Friday, July 18, 2008

interactive sadness

I wonder to what degree sadness can be included in games.

People who think of games purely in terms of fun often suggest that making players sad or angry should never be a goal. But it's clear that this industry has potential for becoming an artistic medium, like films or music. As I've said many times before, games don't have to be fun. They just have to be compelling. Countless films have become very popular and financially successful while focusing on effects other than fun and joy; such as Ben Hur, Schindler's List, Pay It Forward, and Saving Private Ryan. In fact, serious themes are expected in most entertainment. How many comedies can you name without any?

So I don't question if more seriously-toned games could be popular. Of course they could. Nothing about the medium prevents a serious focus. And a serious focus certainly doesn't exclude fun or light entertainment. There are plenty of jokes in Fiddler on the Roof and Patton.

The reason I wonder how sadness can be incorporated into games is because sadness is a negative force. It more often drains us than motivates. And games, more than any other medium, rely on the will of the audience. Games require more investment than movies to continue.

What do you think? Is incorporating sadness into games a challenge?


  1. I teared up a little at the end of Half-Life 2: Episode 2. I found myself dismayed halfway through Call of Duty 4 and choking up a bit at the end of it.

    If the storyline is compelling, sadness is just another method to motivate the player forward - and more importantly, to create a memorable experience.

  2. Story, character development (do we, the viewers, care about them?) and the level of immersion the viewer is able to achieve contribute to the emotional effect, happiness, sadness, or any other.

    In a game, however, I believe we run into problems. First is story: if the story isn't horrible, its presentation often is.

    We're playing the characters, yet most players don't play the *characters* in an RP sense; they don't care about the character, only the rewards gained from that character's experiences. And we certainly don't give a damn about NPC's.

    Immersion. Despite all the misguided Immersion Nerds spraying their Fanboy Juice (No instances! No loading screens! Seamless world!) everywhere in the name of immersion, as I mentioned above, immersion comes from within you, the player. Games in particular lack nearly every quality that would immerse me, personally. Sure, I might find an activity that causes me to play a particular game for several hours at a single stretch, but at no time am I "immersed" and unaware that I'm sitting at my desk at a computer playing a video game.

    And let's be honest: are we seriously going to tear up or even, gods forbid, break down and cry over Ventrilo? :P


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.