Note: iOS 9 + Facebook users w/ trouble scrolling: #super sorry# we hope to fix it asap. In the meantime Chrome Mobile is a reach around
hot  /  reviews  /  videos  /  cblogs  /  qposts

The start of the affair: My very own mute, my very own heartstrings

12:21 PM on 06.28.2008 // Josh Tolentino

[Editor's note: unangbangkay talks about how games have gotten him emotionally involved for his Monthly Musing piece. -- CTZ

It's an interesting feeling when a creative expression manages to drill through your jaded, unimpressed skin to tap that most-sought target that any narrative dives for: your emotions. Almost every single-player experience short of Tetris dreams of that halcyon moment.

And it's in that moment, years ago, that it happened, the moment I cared about "them vidya gaems".

To thrill you, frighten you, make you laugh, make you think, and ultimately, to make you care, is the thread that games most dearly want to tug. Caring makes a game more than a game, more than a score or a level, a cache of loot, or even boobs you might see, because your friend totally saw the secret ending. Caring is the point where you're willing to gloss over some of the technical flaws "just because".

Most narrative games opt to show you what happens, usually through cutscenes, codec conversations, and cinematography. In general, when a game wants to have you feel, it becomes a movie. Removed from the experience in that way, how could you care?

"But surely," you ask "you can care about the characters in games! They're often just as deep and interesting as any movie's." Indeed, I cannot but agree. I cared about Cyan on the Phantom Train, as Chad Concelmo expertly recounted. I cared when poor Aeris got a gigantic sword stuck through her gut. I knew, even back then, that games could tell a damn good story.

But again, it wasn't my heartstrings being pulled at. I cared about these collections of sprites, polygons and program code, but I didn't care as them. And there's the difference. That tiny gap between "about" and "as", between being engrossed and being immersed, was what expanded games in my eyes as a transcendent, unique medium. In games you can participate as yourself, making your choices, feeling what you can feel, in your own identity.

It wasn't the very first time I felt that capacity, that uniqueness in games, but I first thought about it as I played Half-Life.

Wait, what? In Half-Life I'm Gordon Freeman! I've got a job, a name, even a face on the box! Where's the "as" I'm talking about?

Paradoxically, that "as" is there, from the very first second of the train ride into Black Mesa, to the last second of Half-Life 2: Episode 2. That "as" floats inside inside Gordon's head, looking through his eyes. Right, I'm talking about experiencing game stories in the first person.

It's only a video game that can tell a story from that point of view. It's only in a video game that you can stand in the character's shoes, thinking your thoughts, forming your impressions. You. You are Time's Person of the Year, every year, whenever you put in the disc and pick up the controller.

For all his facial hair and his MIT degree, Gordon is distinct for being indistinct. He never speaks, never asserts his own individuality, and through it allows you to fill in the blanks. Gordon thinks what YOU think. If you cringed (or laughed) when Alyx coined the term "Zombine", Gordon did.

And key to this uniqueness, I've found, is a well-worn cliche. To some, it's an overused crutch. To all, it's the Mute Protagonist. Even jRPGs, arguably a most linear game experience, can immerse as effectively System Shock II with proper use of the Mute Protagonist.

With the mute hero, the weight of the story rests on you. Characters speak to you instead of each other. When Aigis says she can't live without being by your side in Persona 3, it's your side she wants to live by, not that kid on the screen's side. And if you think about the game between sessions, you think about it as if you happened to be writing fan fiction (though you'd never admit it).

When those archers at Rockaxe Castle shot your sister in Suikoden II, they shot YOUR FUCKING SISTER ! You've got another person's face, wielding a different person's giant tongfa, but that's still you holding your dead stepsibling in your arms. It doesn't get as immersive as that.

That's where I knew that games could tell a story in a way no other medium could: through your perspective. That's where the affair started.

I'm happy to say that games will only continue the trend. Persona 3 puts you in charge of your schedule, determining who to spend your precious time with. As the game puts it, "you're responsible for your actions". Uplink and Defcon sit you behind a wall of proxies and in front of the Big Red Button, respectively.

The Experiment places your eyes behind the myriad camera lenses eyes of a dilapidated ship's security station. In it, you're unable to speak except through yes/no camera nodding, unable to act except to switch lights on an off to catch a person's attention. Ironically, while you're so removed from play, you're plunged headlong into the experience.

Limiting your actions strangely expands your point of view, as you guide a scared young woman to safety, combing through personnel files and solving puzzles in that world through notes you take in this one (the game is hard, you do need to take a few notes).

And so my affair continues. Here's to more opportunities for self-insertion!

Wait, that didn't come out right...  

Josh Tolentino, Random Asian Contributor
 Follow Blog + disclosure unangbangkay Tips
When not posting about Japanese games or Star Trek, Josh serves as Managing Editor for Japanator, Dtoid's sister site for the best in anime, manga, and cool news from Glorious Nippon. more   |   staff directory

 Setup email comments

Unsavory comments? Please report harassment, spam, and hate speech to our community fisters, and flag the user (we will ban users dishing bad karma). Can't see comments? Apps like Avast or browser extensions can cause it. You can fix it by adding * to your whitelists.

Status updates from C-bloggers

ikiryou avatarikiryou
Starting over from scratch after dying in a roguelike MMO
Occams avatarOccams
I've been listening to the live stream of the phone call with the remaining militia jackasses in Oregon all morning and its the saddest, funniest thing I've heard in a while.
FakePlasticTree avatarFakePlasticTree
Next South Park RPG is releasing in the first fiscal year of 2017, apparently. It'll probably be fractured but whole. Can't wait! D':
OrochiLeona avatarOrochiLeona
Waaaait a minute... From a design standpoint.. Wouldn't a bodysuit look better with shoes/boots, thus .GASP. precluding bare feet? Say it aint so! :'''(
gajknight avatargajknight
Hey guys, there's a new episode of PStoid up. You should go listen to it, I hear Phil takes his shirt off. I mean, it's a podcast so you can't see it. But you can IMAGINE it!
Larxinostic avatarLarxinostic
Yesterday, I brought a banana with me to my job for my lunch break. Some yokel must have swiped it, for I never saw it again, nor got to eat it. My response when: [img][/img]
darrenhupke avatardarrenhupke
"At launch, playing through most of the single player content will give you enough Fight Money to get Alex for free!" Will it be possible to earn enough FC by April for the next character DLC? I'm guessing not.
Gamemaniac3434 avatarGamemaniac3434
Right, looking for advice. Just redeemed four old XCOM games from a humble bundle a few years back, so I wanted advice on which one I should give a looksie to first. Got 5 choices, kind of thinking terror from the deep or apocalypse. Any suggestions?
ikiryou avatarikiryou
Never be first to avert your eyes when locked in a staring contest with a cat. You must push through the pain if you ever wish to become truly whole, to win this eternal conflict of wills. Bonus XP is awarded on Thursdays!
Pixie The Fairy avatarPixie The Fairy
S Magala Plate first fight! :D
FlanxLycanth avatarFlanxLycanth
I have basic knowledge of two other languages (with certificates to prove so) and I decided today that soon I shall be fluent in both. One at a time though.
Sir Shenanigans avatarSir Shenanigans
If you had to pick one: Firewatch, Not a Hero, or Layers of Fear?
Shinta avatarShinta
I'm soooo glad that they kept the gyroscope controls intact with Gravity Rush Remastered, and that they work well. First Dual Shock 4 game to ever use them well. If you turned them off in options, you're really missing out. Helps you fine tune aim.
Solar Pony Django avatarSolar Pony Django
Even Luigi gets it.
Alphadeus avatarAlphadeus
Alone With the Psychopath (2014) - I wrote this song after being inspired by the Epic Rap Battle of History between Jack the Ripper and Lecter. I think it sounds neat, and doesn't rip off too much from the song that inspired it =p
TheBlondeBass avatarTheBlondeBass
Tell me who downvoted my smash 4 opinion or the cat gets it. I'm not joking around.
Torchman avatarTorchman
Is that new digimon game any good or no? I know there's the review but I'd like feedback from a couple others too
OrochiLeona avatarOrochiLeona
People bitching that "(insert character) Needs Nerfing" because they lost to them several times online, incoming in T-5 days.
Nathan D avatarNathan D
For some reason I had a dream that I was playing a new Jet Set Radio game. It was open world and had an amazing day/night cycle. It was wonderful, yet horrible...
Barry Kelly avatarBarry Kelly
4.6 Million XCOM operatives down and down! [url][/url] 66% from Collateral damage. Never mind the Alien invasion, cars are the real threat
more quickposts



Invert site colors

  Dark Theme
  Light Theme

Destructoid means family.
Living the dream, since 2006

Pssst. konami code + enter

modernmethod logo

Back to Top

We follow moms on   Facebook  and   Twitter
  Light Theme      Dark Theme
Pssst. Konami Code + Enter!
You may remix stuff our site under creative commons w/@
- Destructoid means family. Living the dream, since 2006 -