all truly role-playing games; you can create your own character, with your own moral code. If you're out to save the world, might that justify shaking down peasants when you need the cash to buy that +57 Super Armor? After all, if you die, then they're doomed; better that they be short some cash rather than souls trapped in the Ultimate Doom Machine. On the other hand, aren't you fighting for these people? Heck, maybe you're just power-mad and psychotic, looking to take control of the Ultimate Doom Machine for yourself.

    To me, a really emotional game would allow me to step into someone's shoes and make these decisions. In the real world, if I were to be some kind of super-powered hero, I'd have to make hard choices. A game which wants to make a strong emotional impact should force you to make hard choices as well; if the game makes your choices for you, then it can only ever operate on the emotional level of a movie. That's not a bad thing, but as a game, it's possible to use the nature of the medium to go further.

  • by Fallingcow ( 213461 ) on Thursday July 27, 2006 @10:03PM (#15796098) Homepage
    If you thought that Max Payne was good...

    You'll love Max Payne 2. I liked the first one, but the second was about 100x better.

    It's kind of short, which got it a bunch of criticism, but IMHO it doesn't matter. In fact, it helps; I thought that MP1 got REALLY boring around the time of the parking garage level. 2 never gets boring. The story is at least as good as the first one, and the characters are even better.

    And its best attribute? The level design. Top-f'ing notch. Among the best that I've ever seen, period.

    Easily one of the most underrated games of recent years.

Someday your prints will come. -- Kodak