Tag Archives: Movies

There’s No Crying in Video Games! But Wait. Why Not?

My husband is a great guy, but sometimes misses the mark. Often on a date night, he will download a Top 10 list of some sort. He gets me to guess the list, we debate, and yap about the subject at hand over a bottle of wine. While usually a fun start to the evening, this past weekend he “wisely” chose Top 10 Depressing Disney Moments Of All Time.

An hour and a half bottle of wine later, I am crying my eyes out and any hope of a romantic rendez -vous were dashed.

Only #4... it get's worse. Much worse.

“For every smile, a tear” is a quote attributed to Walt Disney. He knew that the tears you shed during the movie made the comedy funnier, the songs more enchanting, the happy ending that much sweeter.

Sadness and crying in other entertainment is very well established, yet, I really couldn’t find too much on really sad gaming moments. One top 10 listed the Red Ring of Death as a sad gaming moment. Compare this to Disney: Bambi’s mom dying was only #4. Marlon, Nemo’s dad in Finding Nemo, comes home to find his wife and 99% of his children dead; this moment didn’t even make the top 10.

 Say what you want about Disney, they tell a damn fine story and in this important aspect, gaming  can’t come close. Disney can make us weep, gaming at best can make us sometime sniffle.

Why can’t gaming compare to Disney when it comes to these scenes? 50 movies versus an entire library of games. I believe it’s for two reasons. Disney movies commit to being emotionally touching, whereas gaming seems to ease up at critical times. Disney also focuses on the relationships that are the deepest to our emotional condition, gaming has missed the mark.

Commitment to Sorrow

Disney commits 100% to making scenes remarkably touching and sad. Take #5 on the above list: Dumbo visits his Mom in the Cage.

Disney fully and completely commits to this scene. Dumbo’s mother is gone, so it doesn’t add to the plot. But Disney knew better. Their parting was quick, violent, confusing. Over before it happened. Horrible, but you didn’t have time to digest what was going on. So Disney made another scene, one that was slower, that made you see the love that was taken from the two, and juxtaposed it against other happy families. Yes, Dumbo losing his Mom was bad, but saying goodbye is much, much more bittersweet.

Regicide? check. Fratricide? check. Emotional abuse of a minor? Check. It's the Disney Villian Trifecta!

Each viewer at different ages can and will see different aspects of this scene. Children can understand that losing a Mommy would be painful and can fear abandonment of someone they love so much. An older child might mourn the loss of their childhood, remembering pictures of themselves as babies, knowing that they can’t go back to the way things were. Teenagers, deep down, maybe they miss their mothers. Parents can think the unimaginable: what if they had to say goodbye? But as all parents come to realise, parenting is a series of goodbyes. There is one last nursing, one last kiss on a skinned knee, one last tuck into bed. You never know when these last moments will happen, but that’s what it’s all about. Loving them and letting them go. Disney makes us cry on many different levels.

Gaming, on the other hand, does not fully commit to creating sadness. In Fable 2 we lose our dog at the very end, but we actually don’t have to go on without him. We fight the boss, make a decision, and yep: we can bring him back. But we never say goodbye. In fact, we never play the game without him. We never have to run through an open field, alone for the first time. Less emotional impact.

In Mass Effect 2, if you dilly-dally, only Dr. Chakwas survives the prothean stronghold. There is a conversation between her and you as Commander Shepard. She says that it was horrible watching the crew get turned into people soup. Shepard: “We had to prepare for the mission.” Chakwas: “Oh, I wasn’t blaming you.”

Would Disney have brought the horse back? Hell no!

Thank goodness she didn’t blame me… I was starting to feel bad for a second.

Again, Bioware could have committed to the scene emotionally. We know that Chakwas is a damn hard woman, and to have her break just a little would have given this emotional gravitas. Being a soldier prepares you for many things, but not for watching your friends get homogenized while you stand helpless. This feeling of helplessness could have been explored, but it wasn’t.

Teen Angst: Gaming Misses the Relationship Mark

It’s almost a gaming trope now.

Q: What’s the saddest moment in gaming? 

A: Sephiroth kills Aeris.

Player characters have been killed off, but presumably this one is the saddest because of the relationship Aeris had with Cloud. It was a new love type of relationship that was lost early before if could blossom. It was shocking, and yes, a bit sad.

But the point was is was a new/adolescent relationship. An (almost) first love. But here’s the thing about this kind of first/puppy love. It is always replaced, it never ever lasts. One of two things happen. Either you move on, and 10 years down the road you think about that other person, smile at how stupid and young you were and chuckle to yourself. Or it becomes a mature love.

They touch hands - while reading!

Mature love comes from really understanding someone, knowing that this other person is not merely a “girl with a heart of gold that was too good for this world”, but a person with whom you can share a lifetime of adventure, as well as dull days of taking the garbage out. Real love is snotty noses and realising that the other person has flaws, and loving them anyway.  This type of love, and the loss of this love, was at the heart of Up. After a lifetime together, Carl Fredricksen is bereaved of his wife and best friend. How do you complete life’s adventure without your partner in crime?

Disney does explore teen love in The Little Mermaid. The fact that Ariel is a teen is oft-repeated, and her infatuation with Eric is originally shown to be rather adolescent. She talks to the statue of Eric “Why Eric, run away with you? This is all so … so sudden.” Women don’t say that. Girls do. And so, the heart of The Little Mermaid is not the relationship between Eric and Ariel, the heart of the relationship is between Ariel and her father.

It’s a little dusty…

Ariel’s love really isn’t for Eric, so much as it is for the world above. Her first song, Part of Your World is about going on land, nothing about wanting to meet a guy. Ariel wants to go on land, to be her own person, her father wants her safe. This is at the heart of teenagerhood and growing up. Ariel’s wilfulness forces her father’s hand. He doesn’t just smash the statue of Eric, he smashes all of her treasures from the world above and thus, smashes her dream. The father/daughter relationship is now broken. Yet, they love each other. We see Triton’s panic when he realizes Ariel is gone, he is despondent. A king is brought low through his own actions.

Thus, the most important kiss in the movie is not between Ariel and Eric, it’s when Ariel throws her arms around her father’s neck and whispers “I love you, Daddy.” BAM! not a dry eye in the house.

So… Why No Tears?

Okay, some games may make you a bit misty, they definitely can make you care for the characters. But are they on par with the Disney moments in that top 10 list?

The funny thing is, there have been Disney games. Kingdom Hearts tried emotional loss but didn’t hit the mark either. So what is going wrong?

I can only assume that developers don’t put this much emotional depth into a game because they don’t want gamers to cry. Why is that? Are we not comfortable enough in our own skin that a few tears will crush our self-image as tough guys? Are we making and playing games as escapism and we don’t want that kind of depth? Bad business decision? I hope not, because I think that is selling ourselves short.

Has a game made you cry? Honestly, like Bambi’s mother dies kind of cry?

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Spoilers Abound! End Games – Do Gamers Crave The Sure Thing?

In case you couldn’t tell from the headline, this post contains many spoilers about games and movies. Proceed with caution! But please have fun in the comments section: let’s talk about game vs movie endings! 

My husband and I love movies with a twist, and, as is to be excepted, we found Inception a great flick. We both enjoyed The Prestige more, and Momento is still one of my favorite movies EVAH, but that’s just us. Upon dissecting the movie over wings and nachos, my husband asked me if video games had the same type of ending as Inception. 

Please Can I Haz Games Like This?

Now, for those of you who haven’t seen the movie, Inception doesn’t really end. The big payoff .. isn’t. It would be like if a hero entered into the room with the final boss fight and then… nothing. That’s that. End of scene. No payoff. In fact, when you think about it, you just get more confused. The entire narrative is brought into question. Did the hero ever make it to the castle, or did something else happen?

The straight narrative that you have been following hasn’t been straight at all. Now you really don’t know the fate of our hero, not to mention the fate of the mission at hand. Everything is called into question. What exactly is going on? What WENT on?

The Wrestler ended with a big boss fight, that you don’t see. Does he die at the end? Does he reclaim his past glory? Dunno. No one does. The Prestige had a final ending, but again, one that made you question what went on the entire movie.   The Sixth Sense was one of the first big movies to have this type of switch up. M. Night Shyamalan’s followup The Village tried to capture lighting in a bottle for the second time, and while I liked it fine, the ending (everyone is actually living in modern times) I felt was projected too easily.  Momento, Vanilla Sky, Mulholland Drive, Pan’s Labyrinth are more movies where you weren’t really sure of the outcome or the narrative. And these are just the ones that I have seen: and I am not a moviephile.

Offhand, I don’t think we see these types of endings in games to the extent that we see them in movies. Offhand I have Bioshock and Killer 7.  Yes, we do see cliffhangers…  The End. OR IS IT!???  Excellent way to set up a sequel and all. We also have games where the good guy actually turns out to be the bad guy. But that is a straight double cross. That’s not anything close to finding out that Lenny actually set himself up to kill John G (see… I told you there would be spoilers). 

Why is this? Why aren’t there more games with unknown narratives and endings?

One reason why games have definite endings is to encourage replayability. One run through and the top spins forever, the other playthrough and your top falls over. One play through and you rescue the princess, another play through and you kill her. All definite endings, but different ones to explore.

Another reason could be that gamers couldn’t “handle” an uncertain ending after 12+ hours invested in the game. We need that payoff. I don’t buy this for a second. Gamers are smart adults, the same adults that are going to see Inception. We are not so small-minded that we cry if things are not how we imagined. Everyone loved Bioshock. But why aren’t there more?

Is it just easier to write and churn out Space Operas? Maybe we have something here. I have mentioned many, many great movies that are of this “major twist that makes you question the narrative” genre, but I could mention triple the number that are simple, but excellent, action films with a straight “good guy saves the day” narratives.

I have never claimed to be an end all and be all expert on games and gaming. I am a fan of gaming, just like you. So tell me: do I have this right? What games have a twist in the whole narrative a la Inception and The Sixth Sense? What have been your favourite twist endings in movies and games? Do you think that games would benefit from a less defined narrative?