In all of my years of gaming, I've only ever cried once when playing a video game. The irony is that I knew what the ending would be from the very start. That made it even worse. Unlike other forms of art, video games have rarely been able to slap me in the face and punch me in the gut and tell me that life is sad. Don't misunderstand me here though; video games can be truly depressing at times. So why is it that the only game that has ever made me weep like a baby is Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII? Your experiences may differ, of course, but I'm generally a bleeding heart. I may feel sorrowful or introspective after finishing a game, but very few games truly touch me so meaningfully that I sit at the credits and contemplate how I'm going to live my life after finishing said game. So why did CC: FF7 hit me so deeply that I couldn't control my emotions anymore? In the words of Indianapolis author Kurt Vonnegut:
Kurt Vonnegut knew how to write stories. He's not the only writer in the world who knew how to write good stories, but his philosophy on writing is spot on when it comes to Crisis Core. If you've ever played Final Fantasy VII, then you know exactly what will happen in Crisis Core. You'll have somewhat of an understanding as to what is going to happen in the story and there should be no doubt in your mind as to what the ending will be. So what was the Crisis Core team supposed to do? In this case, they had to create a story so deep that from the beginning to end the player would not be able to turn off their PSP. Needless to say, it paid off. Crisis Core was a huge success. I believe that the reason I got weepy after finishing Crisis Core was that I did know what was going to happen. In fact, I knew everything that was generally going to happen. Despite this, every moment of the game swayed me to believe that I was wrong. Doubts were forming in my mind that were telling me that everything was going to be okay. Unfortunately when the credits rolled, none of my hopes came true and I was left with a hole in my heart.
I've played a wide array of video games, primarily on Steam, but I know there are many I've yet to play. I'm hoping that there's some rough gem out there just waiting for me to find it. But why is it that where Crisis Core hit its mark, others either swing and miss or don't even try at all? Low budget games usually have to rely on good story telling to offset the poor graphics by today's standards. Even a game like Super Meat Boy, which relies heavily on gameplay, still has a somewhat decent story through Meat Boy and Bandage Girl.
To the Moon is a low budget game that immediately comes to mind in terms of story-telling. The puzzles aren't particularly gripping and the gameplay is nothing to brag home about, but Freebird Games wasn't dicking around. They knew what they wanted in this game and that was to tell a damn good story. Not every video game has to leave you staring at the credits in awe, but I feel as though very few big budget games even bother with it. Instead they focus on fast action or hide under the moniker of “real lasting decisions.” Dragon Age: Origins has fantastic gameplay, a wonderful (if not slightly generic) story and actual true decisions that affect the story. But even the “sad” endings in Bioware's games really don't hit me with the feels. Mass Effect 1's “sad ending”. . . Ha! ME: 2 happened.
Shadow of the Colossus and Ico are real gems in my book in that they had beautiful endings. Not sad but just beautiful. Your mileage may vary. Maybe I just like games with only descent gameplay. I may be wrong on this, but when your graphics and gameplay are, arguably, sub-par it's time to hire excellent writers.
Big budget games have hundreds of millions of dollars and countless over-time work days filled with coffee and snack food. At the end of the day, they need to not only make their money back but rake in a truck load of profits to justify their work. The only way that can be achieved is by appealing to as many gamers as possible. They have to get reviews and previews from every reputable game reporter as possible. The game has to be “safe” in every way possible. The company has to stick with what it knows best through tried and true methods of filling their pockets. Hey, it's a business and there's nothing wrong with showing off flashy graphics and interesting gameplay to make profits. I think we can all agree that there's at least one triple-A game that we've fallen in love with this year alone. But how different is it, truly, from the company's other best-sellers? Hell, I'll go as far as to say that most sequels actually go down in gameplay and story to appeal to a larger audience.
I truly believe in my heart of hearts that video games, while still being the most popular form of media, could do better. In a hundred years from now will anyone remember your game? Will anyone even care? Just like the greatest books, movies, artwork and music, true art lives forever. When you're dead and gone all of your money is useless. But your most beautiful of creations will live on forever.
Nobody realizes that some people expend tremendous energy merely to be normal. -Albert Camus
About Skiptomylou One of us since 9:28 AM on 07.17.2011
My name is Ryan and I'm an Indianapolis writer. I've had one essay (creative non-fiction) published, although I'm certainly trying for more.
I've been gaming ever since I was given a Sega Genesis for my birthday (and my first game was Ecco the Dolphin!) I mostly play RPG's, however I'll most certainly play just about anything with Sci-Fi elements in it. Don't even get me started on aliens.
I spend most of my days reading books, working and going to school however I always make sure I have time to play my favorite MMO's with my guild Girls Dead Monster! I'm also in charge of regularly updating our blog on Tumblr and helping manage the guild with our daily affairs.