“#DontStarve” #game: #Pathos over human survival instincts.

{Posted as #rgmooc week 7 co-op}

Appealing to one’s soft side is every creator’s ultimate goal, when it comes to entertainment. Hollywood may boast on gross revenues from major blockbusters; a movie that is critically acclaimed and considered to be a “great” film, however is an entirely different business. Just like in all things entertainment, the same applies to songs, works of art and even games. As Joseph Butler-Hartley eloquently describes this,

…the greatest feature a piece of art can have is the ability to provoke emotions” (zero1gaming.com).

The moment one transcends the boundaries of game mechanics and play, the instant when feelings blend in and influence game choices is when pathos holds the reign. It’s then and there that the game designer has achieved greatness.

Experiencing the game “Don’t Starve” is actually true to its title. The survival genre calls for decisions that ultimately simulate tough choices, cold logic and strategic planning. Personally , according to my “green” environmental credo, guilt plagued a lot of my actions. Although I didn’t hesitate to make my – otherwise perfect – gentleman torch a couple of trees, in order to be able to see, when darkness fell, I soon feared I might start a fire (also that trees are extremely flammable when approached by fire, but that insinuates I should recheck my brain functions). I also realised that my first and foremost priority was to eat anything my avatar could get its hands on: from seeds and petals to butterfly wings. I felt happy that Willson could fill up its stomach depositories (a clever illustration of game feedback, to be honest) and yet I really pitied every creature that I laid my hands on, so I could prove I was top of the food chain. Birdies in particular were too cute to become prey (and annoyingly evasive I might add).

Playing the fifteen minute demo is hardly time enough to assess the majestic Tim Burtonish atmosphere of “Don’t Starve“. Nevertheless, I managed to dwell in a compelling storyline within those minutes. Still my emotional responses weren’t enough to keep me from sacrificing my basic survival instincts. Scientist Wilson eventually killed that pretty little butterfly; I felt remorseful, of course, and yet I chose to comply with the game rules. I didn’t “feel” a certain bond reflected in my avatar. I just knew I had to do certain things to beat the game, no matter how they would seem in real life circumstances. I did sympathize with my struggling little human; does sympathy qualify for pathos? Hardly.

That is where the plot thickens. Violence in-game leaves the player with a strange gut feeling but in the end it’s overshadowed by the ultimate game goals – you need to kill lots of enemies / zombies, etc. in FPS and similar genres in order to survive. Does anyone regret that? Did anyone stop to think how cruel our characters are or how many critters we have killed in MMOs? Until we discover a way to create

…interactive dramas where it’s possible to form deep, friendships with virtual characters” (Loftus)

we have a long way from achieving Pathos in the game entertainment industry (with the exception of Lady Croft, perhaps…).

Works cited:

Butler-Hartley, Joseph. “Art, Gaming and First-Person Emotions.” Www.Zero1Gaming.com. Zero1Gaming, 27 Mar. 2013. Web. 14 July 2013. <http://www.zero1gaming.com/2013/03/27/art-gaming-first-person-emotions/&gt;.

Don’t Starve. PC game. Vers. Demo. Kle

Entertainment, n.d. Web. 14 July 2013. .

Loftus, Tom. “Bringing Emotions to Video Games.” Msnbc.com. Nbcnews.com, 10 Nov. 2005. Web. 14 July 2013. <http://www.nbcnews.com/id/4038606/ns/technology_and_science-games/t/bringing-emotions-video-games/&gt;

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