July 2009

We’re keeping you in the know about this month’s big releases.  Here’s what’s notable on the horizon:

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time Re-Shelled (8/5)

The side-scrolling remake from Ubisoft looks to be another strong part of Microsoft’s Summer of Arcade.   READ MORE

Nothing screams “excitement and fun” like turn-of-the-century archaeology: the weeks of research, the sitting through interminable lectures at congresses, the painstaking sifting through sand-covered ruins only to come up with handfuls of worthless debris… Well, ok — I know that sounds duller than dishwater; even Indiana Jones couldn’t make a decent movie out of just pure archaeology. But that is in fact the theme of Thebes, designed by Peter Prinz and published by Queen Games in 2007, and it is actually much more entertaining than it sounds.

Depending on the number of players, Thebes plays out over a span of two to three years, represented by a 52-segment scoring track ringing the board. Every action requires a given number of weeks to complete. The active player is whoever’s marker is earliest in the current year (in the event of a tie, the most recent player to move his marker to that week’s space goes first), thus creating a strategic trade-off: the more time you spend one a given action, the better your (potential) rewards, but other players might be able to complete more actions in the same span of time and gain an advantage through sheer numbers.

Four cards are dealt face-up to the board at the start of the game, revealing research opportunities to increase your general or specific Knowledge and other preparatory actions (research assistants, congresses, tools, cars, rumors, etc.) available at specific board locations; each card lists how much time it requires to claim its reward and is replaced from the deck immediately after claiming it. Other actions include moving around the board, consuming one week per segment of your trip. One week can also be spent at a specific location to discard all four cards and refresh the choices. Later on in the game, special exhibitions will emerge from the deck that will allow you to spend time to earn more points if you have collected the corresponding numbers of artifacts. Finally, you can travel to one of the Ancient Civilizations and dig for as many weeks as you want to spend.

In order to determine that, the game provides each player a dial that indicates your level of Knowledge with the civilization you’re excavating, from one to twelve. Dialing in to your level gives you a list of numbers lined up to an index of weeks. Spending a given number of weeks allows you the displayed number of “pulls” from that civilization’s bag. Each bag contains a dozen artifacts* of various values (these values and amounts are public knowledge, indicated on special cards kept separate), two special Knowledge tokens, and twelve blank tokens representing worthless debris (my group calls these “sand” for shorthand). If you pull out one of the good tokens, you get to keep it and earn its points or add its Knowledge to your base; if you pull out debris, it goes back in the bag when you’re done to be pulled out again later! The first player to “break ground” in a given location receives a guaranteed 1-point artifact in addition to whatever he actually pulls out of the bag. You can only excavate each location once per year, so plan carefully.

The game ends once all players have completed the year 1903; you cannot spend any weeks beyond the end of that year, so you might end up sacrificing the last few weeks due to having no productive plays available. Each player totals up the value of his discovered artifacts, congress cards, and exhibition cards; additionally, whoever has the most specific Knowledge of a given civilization earns a five-point bonus (per civilization). The most points wins, although there is no given method for breaking ties.

Thebes is loaded with strategic choices, mostly revolving around the very limited amount of time you have. The key to the game, unfortunately, is the random chance of what you pull out of the “dig” bags. Even the best-laid plans can wind up with you effectively stranded out in the middle of the desert if you randomly pull out a bunch of trash despite the odds. While the randomness can be a nuisance, Thebes is an otherwise-solid strategy game that can be enjoyed in about an hour by up to four players.

*These artifacts are depictions of actual museum relics from their respective civilizations, such as King Tut’s Mask. The manual provides a brief description of each, for a nice educational bonus.

Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood is a prequel to the original game. The story, is pretty accessible even if you have no idea what happened in the original, or don’t know the McCall brothers. It revolves around the two brothers, Ray and Thomas McCall, both out to find the treasure of Juarez and rebuild their family’s property that was destroyed during the end of the Civil War. It’s a pretty basic story, but it has a few nice twists and very compelling characters to make it more than a generic western.

The voice acting is something that stands out to me as some of the best I’ve heard in quite a while. Marc Alaimo and Zach Hanks do fantastic jobs as both Ray and Thomas, giving the player the impression that these two characters both are as ruthless as they seem. Then there is the music, which suits the game’s setting and story perfectly, and gives the game even more of a “western” feel. The game has a pretty stunning look as well, although there are a few graphical hiccups here and there, but nothing too noticeable. Also, sometimes during cutscenes, the voices never match up directly with the lip syncing of the characters. Again, it’s not a huge problem, but something noteworthy.

The original Call of Juarez told an interesting tale, but it was sadly dampened by a lack of compelling gameplay. There were unnecessary stealth and platforming sections, and the gunplay always felt a bit off at times. However, Bound in Blood does away with the stealth and focuses solely on gunplay, and this is where the game truly shines. It improves upon the original in just about every way, and gives a pretty satisfying western experience to those who have either enjoyed the original, or are getting into the series for the first time. It’s clear how the developer, Techland, has improved upon the great ideas seen in the first. The shooting mechanics are near perfect, and you can really feel the power behind these older, but still very efficient weapons. Aiming doesn’t feel spotty anymore, as it did in the first, and the game really has no control problems to speak of.

The enemy A.I. is pretty tough, and with multiple enemies on screen at once, things can get pretty hectic. Luckily, the game has a “cover system” of sorts that lets you lean out from behind an object to shoot at enemies. It doesn’t work all of the time, like in a game such as Killzone 2, but it can definitely be a useful thing to have when you are practically surrounded. Throughout most of the game, you’ll be together with your brother (depending on who you picked to play as yourself), and they are generally helpful. Something annoying I found is the game sends you back to the last checkpoint if you leave your brother too far behind. He’s generally smart, but he can get stuck behind certain objects when you’re trying to simply progress to the next area.

You can control either Thomas or Ray. There aren’t many differences between them, and the story generally stays the same despite certain points where the two split up. The only differences are smaller things; for example, Thomas can use a rope to climb to higher areas, and has more speed, while Ray can use explosives such as dynamite to clear out areas. There’s no real reason to pick one over the other, so I just say flip a coin. However, this game is desperate for some kind of co-op mode. It would have made perfect sense, since both brothers are almost always together or at least in the same mission. Even a co-op mode that is different from the single player campaign would have been nice to see, but instead we get nothing. 

You can also ride horses in the game, but it seems awkward, since you are riding a horse while aiming with a gun with both hands. It just all looks weird on screen, but it’s not a big complaint. There are also the duels, which feel just as tense as a real duel should, as you and your opponent circle each other and wait until a single bell toll signals the draw. You have to be quick though, because later opponents may be much faster than you had ever anticipated. And of course I can’t forget the slow motion powers you get. Each one allows you to take out a group of enemies at once, and is slightly different depending on which brother you play as.

So the single player is pretty solid, it all looks and sounds great, and the story kept me interested from start to finish. So how about the multiplayer? It’s fun, but it feels like an afterthought, like most multiplayer found in games now. There are some pretty fun modes, but none of them feel as fleshed out as they should be. Plus, maybe it was just when I was playing, but I couldn’t find too many people playing the online, so I didn’t get a good amount of time with it as I would have liked. It’s a nice diversion, but nothing you’ll keep coming back to.

Overall, Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood is a fine shooter, and it is a huge improvement over the original in every single way. It’s not for everyone, but for shooter fans looking for a nice western fix should enjoy it.

ESRB: M for mature. Very realistic violence, language is suggestive and has high-level swears

Pros: Has a well written story; Fantastic voice acting and music that sets the mood perfectly; controls and aiming feel spot on; the game has a nice amount of challenge in the later levels

Cons: A few graphical problems, such as poor lip-syncing on the character models; lack of co-op is a huge disappointment; multiplayer feels like an afterthought

Ghostbusters: The Video Game is clearly made for Ghostbusters fans, by Ghostbusters fans. That’s not to say those unfamiliar with the Ghostbusters won’t enjoy it, but it’s definitely a more enjoyable game if you have seen the movies and can appreciate the story and humor a bit more. The original cast is here, and despite Bill Murray sounding kind of bored during a lot of the game, their voices make the experience that much better. The story is pretty much what you’d expect, as you follow the Ghostbusters team as a new recruit. I would have enjoyed a character creation instead of being stuck with a voiceless, generic character, but hey, it’s still nice to be a part of the team.

There is all of the Ghostbusters music you may or may not remember from the films, including the theme, which you will be hearing a lot of. I do have to say that the music works for the game, but clearly it was made just for a two hour long movie, not for an eight hour long game. The theme song itself might even get on your nerves after a while, as you hear it every time the game is loading (which happens a lot), and the loading may take over a minute at certain times. So, I guess if you’re a huge fan of the theme, you certainly won’t mind (but I guarantee you will begin to detest it soon enough), but the long loading times are a bit ridiculous. 

Fans will appreciate the game’s look and feel. While the Wii and PS2 versions of the game try to go for a cartoony look, the 360 and PS3 versions are trying their best to re-create as much of the look of the films as they can. And developer Terminal Reality does a fantastic job of doing so, with the game looking very nice overall, and every character really does look like his real life counterpart. 

The gameplay is pretty much solid. If I were to compare it to anything, it plays kind of similar to a standard third person shooter, except you are shooting streams from your newly developed Proton Pack. You also have several other attacks, including the very powerful Boson Dart, a stronger Proton attack to weaken ghosts, and other packs such as the Slime Blower, which is used to defeat ghosts that cannot be simply captured. The packs need to be monitored and recharged if you use too much of their power, but it’s only to prevent you from continually using the streams. Consider it like “reloading” in a shooter. 

You have two basic enemy types, creatures (or ghosts) you can capture, and creatures you can destroy. The ones you capture require you to attack with the stream, and then use the same stream to grab and pull them into a ghost trap once you weaken them enough. You also have your basic dodge or roll move to avoid incoming attacks. Your health does recover over time, but you need to be careful, because you can get down quicker than you thought (which requires you to be revived by one of the other Ghostbusters). If all of the Ghostbusters around you are also down, then it’s game over. Your teammates aren’t the brightest, but they are generally pretty helpful, just expect to revive them a lot. I unlocked the achievement for reviving teammates twenty times within the second mission of the game. 

You also have to be careful not to do too much damage to property when you are capturing ghosts, because it is taken out of your final reward for finishing the mission. But it’s generally not a problem at all, since you will get enough money to upgrade your different weapon packs and your different ghost traps. These power-ups are definitely useful in many different situations, especially the slam dunk trap, which lets you capture ghosts much faster than the normal method of trying to pull it towards the trap as it attempts to escape. Trapping ghosts can be a bit tough at first, but with the right upgrades, it all becomes pretty easy, which is good because you’ll be taking on a lot of ghosts at once during certain points of the game.

Sometimes the game is a bit dark, even with the flashlight (which turns on automatically), so expect to have to turn your brightness up at certain parts. Also, when there are multiple ghosts flying around, and all of your team mates are trying to capture them, things can get a bit crazy, and it may be hard to tell where the ghosts actually are. Also, being knocked down by ghosts tends to be annoying, mainly because sometimes it can take a while to actually get back up. And when you do, you could be nearly dead and surrounded by enemies, with nothing you can do about it.

One last disappointment is the lack of co-op. You can do a few co-op specific campaign missions over Xbox Live, but it’s no substitute for being able to play the entire game with a friend or two. You can in the Wii version, but not the 360/PS3 version. 

Aside from a few problems, Ghostbusters: The Video Game is a lot of fun, and it is consistently very funny (just like the movies). This is a great time to bring this classic series back, for fans new and old, and this game is the best way to do so. If you consider yourself a Ghostbusters fan, you have no reason not to get this game.

ESRB: T for teen. It’s faithful to the movie, which is PG-13 kind of material. Scary monsters, etc.

Pros: The game retains all of the humor you expect from the Ghostbusters; the game is, graphically, very detailed; the controls are solid; the game is generally a blast to play

Cons: Long loading times take you out of the experience; lack of true co-op is a disappointment; your allies aren’t too smart; the game tends to be too dark in certain areas

Here’s a piece I’ve been planning on writing for the longest time, something that I feel is very important as a gamer. Many people may think of this as silly, or a waste of time, but I think that video games, like any other forms of media, can emotionally involve the players just as much (if not more so). 


Can a computer make you cry?

When Trip Hawkins founded Electronic Arts in 1982, he advertised with a simple slogan: “Can a computer make you cry?” And here we are, 27 years later, some of us asking the same question. Can we ever get the same kind of emotional experiences from games that we do from any other form of media? A lot of people believe that you can’t, that games are merelytoys. Well, that may be true, video game systems were originally created as toys, and still can be considered toys, but games hold a lot more emotional value that some are willing to believe.

Video games can evoke many different emotions from us, whether we want to believe it or not. They can cheer us up when we’re feeling down, they can make us laugh, they can scare us, and they can even make us cry. It’s not hard to believe that with the breakthroughs in video game storytelling, there is bound to be one game story you are attached to. Or maybe it’s more than a story? The mere sound of a song can bring us back to a happier time in our lives, and that song may originate from a video game. Pretty much everyone who has ever played games for a good part of their life can find one they are attached to, mainly because a game did something that we never expected.

What is the cause? I can say it has a lot to do with that form of interactivity. Games are the most interactive of all forms of media. And that’s the purpose of them, to interact with what is going on inside of the video game. Many gamers in the era of arcades were addicted to these games, continuing to put quarter after quarter into their favorite arcade game just for another chance to play. People never expected that, aside from having fun, they would ever feel anything from playing a game. They were addictive, sure, but that didn’t give us any kind of emotionalattachment to them.

So, maybe it’s more than the mere interactivity of games that causes some people to truly fall in love with certain games or series. So, it was all unexpected? We just played games to have fun, and never thought to get anything else out of them? I know I didn’t. As a kid, I played these games to have fun, nothing more. But at a certain point, you discover a game that makes you feel…different when playing it. It evokes an emotion from you that, while familiar, isn’t something you’ve felt while playing a game.

Today I’m going to look at the history of games, going over my own experiences with them and the experiences of others, and try to possibly pinpoint what it is that causes us to truly get attached to a game. It’s about more than just having fun, I know that for sure. There is something more at the heart of these games.

Can a game challenge you?

The original Super Mario Bros. on the NES is a very memorable game for most, if not all gamers. Even if you haven’t played the game when you were growing up, you still know that it’s a timeless classic. From the music, to the very basic gameplay, it’s all a memorable experience. It did present a bit of a challenge, but can challenge evoke something from you? Besides anger or frustration, is a game’s challenge something that makes you stop and think…something that you never thought a video game, a mere toy, would make you do.

Backloggery user ninkendo reflects on this simple time and remembers a true classic, Mega Man 2. “It’s a challenge where you have to learn a new technique to make it through an area and to me that is the definition of what makes a video game fun.” He says, remembering that Mega Man 2 was the first game that truly offered a real challenge. And it wasn’t frustrating, it was something that made a game more enjoyable and, ultimately, more rewarding.

Video games, especially on the NES or earlier, were generally about challenge. From Super Mario Bros. to Mega Man 2, many games were a huge challenge for us gamers, and still are even today. They challenged us and, the best ones at least, gave us a huge feeling of relief once we actually managed to overcome that challenge. So, video games can challenge us, and for a lot of gamers we expect that level of challenge from games now. But then? We were kids, playing with something that we never expected to actually make us struggle or learn new techniques.

Ninja Gaiden is a series that is known for, if anything, challenging gameplay. From the original NES games to the more mature, updated games, the series has always been known to offer gamers a challenge. The original Ninja Gaiden on the NES was the first game I remember truly being challenged by, and was never actually able to finish until I was a bit older. But I learned from my experiences as a gamer and was able to adapt to it, and it made for a very memorable and fun experience in the end.

So is challenge everything from that era? Or can we experience something more from games? At the time, not many people expected to remember games for more than their challenge or their fun factor. So, whether or not it is an emotional experience is up in the air, but it is something gamers growing up are attached to. You may think that games during this era were all about just having fun and being challenged, but there were others that offered up something different.

Can a game make you laugh?

Recently we’ve seen the release of an updated classic with The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition. But back in 1990, Monkey Island (and other games like it) offered something that you never expected to find in a game: true humor. Sure, maybe games made you laugh because of how enjoyable they were, or because of something stupid that happened when you were playing it, but not many gamers actually expected developers to go out of their way just to tell a joke.

Humor and games go back a long way, but most of it is long forgotten. With classic text based adventure games like Zork and an interactive version of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, humor in games was not hard to find, but also not very commonplace. While I never played it when it was originally released, The Secret of Monkey Island is the first game that actually made me legitimately laugh. And it didn’t happen only once, but constantly throughout my adventure.

I was surprised that you could find a game with such a huge amount of humor. A game was only supposed to be fun, right? And fun, for gamers, meant doing something that offered basic gameplay but an overall rewarding experience. Monkey Island was a challenge, but a lighthearted one. It was an adventure game, yes, and didn’t require the same kind of fast reflexes you would find in an NES game like Mega Man. But it made us laugh, and maybe it did so because of just how unexpected it was.

Humor is something that is pretty common in games now, even if it is simply a quirky character offering up a couple of one-liners, or an entire game that has every intention of making you laugh. Sure, not every “funny” game is actually funny, but with classics like the Monkey Island games, it was clear to see that comedy was something that belonged in games just as much as anything else.

So, is a game that makes you laugh a game that evokes an emotion? Sure it is. As I said, gamers didn’t expect much from games at the time. And although The Secret of Monkey Island was not as popular as Mario Bros or Mega Man, it still holds a special place in many gamers’ hearts as something different. You expect to laugh from movies, or from reading a book, but a computer program that makes you laugh? Maybe it was inconceivable for some, but it certainly was possible.

Can a game make you scream?

Video games can’t be scary, can they? You can’t play a game and be legitimately frightened by something. I’ve talked to people who have told me these exact words, but I highly doubt they have played many games under the “survival horror” genre. Just the fact that gamers played a game to be scared seemed silly, right? People go to scary movies all the time, so why can’t a game be scary as well? A lot of people have noted moments in games that evoked an emotion that didn’t make them happy or sad, but something that merely was remembered for scaring them.

It really wasn’t until games were able to move into 3D when horror began to become popular in games. And we will move onto a different generation of games, and of consoles, to talk about games that truly scared us. Many gamers are connected to games because of fear, surprisingly enough. But people enjoy being scared, so while it may seem like a negative thing, scary video games hold a special place for a lot of people.

The original Clock Tower, for me, one of the first games that ever actually scared me. Normally you would think of a survival horror game, you think of weird and scary creatures that you could defend yourself against, right? Clock Tower was different. It was not only the first horror game I had ever played, but it was the first game I had ever played where the main goal was to simply stay alive. It was until I ran into the Scissorman, a foe who simply appeared whenever he wanted and began to chase you until you were safely hidden.

So, I couldn’t just shoot the enemy? There was really no way to defend yourself, you just had to use your wits to find a way to avoid this foe. It was a complete shock to me, and the very first game that actually scared me. Fear is something that was rarely used in games, but with the emergence of survival horror titles like Alone in the Dark, games became a step closer to something more than just a simple, fun experience.

Then came the game that changed everything. Released in the United States in 1996 for the original Playstation, Resident Evil was the game that truly put survival horror on the map. It wasn’t completely original, and it had a ridiculous story, but it was the first truly popular horror title to be released and the one that made the genre thrive. Playing through this game myself at first, I remember thinking of how terrible it was, until a certain moment in the game. It wasn’t the same kind of fear I experienced in Clock Tower, but something that made me realize that games really can evoke fear, even if it is for a split second.

Everyone can remember the first time they played Resident Evil, and the first moment in the game that actually made them jump. The game had a very eerie atmosphere, but you weren’t truly scared yet. You’re walking along a hallway, approaching the door near the end, when a sudden loud crash is heard. A zombified dog jumps through the window in the mansion and rushes to attack. This, for many gamers, was the first time they were truly frightened by a video game.

So, a video game can scare, can evoke fear, and for many gamers, this fear is something that they will never forget. Did you ever expect a game to actually scare you? I didn’t, at least not until I played Clock Tower. It’s something so simplistic, something that can be applied to anything, yet some gamers actually still believe that horror can’t be truly realized in a video game.

Can a game offer more than just gameplay?

So, with games in 3D, worlds are now open, and games can be explored even more. Mario, that character you remember back on the NES, is now in 3D and has a larger than life game world for you. But with 3D came not only advances in technology, but advances in storytelling and true ideas. The things that make games truly what they are, the ideas that developers come up with are the things that fuel these games and give us the experiences that will last a lifetime for us gamers.

But, with that, comes the idea that games are more than just about fun. There are so many contributing factors that make games great. Although I believe the gameplay is still at the heart of a fantastic game, for a lot of gamers, these games mean so much more. For me, personally, a game’s music plays a huge role in how much a game impacts me. The music doesn’t have to be amazing, but it has to work for that game, and it has to play a key role in certain parts of the game to make the experience just right.

To reflect upon a specific set of games I know a lot of gamers consider one of the best, I’m going to talk about Nintendo’s Legend of Zelda series. From the moment you first boot up the original on the NES, you get to hear the overworld theme for the first time; it’s truly a thing to behold, and it is a song that has been present in every Zelda game since the original. When the series evolved into 3D with Ocarina of Time, the music evolved as well.

I will also talk about another game series to employ music as a way to get the players emotionally involved: Final Fantasy. Many gamers remember the music from the original game, and composer Nobuo Uematsu continued to improve with more freedom and technology to expand his craft. Final Fantasy VI, for me, is the game that truly made me realize just how far games have come, and the fantastic score doesn’t hurt either.

Seijika, another Backloggery user, explains rather briefly the impact of a rather cult game, Killer7. While mentioning a specific scene, he seems to say that there were many things that happened near the end of the game that made the event so impactful. He mentions, in particular, that “the music for it was PERFECT.” I think while a lot of things contribute to how memorable games and scenes from games are, music is one of the best examples. Even lizzieizzie explains that in Final Fantasy VII “brings back a whole bunch of nostalgia and memories. Whenever I hear any of the songs, I just get sucked into it.”

Another thing games have always offered is some kind of game world to explore, something that has become even more apparent with 3D game environments. To continue using the example of the Zelda series, it has always had an open world to explore, and you generally were left on your own to figure most things out. Ocarina of Time moved this open world to 3D, and did so spectacularly, as many gamers not only consider it the best in the series, but one of the best games of all time.

WanderingMind first got into the Zelda series with Ocarina of Time. He explains “You leave the Kokiri Forest, where you grew up for most of your childhood, to explore a much larger world. A lot of games these days have massive worlds you can spend hours and hours exploring, but Hyrule felt big at the time.” He says once the game was finally over, “I was in tears. There was nothing else I could do other than turn off the game or reset it.” Whatever you think of the game, it’s hard to deny its impact on the gaming community as a whole.

A good friend of mine, Grey Fox, explained in great detail about Shadow of the Colossus. He says, “The enormously desolate and empty landscapes provide a sense of isolation and loneliness to players, and as they get lost looking for the next colossus, they can feel Wander’s frustration and confusion. I think the game, as a whole, does a phenomenal job creating such a connection.”  This world, while not as lively as Hyrule, can still mean something to a lot of people.

So, does opening games up to a brand new dimension make them easier to become attached to? Possibly, but it depends on what games you grew up with. Some gamers started around that era, while others grew up when 2D gaming was still huge. Of course, I believe the impact to be the same. When playing a game like Ocarina of Time for the first time, whether it is your first Zelda or your fifth, you still get to explore Hyrule as a full 3D environment. Whether you grew up with Zelda or not, it’s still amazing to see such a beautiful world finally in 3D.

Can games tell a compelling story?

This leads to my next point, which will bridge the game from older games to the newest releases. Of everything that people tend to relate to the most in video games, it almost always relates to a game’s story. People love the story in television shows, in books, and even in movies. Yet when a video game has a fantastic story, it tends to stick around even longer, because you are involved in this world. You may not actually be the character you are playing as in the game, but you are him or her for the duration of that game or moment in the game. And this level of interactivity, combined with a good cast of characters and a good story, is what puts video games above all else in terms of emotional attachment.

I’ll use a more recent example of a game that managed to really emerge you in its world: BioShock. It was hailed by many as a masterpiece. While on the gameplay front it isn’t incredibly revolutionary or challenging, it offers some truly compelling storytelling moments and opens you up to a city that is unlike any other. While the main character, Jack, is generally lacking in any kind of motivation or personality, the city itself, Rapture, becomes more of the main character. As you explore and pick up audio diaries, you learn more about the history of the now ravaged underwater city, and some particularly intense moments occur along the way. Games like BioShock continue to expand how story is told in games, and if that game is any indication, developers are on the right track.

Most gamers can relate to choices the most in games. While some games give you a preset character, others let you design your own character and throw you into a world very much unlike your own. Either way, choices in games, whether they are large or small, generally give the player even more interactivity when it comes to the story and the characters around you. A game like Indigo Prophecy is something where you play as multiple characters, and even the smallest choices will impact the story in the long run. And with multiple endings, it seems like the first time through most players have a completely different experience.

Yokky talks about the Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney series. He remembers a very particular moment at the end of Justice for All, and talks about how a specific decision seemed like something that would forever change the story. “It goes to show how excellent the writing is when you grow this attached to the characters without realizing it. Ace Attorney games are filled with great moments, but to me, that instant might be the defining point of the whole series.” Even if the game’s story is very linear, there are particular moments that can truly make it seem like you can change things around drastically, even with a simple decision.

Remember the first time playing through Fire Emblem? You develop an attachment to your characters that you send out on the battlefield, and you think that when they “die” on the battlefield, they’ll be back and ready to go next time. Of course, this is completely wrong, when you realize that once a character dies, they are gone for good. Sure, you could just reset your game, but it’s still the fact that death is always there. Maybe you knew about it before playing the first US released Fire Emblem game on the Gameboy Advance, but I never knew it. Of course, it was so strange…I was sad when I lost my first character in that game. I’m so accustomed to death in video games, but the fact that I could have done something to save him made it all much worse. In the end, a truly compelling story presents you with very likeable characters, ones you get attached to. And Fire Emblem taught me that sometimes, even computer programmed people die.

The upcoming game Heavy Rain is interesting for the very fact that, while playing as four different key characters in a huge story, it is possible for any of them to die. And once they die, they die permanently. The story will move on. And if all four characters die? Well, congratulations, you just beat Heavy Rain. It’s a fantastic way to approach games, and it will give the feeling that death is lurking around every corner. Just like in real life, death isn’t easily avoidable. It brings you closer to these characters, and makes the story just that more involving on the part of the player.

So, video games bring that level of interactivity that everything else lacks. When you’re watching a movie and your favorite character dies, what can you do? Nothing, you just continue to watch. In a video game, especially with games now, there are ways to impact the story enough so you can prevent these characters from dying. Because, in real life or in video games, death is a tragic subject that can make even the strongest people shed a tear or two.

…Or is it all just nostalgia?

Nostalgia is something that can affect anything in your life. People feel nostalgic about music, about books, and even about video games. Sometimes it has nothing to do with the game itself, but with the people you’re around. Psymin speaks about a few games that he remembers because of the people who were around when he played them. “First, whenever I hear that “hut, hut, hut, hut, hut, hut” from Tecmo Super Bowl (NES), my thoughts immediately go to my uncles house, circa early 1990s when I was about 4-6 years old.” He says, relating to a family member who got him into video games in the first place.

Maybe part of it is nostalgia, the part that retains the memories.Belmontheir says that “Honestly, the games that most evoke nostalgia and an emotional connection with me are the ones I happened to play in middle school.” He continues by saying “Those epic moments are forever a part of my memory, and they take me back to a much more innocent and simpler time of my life.” So some people relate games, like anything else nostalgic, to their own life. For a lot of people, it becomes less about the games, and more about how they connect to someone’s life at the time.

Does this fault everything else I was talking about? Not at all. People can still have these emotional gaming experiences even today. You can get attached to games that are released last week, last year, or even a game you grew up with. Just because a game had never made you laugh, or cry, or scream, doesn’t mean that you still can’t have the same experiences, ones that are even more memorable. And it becomes apparent that all games, new and old, can have some kind of impact on someone depending on what it is. Nostalgia plays a huge role, but it isn’t everything.

Can a game make you cry?

So, it’s a simple question. Can a video game make someone cry? Of course, some would believe games are just for fun. People get emotionally attached to things like movies, but games are never meant to present something similar, they are only for fun. While games can challenge you, they can make you laugh or scream, they can even present more than just gameplay, they definitely can’t make you cry. It’s just a computer program, after all.

A particular scene I will always remember growing up is from Final Fantasy VI. I’ve talked about it before, but the opera house scene is something that made me both happy and sad at the same time. I had journeyed with these characters up to that point, but this was when I truly began to realize that games were about more than just having fun. Someone could tell a great story with a game, someone could give us compelling characters, someone could compose fantastic music, 8-bit or otherwise, for a game. You can do so much with a game, and with the limitless potential developers have now, it’s far from impossible to see even better stuff than we did back then. Final Fantasy VI is over ten years old now, and yet it is a game that impacted many people for many particular reasons.

Psycho Penguin briefly mentioned the ending of Final Fantasy X in his comment. Basically, he ends it by saying that he didn’t see it coming. So, games can surprise us as well, they can truly connect us to a world that we can explore and almost call our own. Gamers get lost in these worlds, and not because of addiction, because of the developers who designed these games to be something memorable.

So, can you answer the question? I know I can. Video games are, for many people, a fantastic way to express themselves and truly give their ideas a chance to be experienced by many people. These ideas may be basic, but sometimes a developer creates something so fantastic, we can’t help but just shed a tear. You may love movies, you may love books, but video games present something that any of these lack: a true connection to the person.