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The Emotions of Gaming
I watched as Niko took her first steps, entering the foreign world. While still young and new to the dark universe she entered, she took my advice, and I had an opportunity that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. I have watched her grow, talk with others, and form new friends. Her dreams radiated with a warm and cozy glow, resonating a homesickness in her optimistic mind. Having only herself and my willful guidance, she followed along the path to her destiny. Even through my occasional frustrations, she waited patiently, ready to travel to the edges of the world if needs be. If abandoned, she waited until I return to guide her. Despite my slightly chaotic nature, I protected her and the sun she carried. Like a parent, I kept her safe, and watched as she grew. Now finally, after solving the puzzles and labyrinth of the world, we approach the elevator leading up to the pedestal, the place where Niko will put the sun. A voice in my head starts talking, which has become a part of this adventure.
“You know that you can’t save them both.” reads the text that appears before me.
“What do you mean?”
“This world and Niko; Only one can be saved. Returning the sun will restore this world, but Niko will not be able to return home. Choosing to break the sun will destroy this world, but Niko will be sent home. The choice is yours, but it is a choice that you have to make.” Niko gets on the final elevator, and it starts crawling up the shaft. In the silence of the elevator, she stares up at me through the elevator roof. Desperate, I need to tell her the truth, but find myself unable to, at least for a while. Like the elevator that ran down into the city, silence remains dominant until I break it like a hammer to a glass pane.
“Niko… There’s something I have to tell you.”
“Yes Player?” Niko responds,
“We can’t save the world and bring you home.”
“What?” I explain to her what the voice said, as she listens quietly. After I finish talking, Niko tells me “I’m not sure what to do Player.”
Leaning back in my computer chair, I stare into the monitor, feeling a deep pull on my heart. Many people play games to escape responsibility, to escape daily troubles, to leave the world that we live to enjoy some time in a crafted virtual reality. While we play, emotions start to show themselves, developing more as we play. We use them to make our decisions, from burning down the prison you built, to sparing the forgiving Papyrus. Now… I have to make a conscious choice and accept the consequences. However, this choice is more than those. As the title implies, I only have One Shot. One Shot to make things right. The elevator reaches the top, and Niko’s pixelated sprite steps out of the elevator, still holding the lightbulb that is the sun. While I try to bring myself together, she waits there, just looking at me with her large yellow eyes. I guide her to the pedestal, still feeling the intense heartache of being able to save only one of them. After pressing the spacebar, a dialogue box pops up, with only 2 options to choose.
[Place the Sun]
[Break the Sun]
My mouse hovers over the options, sliding between them. Like Niko, I’m sandwiched between the decisions. A few tears finally managed to break through my defenceful eyes, rolling slowly down my face. I take my hands off of the controls for a few minutes, wavering between the choice of action. Should I save the people of this world, who each have their own personalities and developed through the story, or save the one I have been guiding this entire time? Thoughts race through my mind, whether saving the world was really worth it. While there were many that hoped for me to bring light to this landscape, there were just as many that believed nothing would change. That the goal that Niko and I had been steadily working toward was pointless. At the same time though, it pains me to choose that, as that means sacrificing an entire planet full of people with their own goals, hopes, dreams, and personalities. Is one person really worth saving if there are more to be saved? These thoughts and conflicts flooded past the dam that people build around their emotions and true thoughts, with every thought of a firm decision tossing my morals and ideals aside. After a few minutes, I regained enough composure to make the choice. The mouse hovers over my option, my hand hesitating with going through with the decision. After the pause, I finally clicked the prompt. With that, she dropped the Sun on the ground, the bulb shattering. Like that, Niko was transported back to the room that she started in: a wooden house. She looks up at me, realizing that this would be the last time that she would see me. She looks up at me, and starts to speak.
“Ah, Player, I guess… I guess this is goodbye… I’m… glad… I got to meet you, Player.” after a short pause, she utters her last words to me through a crying face. “Thank you for everything.”
From that, she walks toward the bottom of the game window. To my loving surprise, she walked down out of the game window, straight down to my taskbar, and finally off the monitor. A slight happiness fill me up, warming my body feeling that I had made the right choice. Something kept nagging me though, the buyers remorse, though not in the usual sense. Most people don’t regret buying a game, as it can supply endless hours of content. The ending though, only having one moment that leads to an unchangeable outcome, it’s one of the darkest feeling that you can experience. Like a car crash, one choice left me with irreparable consequences. This… This can’t be right though. Surely, as a computer program, I can restart the process from the start. Erase the ending data, and have another chance of saving the world. After opening up the folder, I find the OneShot files in my downloads, adn deleted a file with a clover on it. With the deletion, the game started as normal, but with one specific change: I had an unknown clover book from the starting room. It then hit me: this game was never meant to be played just once. The thoughts, choices, and emotions can all be experienced over again, and I smile even more with this grand reveal.
After playing Oneshot multiple times through though, there was a period of time where I didn’t play games very rarely, if at all. However, while I may not have played games, I heard of many others that did through friends and Youtubers. First there was Cuphead, the game that brought so much frustration to people, but was so brilliantly designed and animated in such a style that people couldn’t put the game down. Through their rage, players kept playing and playing, getting just a bit farther every time. Eventually, the game gave them the reward of beating down that pesky boss, making the success all the more enjoyable. Then came Getting Over it with Bennett Foddy, pissing people off more than Cuphead, with no progress made guaranteed. Some people fell from the top all the way to the bottom. When people finally reached the top though, they felt enlightened, you can see it in their eyes, in their face, in their heart. A seemingly unending and unrelenting burden has been lifted off of them, freeing them from the anger that had driven them this far.
While games like these are fused with emotion, pushing it to the forefront and making it the sole focus, others are caused by player interactions. Have you ever played a round of Call of Duty or Battlefield where all you wanted to do was to kill that one person who’s dominated you the entire game? Or maybe you felt like a legend when driving up your points to acquire the killstreak that turns the tides of battle. You’ve probably also felt the exhilaration as teams were tied for the last point, and a single split-second decision chose the outcome of the battle. Then there’s that one game where you find the perfect team and completely wreck your opponents, as if you were a homogenous machine. All of these emotions are created, not because the game was designed that way, but because of interactions between players. Some of these interactions occurred in the game Team Fortress 2.
I joined the team thinking, this is going to be a swell time. Just gonna be a Scorch Shot pyro, holding the bomb at bay from a mile away. The first few rounds went by with ease, with the normal interactions between other players: dancing in weird locations, showing off weird taunts, and waiting for that clock to run down. Then, on round 3, the entire system that our team had fell apart. We met our match that round, and botched the entire wave. Our soldier left the match, leaving us to face the robots with only 5 people. Another attempt to beat the bots were made, but the results were the same, we lost another, and another person, until the game was occupied by only me and another engineer. I chose to swap to engineer, feeling that maybe, just maybe, we could get past this round. When I reached the front though, I saw he had a different idea. He Conga’d around the place with his wrangler out, diverting the sentry guns aim to point where his character was looking with a thin laser showing the exact crosshair. Being who I am, I chose to join him in his endeavor, and we both danced around. Contrary to what some people may think, just playing around and not actually fighting, in a first person shooter, was pretty fun. It was like being at a party, with two lasers just being spun around, both of us dancing, refusing to abandon one another. Finally, after some time, he stops, and something happens that’s pretty rare in a random MVM game. I got a friend request. Unlike some of the players, we were content with just enjoying each other’s company. After accepting the request, we finally left that match and entered another as a group, hoping to find others to fight alongside us in a seemingly endless endeavor.
In games, just as in real life, emotions and feelings govern our decision making process. Though we may find it easy to pass through our day without realizing it, we do everything because of how we feel when we interact with others, and they’re what govern our actions in a situation. Have you ever caused harm to somebody, and felt terrible for it afterward? Was there something that you wanted to do, but just couldn’t bring yourself to do it? As you can see, emotions exist and permeate our life, creating new scenarios that we must navigate. However, despite not being real per se, videogames can evoke the same emotions at imaginary scenarios, bringing people to throw their keyboards, lean back into their chair, or forcing tears to flow from their eyes. Games, as a medium builds and shapes our emotions, bringing to light thoughts that wouldn’t have been dreamed of in a lifetime. Hopefully you, the reader, can find as much, if not more enjoyment and emotional connection as I have from virtual worlds.