Monday, 16 February 2009

Emotion in Games

The following is an excerpt of a great article, "Retro: Where Time Stood Still" by Kieron Gillen
Where’s Gloria?

I turn back and find her standing motionless over Dirk’s corpse.

I inch closer until I’m by her side. I move away.

She doesn’t follow.

I don’t know what to do. Eventually, I head back and try again. And this time, at last she turns and follows me on our inevitably doomed mission, leaving her dead spouse behind her.

I wonder what the Asian market make of Gloria? Perhaps she can be redesigned with large pixels.

Now, as an adult, I’m aware it could just be the ghost in the machine. Its pathfinding was never great at the best of times, and it could have just got a little confused. But that doesn’t matter – that pang that ran through me, that minor-key recognition of unexpected humanity in a sprite’s behaviour is the sort of thing which helped cement my belief in the potential of games. Yes, as I’ve argued at length, gaming’s visceral pleasures are worthy of respect in and of themselves. But how I felt right then made me realise that, against everything which my culture told me, that’s not all they could do.

And with everything from mass-market successes like Bioshock to underground cult text adventures like Galatea, it’s a lesson that’s be restated many times since. And any time one of them strikes, and a game takes me somewhere unexpected, I find myself thinking back to looking at a woman standing over the body of a man; back to a moment when time stood still.

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