[[image:090514_aerith.jpg:Boo-freaking-hoo:right:0]]I had a bit of a epiphany recently. While listening to someone describe the emotional impact they felt after the death of Aerith in Final Fantasy VII, I realized I was completely unable to relate. This started me thinking, and my train of thoughts eventually led to the revelation that I’ve never been impacted emotionally by any video game, ever.
The thing is, I’m a crier. I cry when I watch movies. I cry when I read books. Sometimes I’ve been brought to tears by a really well-made movie trailer or commercial. I sob at the end of The Iron Giant every damn time. So why don’t I care when a character in a videogame dies?
I think I play videogames differently than the people who cite Aerith dying as a pivotal moment in their life. I’m barely immersed — video games are often something I do while multitasking. I listen to audiobooks or podcasts while I work through single-player games. I usually skip cutscenes — although I’ve made exceptions for games whose narrative interested me in some way. Star Wars: The Force Unleashed and Metal Gear Solid 4 were two games I played partly because of the narrative, and both feature moments that were intended to be heart-wrenching… yet they left me cold.
Why doesn’t game narrative affect me the way other kinds of storytelling do? Is it the interactive aspect? Is it the fact that I’m bad at games, and by the time a character “dies” in a cutscene, they’ve died at my own hands over and over due to my inept play, thus desensitizing me to the idea? Maybe it’s a side effect of the uncanny valley, the fact that no matter how realistic the CG is in gaming, it’s not yet close enough to real life to stop being slightly creepy.
Or is the problem that game stories just suck? Maybe. But I haven’t given up on games as a possible source for narrative. Looking forward to the release of Heavy Rain, hearing about how seriously the developers are taking the narrative, I’m intrigued and plan on checking it out. Maybe this will the game that shatters my heart of glass? Until then, I’ll be over here, sobbing over this long-distance phone company commercial.