A wonderful article and a tribute to just how incredible video games can be. Thank you for sharing with us, Ed.
Really touching article. It's been a while since I read one from beginning to end. Your thoughts and feelings were unique and geniune. Great job. Thanks for sharing.
The Time I Was My Dad in Heavy Rain
The hunt for a serial killer helped Ed Smith understand his father's sadness.
If you want your dad to understand videogames, you should probably get him to play Heavy Rain to. Or at least watch the let's plays.
Good article but would I be wrong to assume the author thinks the escapist games where you play a wizard or soldier are "lesser" because they aren't about real life? There's no reason why you can't change the player's mind in important ways as a dragon-fighting mage dealing with your party members. Maybe that's not what the article is about and anyway, it's good to read a positive piece for once without it condemning something or other.
I come from a family with divorced parents, (as nearly half of us do these days.) When I played Heavy Rain, I made the connection between Ethan and my dad almost right away. The difference in the situations was that my father and I didn't have those stilted one word at a time resonances. We had something to talk about, video games.
My father had been into computing as a hobby since the 70s, (he has told me stories about organizing punch-cards.) so before the divorce I had grown up in a house with Comodore64s and Amiga500s. He himself, his 2 younger brothers, and his father made a quarto of very competitive board game players. They STILL are. It's not hard to see why video games became something he would enjoy as much as his son, and not be relegated to, "those things my kids do."
Marble Madness, Sim City, Virus, Power Monger, Civilization, Monkey Island, these were the points of our mutual experience. We even got a 3DO during the short time of it's relevance. When the PS1 came out sometime after the divorce, one first games we got for it was Diablo(1) and it quickly became our thing during visits. We co-oped through the game on all three difficulties sitting side by side, killing each other with friendly-fire as much as the mobs killing us.
Video games were the thing my father and I could talk about and share on a level I couldn't with anyone else in the family. Video games kept that special relationship between us. That's what that scene in Heavy Rain did for me, It show would our relationship could have been like without video games, and made me all the more grateful for them.
It also doesn't hurt that my father was always a decent cook.
Really nice article, a cut above most the nonsensical apologetics we get here. Really liked how you emphasized the physical/mechanical approach to the button configuration and the degraded impact that ones actions have on the progression of the scene as it relates to the progression of time, which is, as you said, very different.
I talk about how mechanics especially game-play, or even subtle statistical changes can have a huge impact on the feel of a product. Be it your example, or something a little more obvious such as a military unit suffering fatigue leading to morale degradation. A mechanical diminished return lends itself to a ludic impact.
Nice article on the subject here:
Now as far as the scene as a whole, mechanical changes are just one part of the total shift in the presentation. The color pallet is washed and de-saturated with lots of use of dark value, emphasizing the amorphous "grey" of emotion. The visual and aural design support this sort of fall from the crisp reality into a rather nihilistic, well, grey. Ultimately leading the character into the electrical company where one will be "repeatedly" shocked into a more coherent reality.
Metaphorically the characters "enlightenment" and an ending of the suffering of the situation... by dealing with it.
It is the "not" dealing with it that destroys the three male characters lives progressively by a mechanical and visual diminished return on activity. The private detective that must destroy evidence of his crimes, the modern detective who abuses substances, an architect that has lost structural control in his life, piecing it back together one fragment at a time... like a detective. Even the woman is looking for a scoop.
Ultimately a very "sins of the father".
I think your interpretation of the scene is good. It does turn the players "quest for completion" against the player in very subtle ways. As far as the personal reaction, this is where it becomes a discussion on art, especially ones reactions "to" art. That discussion may be very biased dependent on the culture of the audience, the philosophical disposition, right down to personal experiences and religious lenses.
Games do offer some interesting dimension through mechanical interaction that is not really debatable.
Flip side of that coin is implementation of additional layers of depth improving the work, or a crippling comedy of errors?
Heavy Rain eh?
I try to give Heavy Rain it's due, for what it is. If you really like the point n' click adventure genre... I highly recommend picking up a copy of Westwood Studios "Blade Runner". Heavy Rain apes a lot of the noir of the cyberpunk genre so it may be an interesting understudy.
Damn, that was an awesome article and quite touching.
Ultimately it speaks to the idea that the greatest thing any mode of entertainment can strive for is to evoke a genuine emotional response. It sounds like it went beyond that and really helped breed some empathy for the situation you and your father went through together.
Pretty fascinating that a videogame was able to pull this out; thank you for sharing!
I think the author is reading way too much into what is ultimately a terribly-designed game.
Thank you for this article! While I found this scene in the game powerful, what stuck most with me was the club scene as the reporter. Being a man, I've never known what it feels like to be hit on by creepy men until I played that scene. Really bothered me and I have a newfound respect for women having to deal with that at clubs on a regular basis.
I hear a lot of hate for David Cage, but I've always contended that he is a magnificent game director. Thank you for adding to my argument.