Men don’t cry. Right? Tears are for the weak. But why is it then that all of us, men and women, have cried at something outside our own personal lives at some point or another. England being knocked out the world cup? The end of The Notebook? Or if you’re anything like my mother, when Harold left Neighbours. Even if none of these horrifically emotional moments were able to tug on your heart strings, surely at some point you have at least felt the formation of a non-cancerous lump in your throat or enjoyed the sickening feeling of your stomach twisting itself into a knot.
Emotions have hit us all at some point and up until last June, I was one of those who had drifted through life with little to no care at all about anything. It worried me slightly how unemotional I was with everything tangible or non tangible. No piece of media had ever made me cry (unless you count when my young eyes laid witness to the end of Titanic at the tender age of 7, but I don’t as I feel that my tears on that particular occasion were more over the emotional distress caused by the realisation that main characters can die) but on June 15th, at 4 o’clock in the morning, for a full forty five minutes, I sat on my bed and howled. I had just completed Metal Gear Solid 4.
I was as shocked as you are now. How was it that of all things, the first to make me cry in five years was a Playstation game. Later even I laughed at myself in the same way that I can imagine you are now but the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. Anytime I have ever told the story of myself that cutscene, I have always been met with the same “What the jeff is wrong with you?” look but with a simple question, the look is wiped right off their face. “Have you ever cried at a film?”
Generally, most have. While I won’t start the Films vs Games argument here (for reasons some may be aware of) I would like to highlight some of the advantages I feel that games can have over their 35mm counterparts. Think of any film that you have developed a connection with the characters in. Now imagine if you had affected the actions of that character. You had moved them to go where they needed to go and you had made them do whatever they needed to do. Suddenly that connection becomes a whole lot deeper and that’s what a game has to offer.
Sadly, not a lot of games tap into this and as a result we are left with most of the titles out there having poor stories, but the connections can still stand. Even time can contribute. I won’t spoil anything but one particular moment in Killzone 2 had much more power due to the fact that hours and hours had been spent with the character over the previous two titles and considering the quality of the story running through the series, no emotion should really have been felt at all.
Finally though, it’s in the animation. Games are becoming increasingly more and more lifelike. Yes, I’m aware that a minority of people were blubbering away at 2D sprites way back in the days of the SNES but as time has gone on you’ll see that more and more people have been found sobbing away with a controller in hand. I’m sure there are a fair few tear stained dualshocks in the world following the release of Final Fantasy VII, a title with simple 3D models and text boxes. Nowadays we have things like Nathan Drake and Solid Snake. There isn’t a moment where you can’t tell what they’re thinking or how they’re feeling. Then when they start speaking, you can get voice acting as good, and in some cases better, than what you’d hear at the cinema.
These characters are becoming real. They have emotions and they have feelings. We control what happens within the stories and I can’t wait to see how things like Heavy Rain will advance that in future. With the advances in technology and growthof the industry we can hopefully see more developers taking on deeper, more involving stories and characters which they can properly develop and include us in. With the install base consoles have and the potential they posses games are reaching more and more people. People accept a tear jerking film and now we’re starting to see acceptance of a tear jerking game. As the end of Call of Duty 4 proved, men do cry. People need to get used to it.
I’ve stood up and told you all of one of my most emasculating moments. Now what about you? I’ve set the ball rolling. This is TSA and we all stick together, even in our most shameful moments. Lets be honest, what have you cried at?