Can a Game Be a Tearjerker?

Illustration for article titled Can a Game Be a Tearjerker?

Reddit turned up an absolutely depressing thread in a forum the other day. Wasn't really worth a post unto itself, but I thought it'd be a good conversation starter because man, I don't think I have encountered anything like this:

My saddest gaming experience was while playing Creatures, that experimental game where you had to take care of creatures equipped with a neural network which made them able to learn things.

One of my creatures got pregnant but was also very sick. Her health stats were dropping and I was hoping she would be able to lay her egg in time. She only had 3% life over when she finally did. Afterwards, she laid down next to the egg, closed her eyes, and died. Minutes later, the egg hatched, and a cute little creature came out. His mother's body still laid there. He crawled around it, uttering the same sounds the whole time. He then crept up against her and went to sleep.

I stopped playing the game then.

So, short of game adaptations for Bambi, Brian's Song, Field of Dreams or Terms of Endearment, can a game be a tearjerker? I know colleagues (*cough cough Leigh Alexander) who were extremely emotional after finishing Metal Gear Solid 4. Is such emotion a worthy goal of a product engineered to be fun? What games have made you cry? Any? Tell us, dammit, while I ... sniff ... wipe the dust out of my eyes here.

DISCUSSION

I used to be one of the many who thought games' stories would evolve until they rivaled movies, and that this was a good thing. But when stories that looked like they were written by emo teens started becoming the main focus of a lot of games (accompanied by cookie-cutter firmly-in-genre gameplay), I lost interest.

Playing through a tough but entertaining section of the game and being rewarded with a cut-scene? Good. Putting up with the same damn stuff just to get to the next cut-scene? Bad.

All that said, there are only two games that had any kind of real emotional impact on me: Banjo-Kazooie (Click Clock Wood, where you grow the flower through the seasons only to see it dead in the winter) and Grim Fandango (the death of Lola).