This essay was definitely the most traditional, analysis-heavy piece we had to write, asking us to formulate an essay looking at two of the many games we played in class and show how they dealt with trauma and emotions. Although it was “traditional,” the essay was still nothing like the boilerplate five paragraph essay that I was so tired of writing in high school. Getting started was really the hardest part, as the essay had to be structured in that the thesis of the argument was staged only at the end. This led me to floundering quite a bit when I tried to write the essay top-down. Only after planning it out and formulating my thesis was I able to frame my arguments; how sympathy and empathy were the main goals of Gone Home and Firewatch, respectively. After completing, I really could see that no matter how you structure your essay, the argument can still be strong as long as it is fleshed out, regardless of where the thesis was located.
What do mob bosses, British nobility, and cold-blooded corporate suits all have in common? They are all beloved characters in some of modern television’s most critically acclaimed television shows. In the “New Golden Age” of television, viewers were treated to profound, enthralling stories, tugging at audience’s emotional heartstrings by inspiring empathy for even the most despicable characters. For most of these stories, writers capture viewer’s attention by making relatable and complex characters that their audience grows attached to, from the family-man turned mad scientist of Walter White in Breaking Bad or the morally chaotic “Hood Boogeyman” who robs drug dealers, Omar, in HBO’s The Wire. The writing for these amazing works of art really sells its characters’ depth as real human beings with real emotions, rather than being larger-than-life hero types that viewers often find little in common with. Every heartbreak, every tragedy was shared with the audience, allowing viewers to see the many emotions that these complicated characters were going through.
Still, these creators were limited by their medium; no matter how much detail they wanted to add to their stories, the limits of network television constrained them to a third person perspective where the bulk of the emotional weight passed on to an audience was through the actor’s embodiment of the script given to them.
To experience genuine empathy for someone, the age-old saying “you will never understand another person’s story until you walk a mile in their shoes” asks one to consider the perspective of others before passing judgement. Of course, this famous proverb is metaphorical, no one is really expected to stroll around in another person’s shoes, right? While traditional forms of film are not interactive, when developers choose to use a game to frame their stories, it really is possible to walk miles in a character’s shoes, experiencing events as a part of the plot, rather than just watching as a story progresses. In the walking simulator games Firewatch and Gone Home, you take over the role of main characters, allowing you to feel the story firsthand, and really experience the emotions the writers want to elicit out of you.
Both games have the same fundamental structure of gameplay, with the main objective being to progress the story by exploring the expansive yet contained environment to find clues and more information. Neither game is very gameplay focused, rather using the many possibilities of an open, explorable environment as a tool to deliver the narrative that serves as the meat and potatoes of the game. Each game’s approach to narrative perspective is quite different, though. Firewatch has the player function as an actor, controlling the main character to make decisions that have direct impacts on their own story experience. Gone Home elects to have the player function as a detective, trying to figure out what happened to their character’s sister. This key difference is the one that makes its game unique from the other.
Firewatch is a beautiful game, with both stunning visuals and a surprisingly hard-hitting emotional story. The game places the player in the body of Henry – henceforth you, the player – starting off by meeting and falling for his wife, Julia. Although this prologue is short, the player builds a relationship with Julia that builds the foundation for the emotional knockout that precipitates the rest of the game, when Julia gets dementia and Henry is unable to take care of her. This curveball right at the beginning is reminiscent of Pixar’s Up, another work in which the main character loses his significant other. The most important distinction, though, is that Firewatch places you into the relationship, rather than watching a montage of the couple’s good times or reading diary entries about their love for one another. You feel the Henry’s heartbreak because Firewatch intends for you to become Henry and live his story, not watch it. The game truly ‘begins’ after you become a fire lookout at Two Forks, the setting for the rest of the game. This opening thrusts you into the belly of Firewatch’s most important character dynamic: you feel the helplessness of Henry’s character, and you empathize with Henry taking his chance to escape. This hurt that is opened from the beginning and the initial escape are themes that will be repeated and amplified as the story progresses.
Gone Home is markedly different from Firewatch in the sense that there is no profound opening sequence, just a phone call and a note from the player’s character’s parents telling them to make themselves feel at home after returning from a trip abroad. Arriving in the dark during a thunderstorm sets an uneasy tone that seems to foreshadow more sinister things waiting inside the empty home. The ‘detective’ aspect of the game makes itself apparent when the introduction and tutorial relays nothing of value other than: “Explore!” The game seemingly has no goal as the player is forced to look for any indications of what to do now that they are in the house. This uncertainty with the ominous setting of a dark mansion during a thunderstorm can initially mislead players that the game may have horror aspects – but the main plot couldn’t be further from that! Once the player realizes there probably is no plot development that stems from flushing the toilet over and over, they stumble onto a diary entry of Sam’s: the sister of the character the player is in. Continuing to explore, the player finds more and more of these entries and begins to realize the story that Gone Home is trying to tell, one of high school romance and drama. These diary entries comprise of the main theme of Gone Home: the emotional effect forbidden love has on a high school girl. As the player follows the sister’s journey of joy and depression, the game begs the player to relate to Sam’s feelings
While Gone Home and Firewatch have the same skeleton structure of gameplay, they frame their narratives fundamentally different, with Firewatch placing the player as the main character of its story, while Gone Home allows the player to uncover the story it tries to tell. Both games ask the player to consider a character’s story by making them literally walk in a character’s shoes. They tell compelling stories about characters using nothing but pathos to inspire emotion in the player, with Firewatch bringing the player to empathize with Henry’s plight, and Gone Home showing the player their sister’s story, raising sympathy and nostalgic hope for the misunderstood teen. Ultimately, the true impact of these stories are
This week, we had to make visual notes, taking what we had written down before, and converting it into a more appealing, “flowy” version of itself. My friends and I also infused elements from anime to make important information “Pop” compared to others. This was really fun, while also
We had to recreate a famous scene from a movie this week, and I wanted to pick one from the best actor in one of my favorite movies: Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight. I may have hammed it up a little bit, but this was my attempt at a monologue that earned Heath Ledger a posthumous Academy Award! Against that kind of competition, I think my 2-bit Joker with a leering Batman sticker behind him
Over the last few classes, my group had been spending time in developing a concept for a video game of our own! This whole time in class, we have been playing and dissecting games from the perspective of players, but now we got to experience what it was like to put a story of our own into the form of an interactive, non-linear framework of a text-based game. Even making a bare-bones prototype up for a game demonstrated how intensive this form of storytelling can be. This is why my group had a good method for breaking up the task into fundamental parts: story, gameplay, and marketing.
Once we had understood the capabilities of the Twine software – learning how to make branching paths, actually coding the options, and writing in the bar effects, expansion of the game became much easier. Honestly, most of our time was spent on learning how to code the many exponential paths each option resulted in. Our “gimmick” was having the character wake up day after day and make seemingly repetitive menial decisions to emulate the Groundhog Day effect of the pandemic, where days seem to be the same events over and over. We then were able to integrate an overarching story through our use of a frame story, where the character exposits by writing their college essay, or dream ranting. Overall, making just this demo of a text-based game showed me just how challenging game development can be, giving me a whole new sense of respect for both indie and triple-A studios making new, amazing games.
This week we had to produce our final podcast episode. Its crazy to think that we are basically at the end of the semester! In addition to this, our game project is also due, so my group decided divide and conquer. As a challenge, though, we wanted to pick a game that wasn’t a true video game to serve as a change to the already videogame-packed week. So, we decided to analyze the game of fantasy football. This episode was definitely different from many of the others of The Longest Rainy Sunday, but I think we made some good points when it came to analyzing a separate type of game. Once again, we utilized this “dry run” method to see what worked and what needed improving, and my editing job has obviously progressed from unsavory to somewhat decent! This episode was really evident in showing how I could use this class in writing and analyzing things other than video games. Our group was able to structure an argument that used evidence to look at the benefits of “playing the game” of fantasy football.
This week, it was time for round two of producing the class podcast The Longest Rainy Sunday. Last time, we had the daunting task of making the first episode. Now, more episodes have been produced, we now know what our show should generally cover when it comes to analyzing a game. This time though, we accounted for the time it takes to actually develop a script and show that puts forward a cohesive argument. So, we developed a strategy that I think worked out well. Over the week, we thought up our central argument, building an outline that then expanded on each point that we could talk about. As the deadline grew closer, we then did what we called a “disaster run” where we just tried to organically build a show from the outline. By not stopping mistakes we knew what ideas in our outline needed to have more structured, scripted pieces and wrote down some of the talking points we made in our first run. I think this led to us making a great episode with fleshed out arguments – and I learned a lot about old-school Mario!
This week we were tasked with writing and producing the first episode of our class’s podcast: The Longest Rainy Sunday. For this inaugural episode, my group decided to do a game we unanimously appreciated: Minecraft. This task seemed really easy at first because Minecraft’s sandbox structure makes it a versatile game in which a player’s possibilities are seemingly endless. Unfortunately, the same sandbox structure complicated our analysis of the game as there were so many angles we each wanted to examine it from. The day before the deadline, we tried recording off our outline to give a more free-flowing conversational style of podcast episode, but in practice – it is hard to read cues of when to jump in on a topic when everyone is virtual and recording. Still, I think our episode was generally a success for a first episode. The editing was a bit off, with the music awkwardly playing in the middle of the episode but I think we now know what to do in preparation and in post-production for our future episodes of the podcast.
This essay allowed me to figure out what components were necessary to make such games carry out deep emotion. In games that I analyzed, Gris and Depression Quest allowed me to see failure through a new light. As instead of just playing these games, I analyzed them to understand their deeper meanings. The new structure of writing a comparative essay without an introduction was annoying for me because I still felt as though I wrote an introduction in my first paragraph. It was brief to help a classmate see my perspective on this, but felt necessary. It was difficult to make such a “slim” essay. What I mean by this is that I explain my points and conclude. For my first time, it felt like a literary version of a PowerPoint presentation. The claims that I used were more so dealing with how the player was supposed to play and what causes were to be found. This thought process taken by both games explains how we can heal ourselves while in tough times, emotionally.
Gris and Depression Quest vary in their portrayal of how one can recuperate from injury over the long run. Gris proposes that casualties can create a more grounded and stronger rendition of their past self while Depression Quest suggests that injury turns into an undaunted occupant in casualties’ brains. Initially, the medium through which each game is played speaks to the vicinity of injury to the person in question. Gris is adequately a platformer, similar to the first Mario or Donkey Kong games that highlight persistent development to one side or up. Despite the fact that there are a couple of circumstances where one should move somewhat in reverse, which can be contrasted with difficulties in the recuperation stage, the following stage is regularly at the right-most area. Moving constantly right, Gris goes through the phases of despondency and closures at acknowledgment, and in doing such, she builds up many apparatuses for pushing ahead. For instance, rushes of outrage, encapsulated by angry maroon breezes, can be met with versatility, as change into an inflexible square. Each stage carries new capacities to the characters, eventually expanding the distance among injury and the person in question while debilitating the impact of injury. The game even finishes with a lovely cutscene of a foul dim snake animal, overpowered by the light, filling the divided lady’s body and restoring the shading and succeeding to the game’s setting. This is met with a last tear from the revamped stone lady, proposing injury builds up an advantageous relationship with the person in question, filling in as a dismal token of both their passionate strength and enduring scars. In Depression Quest, the game’s consummation presents to you, the player, a little further on the way to recuperation. Sensations of pity, void, and defenselessness have not continued as before – snapshots of satisfaction have traveled every which way – however there has been no conclusive pattern towards the sensation of harmony present at Gris’ perfection. Moreover, while Gris adventures a feeling of association and control – players move left and right however they see fit the job that needs to be done, it turns out to be clear, finishes development to one side – Depression Quest makes no such concession. There are no gamely assignments, such as sorting out levels or taking a troublesome leap, leaving the player scrambling to fulfill their feeling of play and waywardly giving a valiant effort to have their game character comprehend discouragement and discover achievement. Here, the snare snaps shut, as the engineers constructed the game to maintain a strategic distance from any similarity to the application Episode or The Sims. An illustration of this lies in the annihilated choices: instead of simply eliminating ways the player can’t follow, the game keeps them in the blend however crosses them out, just facilitating one’s battle to prevail as every open door for development is met with inevitable relapse to the starting point, entirely all the way to the finish. While Gris permits you to wander out of the dull spot, Depression Quest keeps you endlessly at battle with its numerous heads, each game contributing an alternate image of the consequence of recuperation from injury.
Gris and Depression Quest offer comparable portrayals of the manner in which injury is befuddling. Despite the fact that Gris gives both a more hopeful and coordinated, story-like viewpoint of recuperation than Depression Quest, the two games speak to how recuperation from injury has much impasse. As it so happens in Gris’ down, the player is given minute guidelines from both an essential viewpoint and from an exacting one: the player basically isn’t given the console bearings for how to move. Testing plays into this, as the engineers cross classes here, infusing an open-world component into an essentially 2-dimensional game. Testing has various neurological advantages, yet the main advantage here is that it powers the player into the situation of tossing their hands noticeable all around and contemplating, in all probability in any event, considering surrendering. Thanks to examining, the game plan powers the player to look cautiously, acknowledge a specific level of dissatisfaction, and be prepared to come up short. These characteristics imitate the befuddling idea of horrible mishaps that frequently leave casualties uncertain of how to push ahead. Melancholy Quest, then again, has no open world components and gives not many occasions to examining (past the previously mentioned want to ‘dispense with’ despondency and be fruitful, which just can freely be classified under testing) since the game is played through the imageless vehicle of circumstances where one settles on decisions. All things being equal, Depression Quest utilizes the ineffective aftereffects of alternatives the player makes as a demonstration of the befuddling idea of discouragement. Initially, the decisions the player gets are frequently founded on eliminating oneself from a condition of moping rather than moving one into a condition of prospering. At the end of the day, the choices forestall torment as opposed to giving satisfaction, which puts a huge strain on the player’s fill-in objective of surpassing their psychological instability. Besides, the dim, soggy overhand that is wretchedness rapidly quenches any endeavors to discover some similarity to unwinding or achievement. You as the player need to succeed, however the current alternatives don’t take into consideration much upward portability, and when they do, the slight improvement is adequately discredited by an attack of decisions that take you back to the beginning stage. The final product of these two perspectives is that the game is equivalent amounts of confounding and disappointing, and keeping in mind that toward the beginning cynics may highlight the game structure itself and battle the story is fixed to paint an unreasonable picture of discouragement (the very unreasonable rationale that recommends those experiencing melancholy attempt to be upbeat), the dismal truth is that downturn works accurately in this style (however, note that downturn influences every individual in an unexpected way): the staggering feeling of injustice and disarray is certifiably not a game-driven component yet rather a genuine portrayal of sorrow. Despite the fact that Gris and Depression Quest vary from multiple points of view, the two of them furnish their players with an unfiltered articulation of how the way to recuperation from injury is overflowing with continuous mental fights that procure solid sensations of disarray and dissatisfaction.
Gris and Depression Quest at last propose that the way toward mending requires deliberately making a move. The two games show that recuperation from injury is befuddling and disappointing, however the basic contrast in the two games is that while Depression Quest offers a grim viewpoint for change, Gris proposes recuperation is a characteristic game-plan that, while testing, is a fundamental cycle for development. The character in Depression Quest endeavors to take on their psychological instability by settling on decisions, however there is a characteristic mistake. Despondency Quest exhibits that only creation decisions that appear to be correct isn’t sufficient to begin the recuperating cycle. Without effectively playing a part in one’s emotional well-being, injury is an unflinching part of their life, and the closeness of the injury to their every day schedule remains precisely the equivalent. While the facts confirm that both Gris and Depression Quest portray the way to recuperation as confounding and disappointing, Gris shows the significance of conclusive strides toward mending, which exhibits that with complete advances – in any event, when they are entirely off-base and cause the
character to relapse – one pushes ahead and can take on progressively troublesome difficulties. The main takeaway is that to recuperate from injury, one should be striking and conclusive, just as unafraid of judgment and disappointment, and with sufficient opportunity and practice committed to mending, one may not ‘beat’ injury into blankness, however they can make an adaptation of themselves that is sufficiently able to let it become a fortifying section of their character.