"Anybody can become angry, that is easy; but to be angry with the right person, and to the right degree, and at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way, that is not within everybody's power and is not easy." - Aristotle
Anger gets a bad rap.
Anger is portrayed in popular media as a destructive force, irredeemably bad. It makes people blind, makes them do stupid things. After all, as everyone knows, a Jedi keeps control on his feelings. Anger leads to the dark side, right Yoda?
It is too rarely mentioned that anger can make good things happen. Anger at unjust treatment can drive people to protest and rally and prompt major changes for the better that benefit all of society. Justified, righteous anger can bring out the best in people, as individuals and as groups.
If you mention anger and video games in the same breath, we will all tend to think of the same things: a frustrated gamer smashing a controller, or a hate-filled teenager screaming obscenities at strangers down a headset.
What we never hear about is that righteous anger I talked about earlier. It's a difficult thing to capture in a game. Heartfelt, constructive anger is usually felt in reaction to something in the real world that is important and worthwhile. While we here on Screen Play love our games, few in-game events carry the kind of weight that could generate that kind of emotional response.
When I felt angry at an in-game character while playing Jenova Chen's Journey, it was a remarkably novel experience.
Journey is, for the most part, a very gentle and safe experience, involving flight, exploration, and discovery. To begin with, surfing down steep sand dunes and flying around deserted ruins is a lot of fun, but as the game progresses the landscapes become progressively darker and more melancholy.
Your only constant companions along the way are strips of magical fabric, flying around as if alive, "swimming" through the air and moving in fish-like schools. They are joyous little creatures, and it's a pleasure to interact with them. Less pleasant are the game's darker denizens, terrifying giants that resemble huge flying millipedes.
During one of this latter creature's first appearances in the game, it attacks one of the schools of flying "fabric fish" with a beam of destructive energy, "killing" them and burning them to ash. I was shocked for a moment, staring open-mouthed at the screen, but then the fury took over. That such innocent and loveable creatures could have been so casually murdered filled me righteous rage.
I didn't know how I was going to do it, but I was determined I was going to avenge those poor little scraps of cloth.
Strange as it may seem, I loved that Journey elicited such a strong reaction from me, along with large doses of fear and sadness, as well as great joy. In the mechanical, results-driven world of video games, it is a relief to know that some people have dedicated themselves to creating quieter, slower games that trigger strong emotional responses in players.
How about you, readers? Do you like a game that plays with your emotions? Tell us all about in the comments section below.
- James "DexX" Dominguez