306: Disney-Colored Death

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Disney-Colored Death

From Bambi to Up, Disney films have hardly pulled their punches when it comes to showing death to a young audience in their films. What can videogames learn from their example?

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Brilliant article and what a wonderful idea, I'd rather see the video game equivalent to Lion King or Bambi then Citizen Kane. Course of someone did a video game equivalent to "Its a Wonderful Life", I'd be happy.

PrinceofPersia:
Brilliant article and what a wonderful idea, I'd rather see the video game equivalent to Lion King or Bambi then Citizen Kane. Course of someone did a video game equivalent to "Its a Wonderful Life", I'd be happy.

I don't think this is quite what you meant ;) but still... http://www.giantbomb.com/tomoyo-after-its-a-wonderful-life/61-23251/

There are plenty of disney games out there you know... including this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Lion_King_%28video_game%29 in which I presume you die quite often. But at the same time remember they're also known for the "Disney Villain Death" where they fall out of a window and out of sight, presumably to break against jagged rocks somewhere that the audience never sees...

And ... er ... I've kinda forgotten the original point which I hit "reply" to make. Whoops.
Ohyeah. What of Optimus Prime, already, for a harrowing cartoon film death?

It truly is a great idea. Just reading the article brought me flashbacks of both Mufasa's death scene, as well as the Aeris death scene. Oh dear, I think a couple of tears just hit my desk.

tahrey:
I don't think this is quite what you meant ;) but still... http://www.giantbomb.com/tomoyo-after-its-a-wonderful-life/61-23251/

There are plenty of disney games out there you know... including this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Lion_King_%28video_game%29 in which I presume you die quite often. But at the same time remember they're also known for the "Disney Villain Death" where they fall out of a window and out of sight, presumably to break against jagged rocks somewhere that the audience never sees...

And ... er ... I've kinda forgotten the original point which I hit "reply" to make. Whoops.
Ohyeah. What of Optimus Prime, already, for a harrowing cartoon film death?

Yeah ah no I meant something like the film, "It's a Wonderful Life". And most disney games are just based on the movies. The argument has always been to have a Citizen Kane like game come out and I think the thought shooting for something with the emotional appeal of Bambi might be more interesting.

As for Optimus Prime...dangit man I got something in my eyes.

I have to admit, Up made me care about the protagonist and his wife faster than any movie I've seen in a while; I bought the soundtrack to the movie, and every time I hear the music from the "Married Life" montage, I admit that I feel the tears coming on.

If I can find a game that can move someone that quickly, I'm all for it.

Very interesting article, and one of the best I've read on the Escapist for a long time.

And you're quite right that in any other narrative media the prospect of death is the great source of pathos, and something which games lose out on when any 'death' is impermanent. I have been thinking about what mechanics you could use to get around this, but the obvious ones (such as 'permanent' death) just result in games which are either boring, or frustratingly hard. Hmmm.

On a tangent, your aside about the impact of the death of cute animals is also quite interesting in of itself. Why are cute animal deaths always so powerful, when human deaths can be shrugged off?

I recently read on George RR Martin's blog (he's the author behind Game of Thrones) that after the episode in which Lady (a pet) was killed, many viewers wrote and said they were very upset and would stop watching the show.

He obviously explained in his post that the dog playing Lady was not actually killed, and was in fact being treated very well etc., but also noted:

Rhodri Hosking, the young actor who played the butcher's boy Mycah, was not actually killed either, though oddly, no one seems quite so upset about him

.

It's a strange world we live in...

Alex Spencer:
Disney-Colored Death

From Bambi to Up, Disney films have hardly pulled their punches when it comes to showing death to a young audience in their films. What can videogames learn from their example?

Read Full Article

Great article. Seriously.

This'll sound odd, but the first thing that popped into my head while reading this is the difference between Hostel and Hostel II. Bear with me on this, it makes total sense by the end.

Whatever the subject you're presenting in a work of art, particularly a storytelling form of art, I think the overall goal is some kind of emotional reaction. You present a set of circumstances, and you expect the audience to feel a certain way about them (which allows you to build on that, forming an emotional leash by which you lead the audience on a journey).

Hostel wasn't really a good movie. It wasn't trying to say anything deeper than what was on the surface, but there was something it did right. When watching something particularly gruesome and painful, the camera refused to flinch. If you didn't want to see it, you had to look away. In forcing the audience to play visual "chicken" with the gore, it stirred a strong emotional reaction. In that sense, the movie wasn't "good," but it was effective. The sequel, however, undid all of that. In most of the gore-heavy scenes, the bulk of the "action" happened off-screen, and you only saw the characters' reactions. The experience was just far less effective.

This same principle translates into how children's movies handle "heavy" emotional content. Basically, movies can undermine their own emotional power when they react for you. No longer is the movie leading you to feel something, it's just telling you how someone else feels. It lacks the personal stamp of authenticity that only you can put on an emotion.

Why do movies do this, particularly when it comes to kids? For one, I think that the people making the movies are afraid that kids won't "get it." They won't understand the gravity of a particular scene unless it's explained via dialogue--which, if that's the case, the kid isn't going to 'get' the explanation anyway, so why not just save yourself some time.

The other reason, of course, is fear that they'll "overdo" it. They don't want to scare the kids or make the movie gory, or anything of that sort. For the most part, I blame the creative forces behind the movie for not understanding what to show and what not to. An emotionally effective scene isn't about the information you give the audience. It's about the weight of that information.

Pixar did it right twice, with Finding Nemo and Up. In neither case to you really see the loved one die--you are not given that information. However, in both cases, the movie establishes a lot of good emotions first, tied directly to that character. The character is given gravity within the emotional context of the film, to such a degree that when the character is removed, you feel the pull of their absence.

In a movie like Hostel, the weight of the action is in the gore itself. In order to feel that 'sympathy pain,' you've got to see it happening (or be forced to look away of your own accord). The same is very true in real life--we often feel better about a cut if we're not looking at it, but we have to fight that urge to keep looking.

In situations like the opening sequences of Up and Finding Nemo, the real weight isn't in the death itself. It's in what that death means for everyone else. The same is very true in real life--our sadness over a death is often centered on the holes it leaves in our lives, rather than on the actual circumstances of the death.

If a movie fails to understand and recreate those feelings in the audience and create that emotional context, they don't build the empathy they need to give the scene any real emotional weight. And this works just as well for children's movies. If we don't trust that children have the ability to develop that sort of empathy, we rob these scenes of their significance, we cheapen their experiences with these movies, and we shallow out their future expectations of art.

Aeris's death was the first videogame death that really affected me. It was so surprised and jarring. Unexpected because she was a likable and major character. I TOTALLY didn't expect her to get killed. And she was such an awesome character. Another death I can think of is Gremio's in Suikoden, when he dies in those crushing walls. And the GUITAR MUSIC! Anyone who played Suikoden for the PlayStation, remember!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MYGAuDm6yF4

I have more sad, complex man-feelings over any Disney characters' death than I ever did Aeris's.

"So, people often ask: Where is gaming's Citizen Kane? I say: Who wants an over-extended, self-important snorefest about some rich old geezer and his sled?"

This. Thank you for this.

I know it's not a Disney film, but I think The Land Before Time is worth a mention here. I watched it with my niece recently, first time in over a decade, and they did not at all skip the mourning period for Little Foot. One particularly touching scene involved him seeing his own shadow from a distance, where it looked to be a full sized brontosaurus, and ran toward it joyfully believing (or perhaps wanting to believe) it was his own mother come alive again. In the end he merely snuggled and kissed a wall of rock, and the realization that his mother was still gone was absolutely heart breaking.

That moment reminded me of watching the film as a child and the overwhelming sadness it all created. The music, the expressions, the implications, everything. Even as an adult it was heart wrenching, and I could only wonder what my niece was thinking.

As for video games, I'd like to bring up Final Fantasy 6 where your actions determine if Cid lives or dies. Sometimes I allowed Cid to die merely because the following scene where Celes tries to kill herself in despair is so surprising and touching.

Then I hit reset, load up my save and make sure he survives so I can get that rare and awesome item as a reward.

Carlos Alexandre:
I have more sad, complex man-feelings over any Disney characters' death than I ever did Aeris's.

The Disney deaths were powerful, yes, but man, Aeris's was just so.... stunning and shocking to me.

Lord_Kristof:
"So, people often ask: Where is gaming's Citizen Kane? I say: Who wants an over-extended, self-important snorefest about some rich old geezer and his sled?"

This. Thank you for this.

I've only ever played the first Sims and some expansion packs, but the possibility of playing Sims that actually age and die does tug at the heart strings a bit. I can understand someone getting a little emotional over a character they've helped nurture and guide (even if it's not real) go away.

It makes one wonder how much further games will go in this direction to get all emotional and stuff. I have yet to play Heavy Rain, but I hear that's a game that can get kinda emotional as well. I'll have to wait until it's on my GameFly queue though. I've got others in line first. :-)

This article reminded me of 'Alfred Jodocus Kwak' ('Alfred Jonathan Quack' in English) which had a very powerfull parental death scene in the first episode. It's horrible and beautiful and it sticks with you. Throw in some good music and you have a very good kids show that's also entertaining for adults. The feel of it is just unique.

Also, good episode.

I am tired of Escapist writers citing Jason Rohrer's Passage as an example of where games need to be moving to. Passage is a barely interactive experience with, not just terrible graphics (which isn't a problem), but an entirely uninteresting aesthetic and a simplistic message about human mortality. It acts as if it has discovered something incredible, namely that people die, and then flaunts it as some sort of brilliant and deep epiphany. Unlike some gamers I enjoy many art games, but Passage should never be used as an example of a great art game. It is pretentious, condescending, and just not enjoyable in the slightest.

ccesarano:

As for video games, I'd like to bring up Final Fantasy 6...

I thought of FF6 as well, but instead the storyline of Locke and Rachel. (spoilered in case anyone doesn't know)

Many years later, when I embarked on a quest of my own, of sorts, to release some painful memories, I used Rachel's line "Today I set your heart free" as a motto. It worked. And my life is much better for it. To this day, the Locke/Rachel story remains the only one in a game to make me cry twice. (The aforementioned Celes/Cid scene still makes me cry to this day as well.)

One of the best Escapist articles I've read in a while. Very thought provoking, and nicely said.

My Bambi was the end of half-life 2e2 :(

Great article.

And i've been wondering about this a little for myself. Deaths in gaming haven't really been that "important" in a sense, but i have to say that Red Dead Redemption pulled a couple nice ones. They're gonna stick with me for a while, i'm sure.

Now we'll just have to see if other companies can follow up... or even if Rockstar manages to do something like that again.

Very good article. . We need a Bambi like game (though I watched it the other day and was really surprised by how quickly the death scene is over.)

Also I hate that nightmare scene in Max Paine, that baby crying cuts right through me.

ccesarano:
I know it's not a Disney film, but I think The Land Before Time is worth a mention here. I watched it with my niece recently, first time in over a decade, and they did not at all skip the mourning period for Little Foot. One particularly touching scene involved him seeing his own shadow from a distance, where it looked to be a full sized brontosaurus, and ran toward it joyfully believing (or perhaps wanting to believe) it was his own mother come alive again. In the end he merely snuggled and kissed a wall of rock, and the realization that his mother was still gone was absolutely heart breaking.

That moment reminded me of watching the film as a child and the overwhelming sadness it all created. The music, the expressions, the implications, everything. Even as an adult it was heart wrenching, and I could only wonder what my niece was thinking.

As for video games, I'd like to bring up Final Fantasy 6 where your actions determine if Cid lives or dies. Sometimes I allowed Cid to die merely because the following scene where Celes tries to kill herself in despair is so surprising and touching.

Then I hit reset, load up my save and make sure he survives so I can get that rare and awesome item as a reward.

Man, why'd you have to bring that up? I had those memories of Land Before Time neatly suppressed, too.

Aeris' death crushed me, and to this day I still get a little saddened whenever her theme plays on my iPod. I have that image of Cloud holding her forever burned into my brain. Same with Bambi's sudden look of shock, and Mufasa lying under a broken tree. All very touching.

Hilton Collins:
Aeris's death was the first videogame death that really affected me. It was so surprised and jarring. Unexpected because she was a likable and major character. I TOTALLY didn't expect her to get killed. And she was such an awesome character. Another death I can think of is Gremio's in Suikoden, when he dies in those crushing walls. And the GUITAR MUSIC! Anyone who played Suikoden for the PlayStation, remember!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MYGAuDm6yF4

His death was heartbreaking for me too, but then I learned that you can bring him back. I was thrilled with this fact (and immediately restarted because I had missed some of the Stars), but it also cheapens his death a little. The scene itself, however, is very moving. Stupid poison spores.

Sniper Team 4:
His death was heartbreaking for me too, but then I learned that you can bring him back. I was thrilled with this fact (and immediately restarted because I had missed some of the Stars), but it also cheapens his death a little. The scene itself, however, is very moving. Stupid poison spores.

I must play this music on YouTube... and then see if it's available on iTunes...

I swear I am the only person who was genuinely disturbed and upset by the 'girlfriend's' death (forgotten her name) in Prey. Thought it tread the brutal-yet-sad line pretty well.

I also teared up when Lisa died in Silent Hill 1.

I AM MANLY I TELL YOU!

Though I'm sad to say (no pun intended) that I cannot recall a game that has really made me weep, there are a few moments that have come REALLY damn close. One that comes to mind is in Mass Effect 2 when

The way they did that scene was just so moving, my eyes were moistened. Another moment that comes to mind is again in Mass Effect 2, when you are exploring Nef's (the girl that Morinth killed) room on Omega. That was pretty damn moving.

And of course the ending Half Life 2: Episode 2 was heart rending

It's not just Death that Disney (and mostly now Pixar), do well, i think they are able to convey a sense of loss or any really powerful emotion to the viewer. I DARE you not to cry at the "When she loved me" in Toy Story 2, a song about the loss of belonging and love. The fact that a team of animators can imbue a doll with more emoitonal weight than almost any on-screen person is a mark of genius.

And going back to death there is THAT scene in Toy Story 3. I don't think i've even been so unexpectedly moved by a film than in that moment. The acceptance of mortality is a HEAVY subject to tackle in a film, especialy one about talking toys, and to do it in a glance is pretty special.

I thin Okami came some way towards making us relate to characterd like that, the ending is actually suprisingly emotional but as a medium true heat-tugging moments are hard to come by. We need to nail characterisation, immersion, inter-character relationships and how we relate to the player. Its a hard thing to pull off.

The movies described had definite lasting impacts on the lives of those who watched them. As I read the description of Mufasa's fall and Simba's reaction, tears started to well up in my eyes as I replayed it in my mind. The Lion King was a childhood favorite of mine, and even now 17 years later, I can still remember every moment of that scene, and it still has the ability to touch me emotionally.

Only one game has ever hit me that hard: Half Life Episode 2. The ending of HLE2 had me in hysterics, for a week after I had tearful flashbacks, and I still get tears in my eyes just to think of it now. That scene hit me so terribly hard, mostly because my dad is my most favorite person in the world. He's the one family member I feel truly understands me and cares about me. To see such an emotionally charged moment between a father and an utterly helpless daughter...that will stick with me for a very long time.

In today's industry, the standard seems to be to keep characters around just in case there's a sequel, lest you end up with some ridiculous Liquid Ocelot scenario. I think this cripples a player's ability to form a true connection with the characters they play as and alongside. All love songs seem to agree that the hardest part of connecting with someone is the worry of losing them, but you never seem to be able to truly lose someone in a game world. Even if they're held captive by the bad guy, you know you're going to be rescuing them later, so what does it matter if you take a moment to explore a few side paths and secret areas? Until game developers can present us with scenarios where the loss of a character seems real, and the prevention of that loss is directly related to our actions, we'll never fully connect with the characters they create and never fully submerge ourselves in the worlds they build.

tahrey:
There are plenty of disney games out there you know... including this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Lion_King_%28video_game%29 in which I presume you die quite often. But at the same time remember they're also known for the "Disney Villain Death" where they fall out of a window and out of sight, presumably to break against jagged rocks somewhere that the audience never sees...

The problem with those is that they're designed to cash in on the movie. The very game you mention is rife with levels designed to capitalize on particular scenes instead of recreating the plot and emotional impact therein, like the Mammoth Graveyard and Stampede levels.

daftalchemist:
In today's industry, the standard seems to be to keep characters around just in case there's a sequel, lest you end up with some ridiculous Liquid Ocelot scenario. I think this cripples a player's ability to form a true connection with the characters they play as and alongside. All love songs seem to agree that the hardest part of connecting with someone is the worry of losing them, but you never seem to be able to truly lose someone in a game world. Even if they're held captive by the bad guy, you know you're going to be rescuing them later, so what does it matter if you take a moment to explore a few side paths and secret areas? Until game developers can present us with scenarios where the loss of a character seems real, and the prevention of that loss is directly related to our actions, we'll never fully connect with the characters they create and never fully submerge ourselves in the worlds they build.

Truer words have never been spoken. In most games, there is always a point when fighting an enemy when the protagonist seems to be "too weak" or "incapable of beating the enemy" and quite possibly is "about to die." The problem with these scenes is that the past 5, 10, 20+ hours of gameplay have shown us that we are NOT "too weak" and, in some circumstances, have the tools at hand to insure we can beat the enemy in a few choice hits and/or can never be killed. And any game that tries to put the protagonist in a "about to die" scenario without giving clear evidence that the main villain is going to die as well is just grasping at straws, since everyone knows the hero will never die, at least not until his final foe is beaten.

And also, the bigger problem is that characters that are meant to die usually set themselves up as so. You're given very little time to grow attached to them, and usually they bring nothing truly "important" to the fight. I haven't had the chance to play the other games mentioned, but this is why I never found Aeris' death all that emotional, since A. She was a White Mage in a game where Healing Materia could be passed out to all characters, B. Unless you spent the time getting her last ones, her Limit Breaks were all rather meh, since again, Healing was never a major issue, and on a personal note C. She just didn't seem that attractive to me. When given the choice, I'd always choose Tifa over Aeris, if I used a girl at all.

I've actually thought about this a lot, and I believe that, even if a game can't force us to part with a character midway, it should at least give us some loss at the end of a game. It may sound weird, but at the end of Super Mario RPG, I actually cried a bit as a kid when I found out Geno was leaving us to return to where he came. Geno had become an undeniable favorite in my books, a character with whom I put a far higher emotional investment in than any other character. He was always in my party, from beginning to end, and just the thought that he was leaving and I'd never get to see him again just sort of made me teary-eyed. Cut to the present, and another game has come eerily close to making me shed a tear, and that was Okamiden.

Though I didn't cry, I came very close to, and it's this sort of bittersweet ending that we need more of. The Hero saves the day from the Wicked Antagonist, but in doing so, leaves with less than he came in with. In this way, games can still give you your attachments, and can possibly solicit even more of an emotional impact when they're taken away. Of course, there is always the problem of sequels, and of course since we're talking only about the ending, not some tear-jerking moment in the middle, you don't get to actively witness the protagonist's grieving and subsequent acceptance of the event, but it would be a start, at the very least.

shado_temple:
I have to admit, Up made me care about the protagonist and his wife faster than any movie I've seen in a while; I bought the soundtrack to the movie, and every time I hear the music from the "Married Life" montage, I admit that I feel the tears coming on.

If I can find a game that can move someone that quickly, I'm all for it.

Oh god you horrible, horrible person! Why'd you have to make me watch that again... *blubbers*

So, people often ask: Where is gaming's Citizen Kane? I say: Who wants an over-extended, self-important snorefest about some rich old geezer and his sled? What we really need is our Bambi.

Tell it like it is brother.

Up was a fantastic film, and I never considered how its themes might translate to gaming, but I'm with you on that one.

The thing is, before gaming can get its Lion King or its Up, it needs its Disney or its Pixar.

We need a champion for the kind of thinking that rocks the boat by inventing the artform it goes on to perfect.

It has to be said, I don't think that videogames can ever reach that level.

You know what was a really messed up death. Jackie's girlfriend in the Darkness was a really screwed up death scene.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-JUNA-kapnY

tahrey:

PrinceofPersia:
Brilliant article and what a wonderful idea, I'd rather see the video game equivalent to Lion King or Bambi then Citizen Kane. Course of someone did a video game equivalent to "Its a Wonderful Life", I'd be happy.

I don't think this is quite what you meant ;) but still... http://www.giantbomb.com/tomoyo-after-its-a-wonderful-life/61-23251/

There are plenty of disney games out there you know... including this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Lion_King_%28video_game%29 in which I presume you die quite often. But at the same time remember they're also known for the "Disney Villain Death" where they fall out of a window and out of sight, presumably to break against jagged rocks somewhere that the audience never sees...

And ... er ... I've kinda forgotten the original point which I hit "reply" to make. Whoops.
Ohyeah. What of Optimus Prime, already, for a harrowing cartoon film death?

There will never be a death in animation more jarring for me than

. As far as games...

damaga on cute animals, that reminds me Epic Battle Fantasy 3

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