08/04/2008

Loom Child's touching adventure

I have just finished playing through Lucasart's Loom (1990). I was deeply moved by the subtle fantasy, the strong plot and characters, the excellent voice acting, the beautiful arts (even though they are in 256 colors mode) and almost twenty years later, it appears as completely absurd that one of the most heard of debate in the game industry is if “games can evoke emotions for the player”. Because if it can't, well I have no idea what was that shrivel that went up my spine so often while I was playing this game.

While I did got involved emotionaly in a lot of games throughout my life, I think I can safely say that Loom is probably the most touching one I ever played.
Do I dare say another time that it was created almost 20 years ago? One could argue, for the sake of arguing, that Loom's interactivity is not as deep as, say, a platform game or a FPS, and maybe even go as far as calling it an interactive movie. But hey! That's a game! The player makes choices and his choices, even though they merely unveil the story, bear meaning to the player. This alone makes it a game.

Interactivity can have a strong impact on the creation of meaning, just like colors and shapes in a painting or movement and lightings in cinema. For example, in Final Fantasy II (IV in Japan) on the SNES, at one point in the game, the main character, Cecil the Dark Knight, goes through an ordeal in order to become a Paladin. I'm sure some of you remember that part. Through the first part of the game, the player learns to fight whenever he enters the “combat screen”. This pattern is deeply imprinted in the player's behavior through repetition but when he reaches his ordeal, his appearance changes and he enters combat against his old self. If he fights, he will die, but if he just waits and accept being hit by his “shadow”, eventually he triumphs and becomes a real Paladin. Now this pattern that the game breaks, it means something. It forces the player to step back and look at all the fights he has done and all the fights he will do and think; “Why?”. If this part had been a simple cut-scene in the game, the player would probably read through it without really examinating the meaning of his becoming. Interactivity gives a meaning to this scene in a way that you cannot do in any other medium. This meaning, that the hero can become a better person, is also reinforced by other interactive elements (Cecil returns to Level 1, the equipment he uses is different, he has new skills) that changes how the game is played and understood. Did I say that this game was created almost 20 years ago (1991)?

I cannot say I'm a dedicated enough player to judge the state of the game business today (so much games, so long to go through them, so little time), but where did it go wrong? Why this debate about games and emotion? Isn't there enough proof already that games CAN and DO evoke emotions in the players? Who started this absurd debate? Please send a copy of Loom to Roger Ebert of Ebert and Roeper.

1 comment:

Rayna said...

Oh gawd, thanks for making me feel old! I got Loom as a Christmas gift when I was a kid. It was the first game I completed from start to finish all by myself. It was also the first adventure game where death was only a minor inconvenience, which a kid like me really needed in order to play through. That's probably why story became so important in it, because it was meant for people to actually complete, unlike most games in those days.