Posted on Friday, August 23rd, 2013 at 8:30 AM by Chris Smith
We all know that games can make people happy. Sometimes it’s just from the act of playing, other times it’s due to the excellent story. It might even be down to emergent gameplay – something that the developers perhaps never intended – or something even more esoteric. Still, I found it difficult to pick the title of this article. I wavered between choosing “happiness” or possibly even “rapture”, but neither really captured what I was trying to get across. In all honesty, I’m not even sure that “joy” is adequate, but I’ll try to explain. When I say joy, I don’t just mean smiling and laughing. Joy can be tearful or quiet, intense or calm. It can also be side-splitting laughter, of course; here are a few specific examples of where games have made me feel joy.
I wanted to just link a picture of Oblivion and be done with it, but that wouldn’t be in the spirit of things. Instead, I chose two characters from this wonderful game in order to demonstrate the endless hilarity that can be found within. Take the Adoring Fan for example.
I can watch that video twenty times in a row and it will never stop being funny. This little oik follows you around everywhere if you let him. A cursory search of YouTube will result in scores of videos depicting his death. The Adoring Fan, as he is known, is the sort of purposely annoying little bastard that sits on the right side of the line between funny and irritating. He is only one example of how Oblivion can incite bouts of laughter. If the varied and multiple deaths of The Adoring Fan are unintentional, behold someone that was purpose-made to have you in stitches.
“Wonderful… time for a celebration! Cheese for everyone! …Wait, scratch that. Cheese for no-one. That can be just as much of a celebration, if you don’t like cheese. True?”
Sheogorath, the Daedric Prince of Madness, was introduced in Oblivion’s “Shivering Isles” expansion and proved to be so popular, he re-appeared in Skyrim. Needless to say, a quick viewing of the above video will give you some insight to his particular eccentricities. Gleefully skipping back and forth between jovial and murderous, his thoughts are never truly random. The writing for Sheogorath – not to mention the voice acting – combine to make him the funniest thing Tamriel has seen since M’aiq the Liar.
From laughter, we move to tears. Watching this video, I admit that a lot of the emotion is nostalgic in origin, but it’s no less genuine for that. The plight of Sonic as he runs headlong out the airlock of the exploding Death Egg. The shock of onlookers as the sky is lit by the conflagration. The look of determined concern on Tails’ face as he boards his plane and sets off. The music moving from melancholy disaster to triumphant rescue and celebration… it gets me every time. I smile and reflect on how awesome this game was and how simple, 16-bit sprites can convey more emotional weight than the vast majority of modern titles.
Now I’m not going to deny that this game is overly sexualised. One need only take a look at some of the rest of that trailer to see the truth of this. Bayonetta is a witch who wears a skin-tight suit made of her own hair. It’s magic hair, you see, and tends to leave her somewhat… exposed if you perform some of her more powerful moves. But the part that makes me joyous isn’t the gratuitous display of lady-flesh: it’s the bombastic and unquestionably awesome entrance that Bayonetta makes. A flash of light and the music starts; two guns are launched towards her, which she grabs in a style both extravagant and yet calm, then starts shooting enemies to death without skipping a beat. She even takes time out after getting her second gun to complain about the quality of her killing tools… then she gets given two more. For her god-damn FEET.
All the while, this strangely amazing remix of “Fly Me To The Moon” is playing in the background. After this scene is over, you get to go and dish out some death in amongst the tombstones. The flow is almost seamless and – playing it for the first time – my mouth was agape and grinning ear to ear. This is no Devil May Cry, nor even Ninety-Nine Nights: here is a game that is about having fun. I can remember with perfect clarity the feeling of exultant glee as I bounded through the graveyard, acrobatically shooting four guns at a time. While her character developed and deepened over time, it was this one scene that made me fall in love with the game. It remains one of my fondest gaming memories.
Saving the best for last, I give you the masterpiece of RTS / RPG comedy that is Giants: Citizen Kabuto. Specifically, the cut scenes in this game are some of the funniest I’ve ever come across. The first one is embedded above, carefully chosen because it contains no spoilers but retains the charm of the game as a whole. This sort of slapstick comedy normally doesn’t get too many laughs from me, but for some reason, Giants manages to pull it off perfectly. From the belligerent Scottish “smartie” Borjoyzee (who complains about his saggy balls) to the German Reaper guards (who insist on shouting “HALTEN SIE!” at everyone), nearly every cut scene had me either giggling or outright howling with laughter.
Not only that, but the humour persists throughout the entire game. Without going into too much detail (in order to avoid spoilers), there’s hours of fun to be had here. Just about every action possible in Giants is comical in some fashion, to the point that simply playing the game is an exercise in joy. Unfortunately, it was a game missed by most people, but this error is now easily correctable. It’s available for purchase on GOG.com for only $9.99 – I heartily recommend it to anyone with a pulse.
Come back next week for another instalment of Gaming Emotion. Bonus points if you can guess which state of mind will be up next!