A writer friend of mine asked me to show her HEAVY RAIN and some other video games -- she's planning her own detective game. So I played it a little deeper than I did the last time, which wasn't very far. I get Richard Rouse's complaint -- the game makes you its bitch. You don't really control the action at all. You can simple fail the action. I get in a fight with a dude, and I can either hit the right keys or not hit them. If I don't hit them, I lose the fight. But all I'm doing is hitting X when an X flashes on the screen and O when an O flashes. It's not like a proper fight where I can choose to dodge or hit or grapple.
I can see why a lot of hardcore gamers consider this not really a game, even if the critics liked it pretty well.
For me, it's about immersion. In a movie, I'm immersed if the character is someone I care about. (It doesn't help that the dad is such a pathetic, whiny guy -- he's not
someone I care about.) But in a game, I'm immersed if I'm making choices for the main character. If I'm just following orders, then I don't get involved emotionally. Emotion (beyond sheer thrill and excitement) is about making moral choices.
When I blow a case in LA NOIRE and convict the wrong guy, I feel a lot worse than I do playing HEAVY RAIN. The setup was taking so long I was yelling at the game, "kidnap the damn kid already, for chrissake! Let's go!"
I'm developing this thought more in a talk I'm giving to the MIGS in November.
I agree with your point of view, but let’s look at “GTA” like games. You have freedom to kill someone any way you want – kick to death, slice with knife, shot with gun, pistol, AK47, m16, Uzi, kill with grenade, or bazooka, or sniper rifle, take headshot and blow his head to pieces, fill his stomach with 30 bullets, cut him with the blades of helicopter, kill him with car explosion, hit him to death by bus, run and shoot, kill him silently, kill everyone around or just one you need to kill, covering and not covering, etc., etc., etc. But whatever you decide to do, there is one rule – you must kill that someone. This whole story doesn’t care about what you want. There were just one decision in whole game when you were needed to choose between “a” and “b” and it affects the final (a little). And the others shooter games usually don’t have emotion involvement except WOW factor when something blowing or it was beautiful headshot.
Choice just how to kill somebody in games is no choice at all and it’s not main factor of immersion. At least in heavy rain you have visibility that you have more options than you actually have. This was more like a movie than standard game - beauty action scenes; love scenes; not perfect, but interesting screenplay; right music at right places and they were trying us to care about heroes. They cut boring moves from “a” to “b” point to start next mission. You don’t need to jump through the roofs 99 percent of the game to look at the 1 percent of the story, which usually anyway silly.
Some gamers not like it or not fill emotional immersion as they usually had in other games because here we don’t have usual gameplay elements, when they were collecting something, finding something, completing all the quests, having relationships with another characters in the game for 200 hours in a row – of course they have care about their characters more, than not doing it in game they finished in 7 hours. It’s not about the emotional immersion like in movie, it’s just about “I live with this woman for 20 years, have house, children, some common sh*t, how can I not love her?” (although, somebody can, maybe it’s better to compare with children).
Actually, without technical aspects, Heavy Rain has only its story – there is nothing to do if you don’t like their story. And also they have 4 characters, may be this is to ensure that each one has found his character, he most like, and live through the story with him. Antagonist is most boring character and I’m not sure there are a lot of people who love him.
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