My friends and I can spend hours talking about moments in video games that either made us cry or almost cry (Telltale Walking Dead, I'm looking at you right now). But we never really talk about the moments that absolutely failed or fell flat. Emotional moments in video games, much like film, television, or fiction, need to be earned. The player, reader, or viewer needs to build a connection with the characters in the piece in order to feel something when they leave, die, or go through some traumatic experience.
Games, in my opinion, have all of the trouble with this. Maybe the reason why the moments that work stick out in our head is because we aren't used to them and they don't normally happen while you play a video game. As games continue to garner love for their character depth and deep narrative structure, it's not surprising to me that other games try to achieve the same thing... But fail horribly.
One of the most infamous examples of this can be seen in the picture attached this block. Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare had a moment where you pressed a button at a funeral to "pay your respects" to a fallen comrade. Something that should be seen as an interesting, immersive moment completely fails because this happens very early on in the game. The connection between the main character and the character who dies isn't something that the player attaches themselves to at this point. There wasn't enough time to make the player really feel loss. The Call of Duty games are sort of known for this kind of emotional failure. They constantly have you play as characters who die or who have friends that die but you -- as the player -- never feel a connection to any of them. When the core gameplay mechanic is shooting people it's hard to feel anything when someone else in the game dies. No matter how important they are.
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves also succumbs to this "death-not-earned" emotional moment failure thing I'm talking about. At some point during the game you meet Karl Schafer who's an old spiritual man who knows all about finding Shambhala. That's cool, all this adventure stuff that makes me feel like I'm Indiana Jones is cool. But Schafer's death scene is one that is unfortunately terrible.
The player doesn't really interact with this character as much as they should. As soon as Schafer's introduced he's immediately taken away from us. Schafer's death could have been meaningful, it could have been a tear-jerker, or a sad-time. But it wasn't. If a more established character had been taken away during this game like Sully, I'd probably write about a different moment in games that was terrible.
Uncharted also suffers from the main gameplay mechanic being shooting guys so when a character we don't necessarily care about bites the dust, it's extremely hard for me to feel a certain way about it. I don't want to seem like I'm hating on the Uncharted series because I love it. But it took them 3 games for me to feel something emotional about any of the characters (I'll probably write a card about this moment in the near future).
Are there any moments in games that completely fell flat to you? Let me know in the comments or make your own card and I'll send you a tub of peanut butter*.
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*No I won't. Because I love peanut butter and I'm currently eating it right now.