So a video game is a fictional world,yes? Those worlds can have entirely different ways of life than the reality we all know and as such common sense might differ from our mindset, we can all agree to this I believe. I see them face a moment with a simple decision to do from even a purely logical standpoint and… what did I just watch? Did they seriously ignore that point? Wait what are you doing now you fo- oh come on can we please get someone with some common sense behind the steering wheel of this plot, I’m gonna burst a blood vessel or 50. What is it with characters in games and to some extent media as a whole that just do or don’t do the simplest of things?!
I understand that there are some plots that only exist as an extension of a lack of logic, horror movies often rely on people doing the stupid thing to not only get to the premise but also push the narrative forward at each corner. Sometimes having people do the logical thing or the sensible thing would destroy the flow of the narrative, but then I feel there is something inherently wrong about that. If you need people to be stupid to get anything to happen, what stakes do I hold in this story if the only reason bad things happen to you are because you are an idiot? Is my whole motivation for this ragtag band of characters to fight against basic karma, that when you do stupid shit had things happen to you? I’m not buying it sir, this concept leaves a bad taste in my mouth and I know we can do better, just look around at all the others creating tension and drama in a situation where the characters and audience are as surprised as each other. There is a strong bond formed between people who meet with similar minds in real life, I get along great with some friends because we just seem to match trains of thought so well.
Some of my favourite characters are ones who react to each situation as I feel I might, where they are subject to the the world around them rather than the bane that is their cognitive processes. I bring all this up after I had a recent talk with the previously mentioned friend about the moments in games where we shouted at the screen, whatever reason it may be. My mos prominent memory? During a JRPG known as Tales Of Xillia, there is the little girl pictured at the start called Elize. She is a bit of a socially shy character although she shows comfort around the main party rather well, much of her plot focuses around not knowing what is the situation with her parents. Throughout the game we find small clues and drops of critical information that finalize as Elize discovering from the character who she saw as her carer before the story that they are dead. Worse still? It was his doing (it wasn’t as active as he phrased it, but he saw it essentially as doing it with his own hands). Suffice to say, she is distraught with a feeling of loneliness and emptiness in her life, it is clear to absolutely everyone she had been holding out hopes they might be alive and the news has struck her deep. So what does everyone around her do? Eh, we push the problem to the side for a bit, don’t confront it and just sort of….watch. My initial reaction to everything I was seeing? Well it was basically the post title, I don’t care what excuse you need to make or what have you, GIVE THE SAD GIRL A FUCKING HUG YOU NEANDERTHAL.
Is it just me? Am I the only one who reacts to seeing someone I care about upset with a insatiable need to go comfort and hug that person? I know I am a very uhh… “huggy” person and I really enjoy expression of physical affection, nonetheless it absolutely cannot be me. I can think of a multitude of reasons why they didn’t have them hug honestly, some of them rather sound reasons. It is only a PS3 title, I don’t think we have the technology to have two computer models embrace each other in a way I might register as anything other than clipping issues and awkward floating hand placements, especially on a console. Give it some time and we might have some fantastic model work that can be run in your front room at a reasonable price. There is also the point that these characters weren’t particularly close, hell the whole party seemed like friends without the physicality of being friends, I know not everyone can feel comfortable like that with everyone of their friends.
I have also considered one main point that keeps nagging at me: cultural differences. I don’t pretend to know much about Japanese culture and social norms and I likely never will but I’m pretty sure they have some sort of differing perspective on public displays of affection, whether or not this applies as far as say a gesture of comfort is something I couldn’t know. Even with that in mind, there isn’t much in the area of physical affection and loving cuddles or any of that kind of thing from Western games, nothing from America in recent memory really applied itself to some affection. Perhaps there is something I’m missing, maybe there is still a bit of a strong belief that showing care and love is a sign of weakness? I doubt it but some people are stubborn, you can never be sure.
I can play a game and not love the story but I’d be a horrendous liar if I said it doesn’t hamper my experience. It could arguably be a boring plot as long as there are characters I can believe aren’t pushing each encounter forward with sudden losses of logic and common sense. I still to this day get that little vein on the top left of my skull popping out when I think of the 3 or 4 scenes they just ignore someone in distress. I feel very comfortable saying that I am generally the kind of person to jump at the sight of someone in distress, assuming I don’t have reason to think they deserve it of course. I think I can also state that myself and many gamers would have gone a different route in many game plots and the fact that there is this disconnect between who I am and who I’m supposed to be can damage the experience.
I think there may be too much of a movie mentality sometimes for some developers, more so in the idea that some are jealous of the kind of praise and maturity that focuses around a movie, often resorting to size and flare, misuse of the word “epic” to the point most just sigh at the sound of the word. Gaming is an experience, an experience is far much more a sociological and psychological endeavour. I remember Boom Blox and the simple idea behind it was that it picked up on a mentality most children go through: piling things up and knocking them over. Personally I believe there were issues with the game but I praise this sort of thinking. I expect games to exist where you play with sand moulding castles. Games need to become more about the player and the characters moving forward in my mind, we gotta stop falling back on story tropes as old as some of the first stories, at least not in such a straight and simple format. I want to see far more characters I can feel are people rather than characters, who do what I do, say what I might say and beyond. I look forward to making new friends in fiction.
When was the last time you just stopped getting along with a characters odd decisions? Do you think that a plot based around stupidity can have merits? Who are the characters you really resonated with during play, who really felt like a someone rather than a fantastic array of polygons and particles? Thanks for the read and I’ll see you around.