The Reckoner!

Have you ever had a *moment* while gaming?

Let's forget about the "can games be art?" argument.  And let's forget the "can games tell stories?" argument while we're at it.  I take it on faith that both are true, and that while the vast majority of games abuse both the concept of storytelling and their audiences, that's just Sturgeon's Law in action.  Why should gaming be exempt from Sturgeon's Law when nothing else is?

Let's instead evaulate from a different perspective.  Perhaps the highest achievement in storytelling is giving the audience a 'moment'.  A 'moment' is one of those fleeting cases where you have complete and absolute emotional engagement with the material -- an almost trancelike state where the work is speaking directly to you and circumventing all of your emotional defenses.  A 'moment' is fundamentally difficult to describe, but if you've ever had one, you'd know precisely what it means and what they feel like.

I've had a few moments with television and film over the years.  The climax of Do The Right Thing.  The final fight scene in Rocky, specifically the 14th round where Rocky scrambles to his feet, the music reaches a crescendo, and you realize that he actually is going to make it until the end.  The Kodak Carousel speech in Mad Men.  Other stories may be more intellectually engaging, or more cleverly plotted, or philosphically interesting, but these moments transcend that -- they're the apogee of the narrative experience.

All of the theoretical discussions about game storytelling aside, if it has given you a 'moment', then it too has achieved the zenith of what a story can accomplish.  And yes, they have happened for me.  The last (regular) ending in Chrono Trigger when again, the music swells.  When Colonel Campbell loses his mind in MGS 2 and the very fabric of the game (and the fourth wall) begins to tear to pieces.  

Has a game ever given you that same sensation?  Or is this something that only happens to me?

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Reckoning Comments!

I think that providing agency for a character in the narrative makes achieving a "moment" easier.  For me, the power of games is that they establish an environment -- including a set of rules -- through which you can craft your own narrative, using whatever the game itself provides combined with whatever you're willing to supplement with either your imagination or your 'directorial' control.

Most game stories are terrible on paper (and most actually are terrible), but quite a few work under the terms of being experiences as opposed to drama.  That's one of the myriad reasons why cutscenes don't work -- you're usually getting the worst of both worlds.

I'll be the first to trot out the cliche about being shocked by the big death in Final Fantasy 7.  I definetely gasped as if Sepiroth had come through the screen and impaled someone sitting in the room next to me.

I haven't been into games for a while, but I still think the whole Final Fantasy series is one big "moment".

The Reckoner!