I love any game that can give me a tear-jerker ending. Funnily enough I haven't played any of the games on that list though I'll add a few personal ones.
Heavy Rain. It broke my heart to see Ethan's devotion along with the music that accompanied. I know it was me that made Ethan like that but still.
Bioshock 2. The ending. I got the Happy One. But it still made me a little sad. And I watched the other endings and there are some that just break my heart. Those are the two that are freshest in my mind.
I have a similar tick with films or TV Shows where I love ones that make me cry. Heck I'll rewatch specific episodes because they made me cry. Weird.
Damn, still have yet to play Shadow and Metal Gear Solid 4 so I had to skip those sections. Otherwise, fantastic article. I too love a game or movie that tugs at the heartstrings, so long as it is in a meaningful way, not just prying for cheap tears. FFVII did this perfectly in my opinion.
There is the notion that games are just fun escapism. But most of us know better that there's more there, including the ability to render emotional moments that resonate with the audience. Sometimes it's all around you, as in Shadow of the Colossus, but the point about it seeping in slowly is very important.
Though that game also has an element of the second, sudden loss too
with Agro's plunge off the cliff; when the horse appeared again, my eyes went wide, I felt relief, and went AGRO!!!
Now, that's emotional investment. Everything is just so desolate, and yet the game is never gimmicky.
We're human, and it's only natural to want to explore the range of emotion. That said, yes, of course some developers will want to create fun experiences. But even in 'fun' games, there's an opportunity to explore tough emotions. Take Psychonauts, for example.
I think it's also only natural for a well-rounded gamer to encounter some of these experiences and pay close attention to them. Life is emotionally draining sometimes, but sometimes a book or movie that is so, can still be incredibly satisfying. Games too.
And, even knowing exactly what was going to happen (since I only played Final Fantasy VII three years ago), I still wept uncontrollably at the moment of Aeris' death. Moreso, actually, since because I knew what would happen, the whole trek through the ruins was filled with dread.
MSG 4, was just one of those "How much can you PUNISH the hero" Games.
I loved the scene moving through the microwave panels and the screen starts to split of everyone else getting beat down, ripped apart, stabbed, shot, just destroyed and the game makes it look like you going to die... and you keep crawling with that big NO screw that, how much more do you have to torment this man?
As for FF7 I was pretty shocked when Areith died...
But more shocked Cloud then Drowned and sank her motionless body.... Yo spiky... two words Phoenix down!
Why did this time change? You could just popped her a PD and bang...but no...
Great list, I totally had moments with all of those games. Especially Shadow of the Colossus. A bigger gut-wrencher for me in the Final Fantasy series was the ending of FF-X. It was a little easier for me to get invested in a love interest that didn't look like a Super Mario Bros. character.
Speaking for myself I'm a romantic, I play games as a form of escapism to get away from the negativity of reality for the most part. I don't mind some dramatic tension, and scenes of loss, but I feel ultimatly a good game ends on a high note. It doens't have to be overblown and dramatic, but shouldn't be gut wrenching either, despite the lead in.
Some of the games above did things well, other games not so much. For example I think "Shadow Of The Colossus" is more emo than simply dealing with a bit of loss. Final Fantasy VII was generally okay, but truthfully I didn't care for the ambigious ending despite it being one of my favorite installments in the series (okay, well my favorite).
I guess you can consider horror games an exception, but even so I tend to feel that there should be a "good" ending.
As far as Fable 2 goes, that should probably be considered an example of what *NOT* to do in a game dealing with these kinds of themes. Largely because not only do they not go through with it entirely (ie you can kill your spouse but not your kids if your going that way) but most of the major plot points about loss and morality are incredibly arbitrary, which to some might be "realistic" but here it was just annoying. You have to choose between sacrificing someone, or being turned into an octogenerian. If you win the game in order to be "good" you need to sacrifice your dog which makes it difficult to play the game on past that point (though arguably by doing so you probably bring back the person whose youth you sacrificed for your own). To me I felt little attachment to these kinds of things because I ultimatly had no real control over them. Ditto for the whole attitude in Fable 2 that if your going to be anything but a vegan, your going to turn into a giant porker within like 20 minutes.
Shadow of the Colossus is the only one on this list I haven't played yet, but of the other three none affected me as much as Fable 2, because I had to choose.
I didn't feel loss for Aires death (partly because back when I played it most people still thought she would return), and by the end of MGS4 I was just begging for the cutscenes to wrap up (not the games fault I shouldn't have completed it at 3am) though the aging and loss of youth did remind me of seeing my own fathers health slowly degenerate and touch me deeply because of that throughout the game. Fable forced me to be selfish or self-sacrificing, and because I was then able to reenter the world, my choice persisted.
True most of the sadness I will experience in life will be fated, unchangeable, but those of for losses of people I have spent a significant part of my life forming bonds with, not an artificial character.
Thank you SO much for bringing up The Wire, best show on television.
I remember, towards the end of the season, Chris and Snoop were chasing this kid (who had sort of been hanging out with them) through an abandoned warehouse. It built up the tension wonderfully, but something felt...off. They were being too dramatic about it. The chase ends with the kid shooting them both...and then we find out that they weren't real pistols that they all had, they were paintball guns that looked real, and Chris and Snoop were just training the kid. I remember being annoyed at first, but the more I think about it, the better this seems. I should have realized as soon as they treated the "deaths" dramatically that there would be some sort of subversion coming up, and they did not disappoint.
We play those games that hurt, for within the sadness is a spark of life, our life, proof that we can still feel and be moved.
I've played through most of FFXIII, and it is such a dissapointment, the series was usually known for its deep compelling stories and complex characters, but the story is incomprehensible, the characters are melodramatic and unlikeable and one bit which I honestly thought was a stroke of beauty, turned out to be a fraud. I really hope they can pull it together for the next game.