In response to “Kill Billy” from The Escapist Forum: Well I must say that was a fantastic article, it’s amazing that you managed to write a 3 page story about how you felt remorse after killing a pixelated goat. A lot of the concepts you covered were very interesting to me.
It’s odd how people can become attached to a simple character in a video game. People begin to form unintended attachments to the environment around them in games. Take for example, Animal Crossing. The entire premise of Animal Crossing is that you have all these little Animal Neighbors who live in this little world. If you don’t tidy up this world by planting tree’s or pulling weeds then animals begin to move out.
Normally you shouldn’t care if some inferior character made of zeros and ones packs their bags to move out of your crummy, weed infested town. But, you do care for some strange reason and when that cute dog with the black spot on its eye named Ponto leaves… It’s just heartbreaking…
Video games have historically taught players to assume that action is more beneficial to inaction. Games inherently require the possibility of action to be games. The goat was a rare exception to this. Its significance was determined solely on how it affected your perceived experience, not a game value or effect.
It’d be interesting to see inaction used more as a game option. Generally, if there is an opportunity in a game to either act upon something or do nothing, my instinct is to side with the former, just because the latter is something I’d expect to end in a Game Over, or at least a missed reward. It’d be interesting if the predictability of games got to be fresh enough to where such consequences would not be presumed.
The goat was an opportunity for you to create your own content (perceived meanings and consequences to the choice) without any sort of gameplay interference in your judgement. That’s a pretty unique thing in this medium.
In response to “A Pikachu in the Family” from The Escapist Forum: When Furbies were the hot, new thing, I bought one for my little sister for her birthday. Problem was, the only one I could find was the store display and it was still two weeks before her birthday. So for the next few weeks I had to drive around with this little fellow in my car, talking to me the whole time. (I was told not to remove his batteries or else he might not work right anymore.) He would call me mommy, and even though I ignored him, he always knew when I was around and genuinely seemed to love me. So finally my sister’s big day comes up and I give her her new little friend. She’s overly excited not expecting one, and the family is pleased cause no one else could find one, but it was all very short-lived.
He didn’t like my sister. He never once responded to her, only becoming “happy” when I was around. After about a month, my sister ended up removing it’s batteries herself. I still have no idea how those stupid things are made, but after that incident, I avoided them at all costs.
In response to “Junktown Dog” from The Escapist Forum: A wonderful meditation on one of the most memorable, iconic characters in gaming.
In the original game, I always felt like I had to get Dogmeat because it’s so friggin’ hard – he really helped out a lot, at least near the start. And it was just cool to have a dog that followed you around the Wastes.
In Fallout 3, I have mixed feelings about him. It’s awesome that they were making the reference to the original, and I was really excited when I first found him. But if you’re sneaking around or get into a really intense fight, he’s just such a liability. Aside from one epic shootout at the Bethesda offices, I left Dogmeat at my house in Megaton. Maybe when I get into Broken Steel, I’ll use him more after I get the Puppies! perk.
Dogmeat was a great character to meet in Fallout 3, but it’s true that statistically he was useless. He died so often and I had to reload every time because I actually cared about him, like I tend to about NPCs that actually move, as opposed to the virtually robotic human NPCs in the game.
He ended up getting sent back to the Vault, with me checking on him from time to time just to see if the terrible glitches in the game had done him in yet. Luckily, they managed to make it so it was an actual safe spot. That’s a rare thing in a Bethesda game. Very rare indeed.
In any case, I like such characters. We need more lovable characters in deathtraps. I’m sick of everyone being suitably tough. Mix it up a bit, game designers, and let even characters with 1 HP be useful in other ways!
In response to “Digging Up An Old Bone” from The Escapist Forum: More studios need to review the rules of good writing and remember the “show, don’t tell” rule. SoE didn’t say “here’s a dog, you like him,” it demonstrated that the bond between the player and the dog was incredibly deep, causing the player to actually care for the dog. It’s not impossible, but now all we see are stories like that of Dead Space, where you are told to care for someone you have no reason to be attached to.
It’s pretty interesting to examine how the emotions of the player, even though clearly encouraged by the game, highly affect the player. Though pets always seem to hold a very special place in the hearts of everyone. Gamers are no exceptions, and the amount of discussion spurred by the inclusion of Dogmeat in Fallout 3, or the calls of outrage at the dog’s death in Fable 2 prove that gamers have a very fond attachment to their pets, digital or otherwise.
I’ll agree that Secret of Evermore seemed to have a closer understanding to the bond between pets and their owners, or at least understood how to represent the relationship more on a more subtle level. It’s a lot better for the sake of emotions and the narrative to let the reader/player/user to experience and form their own opinion rather than “this is your dog, love him.” Fable II made that mistake, Dogmeat was a little closer to the right way to do it. As you illustrated, Secret of Evermore really did do it right. Perhaps in these modern times, we could get a little closer to perfection.
Though, sadly, seems like no one’s willing to go the extra mile.
I’ve never played Secret of Evermore – in fact, I’d never even heard of it before this article.
Sounds like a very interesting game.
It’s sort of funny how gamers (and people in general) become attached to animal characters in games, movies, and books relatively easily, while building that same kind of attachment to human characters (which is what many developers are trying to do now) is very tough.
In the case of Secret of Evermore, it seems like you grew attached to the boy character because of his relationship with the dog – the animal makes the human character easier to relate with.
Why is it so hard to form a bond with a virtual character? We can replicate human movement about as well as we can replicate the movement of a dog or a horse – what prevents us from feeling something for a virtual human?