With the recent release of the last of us 2 and the controversy surrounding it I'd like to have a conversation about games and the Messages they are trying to tell. I'm not talking about the agenda as honestly I don't care that much. What I do care about is the dissonance between the gameplay and the message they are trying to tell. Do it well and it stays with me for a long long time.
The last of us 2 is a game about revenge as the developers put it. It's a game about the cycle of revenge and how hate begets hate. But upon finishing it its ultimately about >! forgiveness!<. I get what they are trying to say but to me it's just not executed very well.
For example upon playing it was this really noticeable. Did the npcs get angrier and angrier the more you killed them? Did The gameplay evolve as you let the cycle of hate flow trough you?
It did not. Not until the ending did the game tried so hard to beat it into you that yes the cycle of hate has to end.
The second one is emphaty, it tried so hard to make us emphatize with Abby by showing her doing good after what she did. But did any other game mechanics try to teach you that?
One of the other game that changed my perspective recently was Death Stranding. A lot of people hated this game but it succeeds where Tlou2 did not. The games theme is connection. Never at any time when people are so connected are we so disconnected, and if we don't start being united soon it would be the end of our survival. Very powerful message. Very timely too. With the current division of people during the coronavirus pandemic, people fighting over wearing a mask, the black lives matter movement, death Stranding needs to be heard. We need to be united in order to survive. That's powerful, that's what we need. But enough of that. I got off rails sorry.
Death Stranding did great in sending that message through gameplay as well as beating us over the head with it on cinematics. The world is harsh and traversing the terrain is essential to your delivery missions. Other players are not really essential but will make your life easier. Someone building a bridge over a river gives you a sense of gratitude to another player, because crossing that river might make you fall and end up losing your cargo. Someone left a bike, thank you! Someone left a cargo truck, omg bless you! This game has made me so grateful for the little things that it carried over the little things. Even the road I drive on(both I game and irl) . Someone built that road and because of that it's convenient for me. The games lessons resonates with me months after release. Heck even until now. It makes me feel that other players are kind because they left those items/structures/shelter there for your benefit. Never has any game made me consistently grateful for a stranger.
Killing is bad? Again death Stranding did it like this, basically, killing will make the body explode after a few days into a nuclear crater basically ending your game. If you kill someone and don't want it to happen you have to bring the body to a cremation facility to make sure that doesn't happen. That means carrying a body for hundreds of miles. That's harsh but it gives grave consequence to the act of virtual murder.
What if Ellie had to bury a body everytime she kills? Or the bodies makes a different kind of clicker everytime you murder. Or what if the enemies double down on you everytime you hunt a hunting party? Thereby adding real consequences to your actions. What can we do to the gameplay so that the message revenge is bad can be seen through the gameplay?
Tlou2 also tries to touch upon the themes of emphaty, we are sometimes tasked of killing >! A dog.!< and other people, after which a flashback would show how we are made to feel bad of doing so. But we are given no choice on the matter. How about if we were given a choice to spare it? Wouldn't it make you feel good when the said flashback comes? Wouldn't that be the reward? Where people more emphatic when they finished the game?
What other games do you know that has a message that they are trying to tell? Was it effective? Was it done through gameplay?
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