"Did you cry?"
I ask it curiously, almost flippantly, whenever I talk to someone about the ending of The Walking Dead. (No worries, no spoilers about that here.) I'm not the only one that talks about the ending of The Walking Dead this way; crying, in its heartfelt sincerity has long been a (misguided) measure of the ultimate achievement for a video game.
Did you cry when Aeris died?
Did you cry at the end of Shadow of the Colossus?
Did Journey make you cry?
Did the ending of Mass Effect make you cry?
Did Planescape: Torment make you cry?
On and on.
Perhaps more common than asking each other if we cried or not is assuring each other that no, we did not in fact cry at [insert moment here.] There's an element of pride in saying that, too.
I don't talk about books, movies or comics in this way. I don't interrogate people immediately on whether or not they cried, and if they did cry, it's not this huge deal or anything—not in the same way. Stuff can make you cry. Crying is human. Who would have thought?
Focusing so much on crying makes me feel weird when I do cry. Like it's not supposed to happen, because well, most of the Tough Guys I've talked to about this game didn't cry and, oh, here I am, tears welling—is something wrong with me?
The way we focus on this moment, this supposedly-elusive moment of tears, bothers me. It bothers me even though I've been deferring to it a lot lately—so right after I ask the question I mentally kick myself for falling prey to it.
I feel like when I ask someone the question, I'm testing them to see if they gave in. That framing poses a game and its sentimentality as an obstacle that we can overcome, and I need to see if it 'bested' the person I'm asking.
That's ridiculous when you consider that I cry readily, and easily, enough that I'm embarrassed to share when and why because I know it'll elicit ridicule. How dare I be touched by a game? Do my plebeian tastes not call for more sophisticated moments of sentimentality? Oh no, if you didn't cry, are your emotions more complicated than my emotions?
That's a stupid way of looking at it, and I don't think I am alone in approaching it that way. I can't help but wonder how much, if at all, we hide when something makes us cry, only to turn around and ask each other when it happens as if it's supposed to be this super rare thing that never occurs... or worse, treating crying like a game's final boss battle. It's not.