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 he's not posting about Japanese games or Star Trek, Josh serves as Managing Editor for Destructoid's sister site, Japanator. Go there for the best in anime, manga, and cool news from Gloriou... 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

Samsneeze avatarSamsneeze
I'm currently writing a review for a mobile game, but only because I'm enjoying the hell out it. I'm honestly enjoying it far more than Puzzles and Dragons.
Ticklefist avatarTicklefist
Steam sale is on. Just buying one game with this new format. Mad Max or Shadow of Mordor?
Zer0t0nin avatarZer0t0nin
Damn, I think I'm Bruce Willis from Unbreakable. Just fell of a 12-foot ladder and all I got was a little scratch on my finger.
CoilWhine avatarCoilWhine
After I finish Fallout 4 I'm thinking of 100%ing Skyrim and then installing a TON of dinosaur mods on it.
voex avatarvoex
4 hours into Hotline Miami 2 and I'm finding it just as fun as the original. So far it's a good balance between frustration and satisfaction. Still have no idea what the story is about.
OverlordZetta avatarOverlordZetta
1. Start playing Ocarina of Time again. 2. Start having fun. 3. Discover fishing area. 4. Stop having fun.
AvtrSpirit avatarAvtrSpirit
A 2-d hovercraft platforming exploration game just came out today. Have fun collecting the coins! My record so far is 140.
Occams avatarOccams
Holy shit the new David Bowie video/song is just lovely.
Barry Kelly avatarBarry Kelly
So many people angry at Play-Asia right now. Totally not exactly the kind of backlash Tecmo were trying to avoid by not releasing the game here in the first place.
FlanxLycanth avatarFlanxLycanth
If you're a UK kid there's a Wii U 32 GB Wind Waker Premium Pack on Amazon for £240. It says sale... I dunno how much of a saving that is. You tell me.
Archelon avatarArchelon
Community Question: Not strictly speaking video game-related, but screw it. Team Captain America or Team Iron Man?
ikiryou avatarikiryou
I want Just Cause 2 and Metal Gear Solid V + Peace Walker to fornicate together so we can have a beautiful big open world to blow up and/or fulton. Then I want to build an infinitely-sized base of soldiers, each with their own personalities and stats.
FlanxLycanth avatarFlanxLycanth
When SFV drops next year we gotta get some DTOID noob battles on, practice with online lag with friends, be really bad casuals together. We can call it Kanye Night Fights. #Swerve on FNF (just kidding...maybe).
Solar Pony Django avatarSolar Pony Django
So someone messaged me on a Lightning fast, comment board that bow they're super depressed. And I worry for them now. Because a comment board is not something to get depressed over, just because someone disagrees with you if your an ass, people will be 2.
arkane9 avatararkane9
Guys, a sequel to Retro City Rampage: Shakedown Hawaii! Someone should really write about it. Lots of Dtoid staff were in the RCR after all.
FlanxLycanth avatarFlanxLycanth
Fuck racism man, shit ain't fair. Can't stand it and I shouldn't have to. Nobody should.
Robo Panda Z avatarRobo Panda Z
Embedded pictures in Quickposts seem to be broken for me right now.
Flegma avatarFlegma
To my surprise, I've more or less figured out Rodea Wii U controls. Still a different game from the Wii version, but not as decidedly inferior in my eyes. Did the legacy medals do anything in Wii version?
RadicalYoseph avatarRadicalYoseph
"Am I a kid, or a squid?" I ponder as I stare off into the horizon. A wise man once told me "Son, you can be whatever you want to be. You are only limited by your lack of ambition " And I want to be a squid. A squid now.
Parismio avatarParismio
Captain America: Civil War trailer dropped!: [youtube][/youtube]
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 -