Open Up

There are times in life when you have to let yourself go, open yourself up to whatever is thrown at you. There will be times when the only option available to you is to break down and cry, no matter how tough you think you are; there will always be that moment where there is nothing left, you can’t take it and the tears stream down your face leaving glistening trails on your cheeks. There will also be times when you take a risk, open your heart and say those three words to a special person. You find someone that you feel so strongly about that you cannot keep it in anymore, like gunpowder inside a firework you burst out “I love you”.

Laughter, sorrow, love, hatred; these are all traits that make us human. When you feel so strongly about a subject matter, a person or even yourself is when you feel most alive. In everyday life I’m sure there are people that you would just love to tell exactly what you think of them; they work you up whether they mean to or not, but sometimes that emotion bottles up to the point where you have to take your mind off of it, release some of that pressure. You watch a film, read a book or play a game (some good, some bad) but it helps you unwind.

Video games are a fantastic way of forgetting the day you have had and, if you let them, they can also teach you a lot about emotions that you may not have felt before. Losing yourself in a whole new world lets you forget any burdens weighing heavy on your shoulders. Playing Battlefield Bad Company 2, Halo Reach or Call of Juarez can help unleash that anger on figments of your imagination, ending up in you walking away from the experience like you have settled your scores. But it is dangerous to think that videogames can only help release anger. It is a trap that the media fall into every time an atrocity happens; videogames are to blame, always.

I’m a pretty chilled out person, I have a happy home life, a girlfriend whom I love, a decent job and I’m not in debt. I go to work nine to five and sometimes I just want to escape, not because I’m angry but because there is nothing like losing yourself in a story. I don’t just want my time in front of my TV to be an empty experience, I want to feel for the characters I am controlling. I want to be drawn into a story so much that I feel exactly what the characters are feeling. If they hurt I want to hurt; if there’s someone who is supposed to be hated I want to hate them – not just because I’m told to, but because of their actions, their personalities. A lot of that comes down to the performances of voice actors and the scripts they are given, but not always. I have always found it so much easier to feel for characters in TV shows and movies.  I have been watching Game of Thrones on Sky Atlantic recently and I haven’t found a character whose head I want to mount on a spike more than Joffery. Jack Gleeson gives a masterful performance and his acting, along with a fantastic script, means that just hearing his voice or seeing a picture of him gets me angry.

There are the exceptions though and it’s not just TV and film that can grab me; certain games can as well. I can’t say that I have lost myself in any game the way I have with the Mass Effect series. Who wouldn’t want to be a galactic hero? But what makes Mass Effect different to say, Heavy Rain (where I cringed when I was forced to cut my finger off), is that I can put my own slant on Commander Shepard; he is an extension of me. Whilst the tone of Shepard’s voice is the same, I still have some measure of choice in the way he is perceived in the universe. I play my Shepard the way that I think I would react in that situation; doing this allows me to feel a part of the universe and not only feel like a hero, but it also means I feel for the other characters. I’m not saying I love the female characters in the game, but I thought I knew who they were; I knew their strengths, their weaknesses and not just in the ‘shooting bad guys’ department.

Most of the main characters in the Mass Effect universe are well rounded, with well thought out back-stories that you feel affects the way that they behave when you speak to them. In my play through of Mass Effect 2 I tried so hard to keep everyone alive throughout the game. I carefully thought about who would lead certain teams so that they would best protect the people around them. I remember it as if it was yesterday. I chose Miranda to hold a biotic barrier around my team as we battled our way through the Collector ship. We made our way through to the final door and the barrier started to go down.  We ran towards the open door that was beckoning us to its shelter. I turned around and there was Legion, overwhelmed by the Collectors and their swarm. In a flash he was picked up and taken away. I was devastated. I wanted to make it through MY story without losing a squad member and I failed. I made the wrong choice, Legion was gone and it was entirely my fault. I had to get over the fact that Legion wouldn’t be around for the next chapter in the saga; even though I had just saved the universe, there was a sense of huge loss.

It doesn’t just need to be about a clever, well thought out script, however. Sometimes you can be opened up just by sound and visuals. I recently had the pleasure of trying out the Journey Beta on the PS3 and the range of emotions that I went through just being hands on with it for thirty minutes was unbelievable. If you don’t know much about Journey, you play the role of a robed figure waking up in the middle of a desert, where a shining light is visible on top of a mountain in the distance. That is it, there are no instructions per se and there is no map. Your inquisitive nature instantly draws you to the mountain. Where am I? Why am I here? What is glowing on top of the mountain?

Journey instantly draws you in by making you ask questions. You are alone in the desert with no one around to answer the thoughts that are swilling around in your head. I felt alone. I am so used to having NPCs or friends join me when playing a game that when it was just me by myself it started to get to me. I wanted to race to the mountain but obstacles blocked my path. As I made my way through a couple of areas, desperate for answers, I saw a red cloak in the distance. “Is it a mirage?” I thought to myself. “Is this game trying to play with me?”  I made a beeline for the cloak; it kept moving around but as I got closer I found it was another person. I made a sound and the other cloak made a sound back… there was someone else out there. I was so happy to find someone else in the world that could help me get on with a section a bit quicker and unveil the answers to my questions. That is the joy of Journey, that cloaked figure was another player. Did they feel the same as me? Were they hoping they would bump into somebody else or would they rather race off and leave me alone?

Videogames aren’t just about shooting people in the face for very little reason than to make you feel better. Sometimes that is all you need though. They can help you lose yourself in a whole new world and, in a way, can help you in your real life. I was devastated at the loss of a computer game character, as daft as that sounds. If I can lose myself that much and open myself up to a game, just think what I would feel if something happened to someone I loved in my life. While I don’t want to ever feel the hurt and pain of losing someone, I know at some point I will, and maybe leaving myself open for a game to probe my emotions could perhaps help me when that times comes.

I try to open myself up to all games; some of them I will not be able to connect with, the characters will mean nothing to me, but those games that I do, the Mass Effects and the Flowers of this world can help teach me so much if I let them.

Last five articles by Joey



  1. Brad Jamse says:

    I have to 100% agree with you on this. The very fact that Video Games can cause this emotion in people is a sign of not only a fantastic game, but also it shows how fare they’ve evolved. Countless times I’ve been sadden by a loss of a character in a game, or been so happy that someone made it through.
    The beauty is that you can escape whatever is going on in your life and experience something new. Something wonderful. Games that make me feel like this are highly rated in my favourites. I’m glad someone else did actually touch on this!

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  3. Tania Tania says:

    Excellent article, love it. Some really good points :)

  4. Jess says:

    I completely agree with you Joe! Reading your article makes me want to run home and play a game right now! I look forward to reading more awesome articles like this in the future :)

  5. Edward Edward says:

    This is awesome Joey!
    I do find myself getting emotionally attached to characters too, and I find myself doing so sometimes with characters I shouldn’t really logically care about.
    The biggest one in recent memory, and one of which I was reminded of when I saw the Zelda Symphony was Midna from Twilight Princess. I cared a lot more about her than I thought, so when the ending came, I was a bit distraught and heartbroken. Oddly, I didn’t really care for Zelda in Spirit Tracks in anywhere near close to the same way.

  6. Joe says:

    Thanks for the comments guys,

    I really enjoyed writing the piece and It was all written off the back of playing Journey. Seriously you have to keep an eye out for that game when it comes out. The sense of loneliness I felt just playing the BETA was immense.

    There is not a need for Emotion in all games but the ones that connect with me and make me feel something are the ones that sit at the top of my favourite games lists: Shadow of the Colossus, Uncharted, Heavy Rain, MGS. Those are the games I remember.

  7. Mark R MarkuzR says:

    Really enjoyed this piece, Joe. I tend to get more attached to characters if I’ve created and nurtured them myself, such as Private Walter S Skinner of X-Com who ended up becoming the Commander before being taken out by the big bad in the last level of Enemy Unknown. It was like someone reached inside my heart with a pixelated hand and crushed it.

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