Humanity Lost

There is an interesting, and to me disturbing, trend in modern videogames. Characters are losing their humanity in the interest of becoming more "human". Let me explain through example:



If you don't know the characters in the above game, or their origins, please do yourself a favor and pick up any of the Ratchet & Clank games. Recently I went back and played Ratchet & Clank Futures part one and two. Both of them are brilliant, but that is not the point trying to be made. What needs to be pointed out is how much emotion shows through in these characters. Dr. Nefarious, a self-aware parody of any generic villian, shows more emotion as a robot than any of the new characters from games like Call of Duty, Battlefield, or even the Mass Effect games. The same can be said for the hero, Ratchet, and his buddy Clank. The following video illustrates my point better than I can explain, you don't have to watch all of it, or any of it, but I would highly recommend you do.

WARNING: The following video contains spoilers for Ratchet & Clank Futures: A Crack in Time, do not watch if you feel it will spoil the game for you. IF YOU DO NOT HEED THIS WARNING DO NOT BLAME ME.

Ratchet and Clank Future: A Crack in Time Final Bosses and Ending Part 1 (via glem3)

Ratchet and Clank Future: A Crack in Time Final Bosses and Ending Part 2 (via glem3)

In the first part of the video, assuming you watched it, notice the interaction between Nefarious, Clank, and Ratchet. There is real emotion here, not just some excuse to advance the plot. Even during the gameplay Nefarious taunts the heroes and when he is finally defeated he does not just die, there is a comical scene where he actually "short circuits". When Lawrence takes the escape pod shortly before Ratchet can get to it; one can really get a taste of what the Lombax felt at that point. There is just so much going on in this small part of the game that makes you care about the characters WITHIN the story and not just the story itself.

Later in the video when the white Lombax, whose name is General Azimuth, gets angry at Ratchet it is again something that conveys how he feels and both the heroes of the game react just enough that one can get a sense of the conflicting emotions they have about fighting the General. Conflicting emotion is a huge part of the end to this game too. Without giving away too much of it, again that is why the video is posted so you have a choice, there is a huge emotional roller coaster for both Ratchet and Clank, and this is actually reflected in not just their faces but their posture as well. Slumped shoulders and meandering steps. If this were a modern game, by which I mean any game whose franchise started recently, the ending would most likely be the good guys winning and a pat on the back. Job well done. Roll credits. In short, it would have been far less fulfilling.

I have been using one game to get my point across mostly because it illustrates it so well, but go back and look at any of the older games of the same ilk. Jak and Daxter (if you ignore the second one), Banjo Kazooie, the Mario games, etc, all of them have better character building than many of today's games. This is not to say that games today are bad, they have a different angle, but the angle misses something that older games had. I do not care if any of these characters die, they just do and I move on. The only reason I even try to keep certain characters alive is if it will effect my overall standing in the game or if they have some useful trait; it is a pretty shallow reason to care about a person even if they are fictional. In the effort to make characters in games more realistic, more human looking, it seems that games have lost a lot of the most important part, feeling. Sometimes it is hard to understand why the characters in a game are killing everyone they see, because most of the enemies in games are pretty generic. Recently, and strangely, I felt a bit guilty for killing an enemy in the Ratchet games because there is this point where a few of them genuinely look terrified when they are about to be killed. With many other games there is no guilt, on my part at least, it's different for every person, it feels like every enemy is just a robot made to look like a human.

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