186: Violently Happy

Violently Happy

Plenty of developers have tried to inject a little more happiness into their games. So why does it always come out so ... creepy?

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A really enjoyable read actually, good article.
That smiley Kratos is really freaking me out though.

The art for this feature is awesome. It could also serve as a metaphor for what would happen if Playstation fanboys and Xbox fanboys got together and drank a ton of cough syrup.

Keep things where they are, or should be. Happiness is a short lasting state.

At least on circus charlie the poor clown has to smile to please his audience. Problem is on "Magical Tree", another old game, where an indian climbs up a huge huge tall taller tree, just... to get there. And all the times he´s smiling, ALL THE TIMES...

But you have nintendogs, tamagotchis, and then the games had an add-on on its own history. I dont remember any tk-90x, cp500 or msx games with that "peaceful" way of gaming... passtime.

We have Club penguin, SIMS, nintendogs, and of course every game has a problem that threats the whole system or play session, even a minimal tamagotchi, but things meet different audiences.

Maybe the author of this post managed to go round and round only to get there "make players miserable".

Makes sense to push everyone harder to get the goal... this "miserable state" once cited, but doesnt mean that an expression cant be used to express a feeling of a combo, or a relief after a bridge crossing.

Maybe Kratos might scream and please himself after beating a big boss. Maybe players can be driven to feel that they must protect a group of people, a city, a battle squad, and by beating a boss they could ensure that protection, which would make them feel like "DONE, my people is safe", or you can make a way to help NPCS othen than killing 300 goblins to get a single nail in order to place on a wedding collar.

For many times we celebrated birthdays on MMOs... On xmas I made a big santa with coins on the ground. And one or two stupids tried to get the coins, which were killed in the next second, but some others just came and "wow thats great, merry xmas... let me help"

Then people gave gifts like money, parts, potions, just to please others, or strangers. I watched that happen, and even being for the reason of a xmas behind it, was an act of good will, to make people happier...

Why would you give 10000 gold coins to a stranger, if not to promote happiness?

I think some facial expressions can be used to express a lot of things on a game, and im not meaning "emotes", but in-game automatic changes, out of your control (Kratos smiling after beating the demon).

I think is just a matter of exploring new things. But surely they arent banal.

Cross-fecal contamination? What are you talking about?

Also, yes, clowns are creepy, but you should understand that most games you talk about come from Japan, which is extremely different from America, culturally. Their advertisements are filled with cartoonish, happy art, and it is simply understood better there. Take, for instance, the difference in box art for Kirby's Air Ride for Gamecube. There's really only one significant difference: Kirby is smiling on the Japanese cover and angry on the American cover.

mrhertz:

I think some facial expressions can be used to express a lot of things on a game, and im not meaning "emotes", but in-game automatic changes, out of your control (Kratos smiling after beating the demon).

Actually, the only time Kratos ever smiles canonically is when he realises he has to roast the soldier in the cage to get through the path.

But one character seems to always be able to be happy, and why shouldn't he be? The Sackboy may live in a dangerous world, but its fun for him. And if he's unhappy, he makes his own world to play in.

GAMZ IS SRS BZNIS.

(I wonder if this is the root of so many players' negative reaction to Moira in Fallout 3. She was chipper, the Capital Wasteland was not. Then again, that doesn't explain the popularity of the Herbert "Daring" Dashwood radio play. Hmm...)

-- Steve

PS: Hey, gamer, let's put a smile on your face! *licks lips*

Hi all, Dean here - author of the opinion piece - thanks for your comments. Anton, part of me now *really* wishes there was a good Dark Knight game, because I'd have loved to have used that quote in the main body of the feature. And Clemenstation - agreed, gotta love the smiley Marcus and Kratos. I was wondering how the art team would illustrate the piece, and I think it's ace. As for the cross-fecal contamination thing? I think we should never speak of that again...

One word; LittleBigPlanet.

Seriously, it's near impossible to not smile while playing the game, especially with friends. Infact, it is impossible to not smile while playing LittleBigPlanet with friends. Wether it's jumping around with a bunch of explosives, or playing a spooky level where everyone is running around like crazy, it just fun to play LBP.

Though that might be because playing with friends is always fun and happy.

Oh, and Kratos and Dom? Smiling? Yeah, I'll have nightmares with taht face for a while...

For other games that cause instant smiles - LocoRoco 1 and 2, and Patapon 1 and 2.

To me Moira seems to have decided I'm a big brainless lummox, and she can get me to go on repeated suicide missions for a few caps, and she seems to talk to me like I'm a kid, too.

But , to the main topic, Katamari!

To me, apart from the King being such a miserable bastard and knocking you down if you fail, its pure joy from end to end, even when your crushing hundreds of living people and animals into a hyper dense star, its all laughs!

If games "fake happiness," then by your own words the "sadness and misery" are faked as well, because we enjoy it.

"To keep players happy," you say, "you need to make them miserable." If this gross generalization is true, and the in-game misery makes us happy, how is it any different from us finding the in-game happiness scary?

By your own logic, games fake all emotions across the spectrum.

Very good article. Happiness is overrated ;)

EDIT: And yes, the smiling Marcus and Kratos were pretty... odd, but in a good way. It looks like the promotional poster for two TV hosts on the same station that secretly hate each other, and are faking it for the cameras.

Happiness is fleeting. Contentment can be lasting, if you are lucky. But the human emotional barometer is for the most part set to okay-ness. If some computer game did somehow make us happy, great, they just invented the new electronic smack addiction and we could all drool in front of our monitors forevermore.

Generally when I play against an AI it's to kill time. For the most part I'm enjoying myself, but I wouldn't call it happy. Now, after a particularly challenging game against a human player(s) in whatever milieu, sometimes then I truly am happy, and smiling, for a half-hour or so. It passes.

I take what I can get. It's all good.

That picture...the picture that launched a thousand fanfic pieces.

Great article, I really enjoyed it. Yes most happy games are pretty creepy if you think about them, from the fury in cooking mama's eyes when you do wrong, to the raising and murdering of little happy piņata. Still I try not to think about the creepiness, after all it is a fantasy realm and not reality, although I can't bring myself to play Viva Piņata. Patapon is a happy game, until you remember its about warring factions for a goal that will most likely be nothing like the mystical paradise it's meant to be. War might be hell, but the emotional turmoil those games attempt to inflict on you is indeed ultimately more rewarding.

Mario actually pretends to be very serious. He usually has a look of grim determination on his face befitting someone who's trying to rescue his girlfriend from a dragon. But he can't help him self. All that jumping and flying is just too much fun for him not to crack a smile.

The prince from the Katamari games is the opposite. His face is always on screen and it always shows a pained expression. Which makes sense since he is pushing around masses that are orders of magnitude greater than his own to clean up after someone who never seems to be pleased.

I don't really get what's so wrong or rare about games that try to make people happy. Space Channel 5 hit all the right notes in taking some catchy, up-beat music and using it to put a smile on my face. I mean, I guess there was an evil plot, or something I should've been scared by? Or some kind of dystopianism in that Ulala inhabits a world where people can be made to dance?

Sorry. If it looks I'm having trouble commenting on this opinion piece it's probably because I'm extremely hazy on what the author's opinion is. Is there something wrong about games that use vibrant colors or try to depict non-violent conflicts or their characters enjoying situations that are perilous for them? Is it that these games are uncommon? Is it that they're uncommon for a good reason? Maybe it's that the past few years of reddish-brown-on-brown-on-brown games just isn't enough.

While we're addressing all this forced happiness maybe we should take a look at the other guys. The mercenaries and warriors who seem to enjoy all the chaos that surrounds them. The ones who you can't imagine doing anything but fighting for their entire lives because they don't really seem complete without blood on their hands. That seems to be the picture of mental health this article is painting. I'd say something about how heroes in shooter games are usually sociopaths but Valve already did that by making Team Fortress 2.

Interesting article, though I'm not sure I buy the argument. Part of me felt like the author was thinking about games too hard when writing this. Hello Kitty evil? I feel it's a stretch. Also, the whole Mario-is-going-to-have-to-rescue-Peach-again idea I don't think is necessarily true; each game has always felt like its own world, different from all the others. It's not like there's one storyline running through every mario game.

Finally, I think there are games that make you feel plain happy. One poster above mentioned LittleBigPlanet - I think that's a great example. The one that came to mind while reading this though was Loco Roco - everyone just looks so happy while playing! I can't help but smile to the tunes and happy faces there.

Even with these qualms, it still was an interesting read.

Good article. It doesn't make a gamer happy to see his character happy. It makes a gamer happy to make things dead.

Very interesting article.

There really is no Lilies of the Field equivalent in the gaming world.

Interestingly, a lot of those "happy" games were made specifically for little children, so it's really no wonder that they fail to provide any sort of joy. It's like expecting a live-action Disney movie from the last 15 years to be good.

By the way, I really like that Bjork song.

Good aricle. I think that the dark side of US is really happy when it can kill so harmlessly in a video game, hense the smiling marios of the gaming world, but is that happy?

bathshebaP:
Good aricle. I think that the dark side of US is really happy when it can kill so harmlessly in a video game, hense the smiling marios of the gaming world, but is that happy?

What about Team Fortress 2? Never before have I seen such glee on the faces of people doing so much killing (and dying). Who cares if you become one of the fallen? The very next moment, you'll be spinning up your minigun again and yelling "CRY COWARDS! BOO HOO HOO!"

And don't tell me that it's ultimately sad because no one can rest in peace or truly kill their enemy, because they live forever in a neverending cycle of violence, death and renewal. The ancient Vikings considered that to be Paradise.

Marcus's face wasn't meant to be pulled into such a gruesome position. But overall, I think the only games that give the type of happiness you speak of are E-rated games.

clericsdaughter:
What about Team Fortress 2? Never before have I seen such glee on the faces of people doing so much killing (and dying). Who cares if you become one of the fallen? The very next moment, you'll be spinning up your minigun again and yelling "CRY COWARDS! BOO HOO HOO!"

And don't tell me that it's ultimately sad because no one can rest in peace or truly kill their enemy, because they live forever in a neverending cycle of violence, death and renewal. The ancient Vikings considered that to be Paradise.

Even if you die, you'll most likely get to see an epic moment where all your intestines and limbs are flying all directions in front of an enemy. Doesn't get funnier - some happiness is to be found here, in pure mindless (nearly innocent, even though very bloody) killing :P.

Anyways.. more happiness is to be found in games like The World Ends With You. The main character makes friends and un-emos himself in the process.

Dean Reilly:
Violently Happy

Give us 200-year-old radio messages pleading for us to help sick children, and punch us in the stomach when we find their skeletal remains

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haha, Fallout reference! I spent a few hours looking for them... and yea, punched in the gut doesn't begin to describe my feelings after that wasted time. Oh sorry, was that a spoiler? Well, I just saved you a few pointless hours anyways... lol.

I don't think humanity as a whole has really been interested in things that are perfect. I think it's because, we don't live in a perfect world. Heck, most of our jokes are actually stories about how horrible life is - we laugh because we've either been in similar situations, or we know the possibility of us being there is too high for comfort; but it's refreshing to know that someone can relate to our struggles.

The best formula for a story is one where the protagonist is fighting for survival, and ultimately succeed - or he fails, but in his failure we see truths of our reality, either way we find ourselves relating to their struggles.

In a less phylosophical perspective, people like just blowing the crap outta things. They like being able to escape from reality for a while. Some ppl do enjoy these ventures as pointless escapades (Flower anyone?), others like them to be more complex.

Anyways, I have no problem with Nintendo making these sort of games, I just hope they actually make them with a better point, AND they charge less for them.

Moria was my favorite character...when I started the game I didn't want to destroy megaton because of her.

This article reminds me a lot of moral choice games (specifically kotor) where to be evil you have to be cold and rude to everyone. The only evil action that I actually enjoyed taking was forcing people to kill themselves with force persuasion in the second one.

Too few games try to leave the characters enjoyment of the experience they are going through even when it involves life and death situations. Naturally not all characters can be people that embark on epic quests because they thought it would be fun, but that archetype seems to be ignored.

God, am i the only one who wears at least jeans when he is alone at home and/or playing games?

 

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