Can a Game Make You Cry?

Can a Game Make You Cry?
Confessions of a Crybaby

John Walker | 18 Apr 2006 08:04
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So, there, an example of my becoming a complete blubbering wreck over a game. Yes, yes, yes, a thousand times, games can make you cry. So, why is that a good thing?

I'd like to present the completely unscientific suggestion, with utter conviction, that such profound responses are the emotional equivalent of looking through 3-D glasses. Allowing oneself to buy into a story and fall in love with its characters, despite its appearing on the computer screen, is to place the ridiculous looking red and green specs on your amygdala and have the game come alive in a transforming way.

It's a giving over of oneself, a humbling step to allow a greater experience. Which means I wish I did cry whenever Snake died, or whenever my polygonal car collided with a tight corner's barrier. It would, admittedly, make games like Tomb Raider too harrowing to play, constantly grieving the death of poor Lara, but each and every gaming session would be all the more powerful, important and life-changing.

Oh, but I'm mocked. Because of my pride and conviction in having such loose tear ducts and having a big mouth, others quickly know of my weepy gaming and perpetually soggy keyboard. Anyone who foolishly mentions The Longest Journey in my presence will hear great tale of how much I love April Ryan, and how important she is to me, how transforming her story has been, and how I cried and cried at the revelation of her adventures. And they look at me, unnerved, perhaps taking a couple of steps backward. At that point, not seeing any sense, I'll probably confess that the latest Tomb Raider - Legend - brought dampness to my eyes with Lara's newfound motivation ... Ah, and there it is again.

I never cared about Lara before. Think about how unemotional her deaths are. Oh, Lara's been chopped up by some blades. Oh, Lara's drowned. Oh, Lara's fallen onto spikes for the 50th time in a row. There was no emotional resonance, no sense of loss. This time, she explains why she raids tombs, and we see, in flashback, the horror of her mother's death, partly her fault, and learn of her father's subsequent public mocking in the face of his apparently crazy beliefs. Suddenly, thanks to a new development team (hopefully after the AoD developers had been fired into outer space), Lara has motivation. Exactly the ingredient Cecil referenced. She was grounded, made believable, and then given motivations with which I could empathize. And gosh, she brought a tear to my eye.

And then, it's blank, scared faces, quickly replaced by the mocking. But I don't care! I am a crybaby, and I'm proud! And I say crybabies of the world, let us stand together, arms around each other's shoulders, probably rather overwhelmed by the situation and getting a bit sniffly, and see off these mocking fools. Because it is they, those that look down on the emotionally mature, those that condemn us for forming relationships with our characters, that lose out. It is they who watch their games in flat, monotone misery, unable to let go of their pride, their stubborn grit, and let the tears flow.

They deserve our sympathy, fellow crybabies. Do not hate them. They are the losers, and we are the winners. Shed a tear for them - it's what we're best at.

John Walker is a giant crybaby, games journalist, and professional weepy wimp. He's always going on about crying on his own website, http://botherer.cream.org. It's embarrassing, really.

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