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Published January 29, 2013

You can read From Pixels to Emotion: The Search for Feelings in Games here.

In reference to the end of Ruaidhri’s piece (above), here’s some games that made me cry, piss myself, turn the light on and scratch my head in confusion.

– Guilt


We’ve all been there – woken up next to the not-that-long-ago ex-girlfriend of a friend.  Just me?  What a prick.  Needless to say, guilt is not a nice feeling.  Neither is killing Paarthurnax, the gravelly voiced dragon in Skyrim, who has changed his ways and also helped you save the world.  Renouncing violence, and focusing on meditation, Paarthurnax is the scaly equivalent of 40 Days and 40 Nights.  He also shares the same voice actor as Mario (surprisingly).  Skyrim certainly plays on choices (neither are completely black or white), and often I’ve reloaded a save file after a pang of guilt.  I was going to include Pikmin in this list, but after a while you get used to the sound of their tiny screams.

– Anger


This is probably the hardest emotion to convey, namely because anger – for me – comes in the form of games like Dark Souls or Viewtiful Joe, and their frustrating difficulty.  I’m certain the World of Warcraft party felt something similar with Leroy Jenkins.  The recent Far Cry 3 did, however, spark something in me.  This is in the form of Buck, a deranged collector and kidnapper.  Upon discovering your friend’s bottom has seen better days (and Buck has gone against his word to free him) a fight ensues.  It’s a quick-time affair with a knife, but it plays well with your emotions, and you get your revenge – Marsalis Wallis style.

– Humour


Humour, when done well, almost becomes a core aspect of a game.  Conker’s Bad Fur Day is a phantasmagoria world, filled with ‘fart-jazz’ music, gargoyles who find – after sitting on it for 200 years – that gothic architecture gets right up their arse, and Scouse dung-beetles.  It’s your standard platformer, but the humour turns it into an interactive comedy.  And it has the timeless line, ‘You is a shit bastard, stupid bastard.’

– Fear

eternal darkness

There’s plenty of horror games out there, but last time I checked, my pants were marginally clean.  Eternal Darkness possessed some rather chilling moments.  There’s the famous ‘bathtub’ scene, as well as the ‘sanity meter’ dynamic, which adds a new kind of fear to the genre.  Discovering that your game has frozen, or blood is dripping down the walls, or a fly is buzzing inside the screen, are devices that are so cleverly done, the real fear is of your own mind – and perhaps this visceral emotion is far more powerful than the monster lurking around the corner.

– Grief


Grief comes in many forms, as Homer would testify (after eating fugu).  The strongest reaction I’ve had to grief is in Mass Effect 3.  This is when the singing alien doctor – Mordin – sacrifices himself, to reverse the effect of a Half-Life 2-like suppression field (to reference Homer again, picture his sperm bumping into each other).  Grab your tissues.  For Mordin.  Not Homer’s sperm.

– Attachment


Cynical old bastard that I am, attachment is a more apt word than ‘love’, which – like unicorns – doesn’t exist.  Again, Mass Effect allows you to have a romantic interest  (two in Mass Effect 3, if you want to shag the annoying IGN woman).  I couldn’t help but wonder where my blue skinned girlfriend was in Mass Effect 2, and was let down to see the shy, quirky character I’d fallen for now working an office job, and barely acknowledging me.  Romantic attachment in videogames may be weird, but at least you can switch it off at the end of the day.

– Morality


I wonder if Jimmy Saville had the option of pressing ‘Y’ to free his victim, or ‘X’ to make the screen go weird, as something awful happened.  Certainly in Bioshock, I harvested one of the Little Sisters once, and felt some deep disgust as the sea slug in my hand gave me maximum ADAM.  Now, with every run-through of the game, I will always rescue them.  ‘Cos I’m a good guy.  And you get some cool extras for saving them too.

– Confusion

killer 7

A lot of  games have left me confused (often Japanese ones).  Killer 7 is a bizarre world of ghosts in bondage gear.  Ada Wong practically has her boobs out in freezing Edonia (Resident Evil 6).  Tingle is a 35 year old man dressed as a fairy (Majora’s Mask).  The G-Man miraculously sends you through time (Half-Life 2).  Mystery works for the tone of a game, but is more often done without thinking things through.  Usually it involves cold weather and boobs.


For a medium that started out with things like Pong, games have come a long way.  Sad as it may seem to be emotionally invested in a game, it’s a much deeper experience.  Perhaps even an art form?  Sorry… I’m being a big girl again.

I’m off to cry now, and watch Hentai.

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  1. Totally agree with the Mass Effect 3 part. Infact Mass Effect 3 is ALL grief. *spoilers * Eve dying, Thane dying, Shepard dying/becoming consumed. Left me a bit of a wreck at the end of it!

    • Max Max

      Forgot about Thane! Yeah, it’s a pretty depressing end for a lot of characters

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