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Power Member - Level 10
been hanging around GIO for a few years now, and I've always wanted to try my
hand at blogging, but I have to admit I was a little afraid to do so. Still, I want to improve my writing, so I
have decided to push myself and write this first blog. Any constructive criticism you have is
been gaming ever since I was little, but I didn't really start playing JRPGs
until the Playstation 2 era. So as a fan,
I've occasionally tried to go back and fill in the gaps by playing some of the
classics like Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy VI. However, I've come across a problem that
makes me hesitate to do so. You see, I
have a difficult time feeling anything for the characters in older games. For a while I couldn't figure out why. It's not that I dislike these games. On the contrary, I really want to love them. I had fun with the battles and the stories were
good, but it was just the thought that I should have been enjoying the game
more than I really was. Now, I think I
have found an answer.
The simple answer is
graphics, and to a lesser extent, voice acting.
Now before you write me off as some sort of graphics snob, I'll say that
there's more to it, obviously. Although
I said "simple," perhaps it's more complicated than that. The reason decent
graphics and voice acting matter is because without them you can't experience most
forms of nonverbal communication.
everyday life, nonverbal communication is an important and incredibly useful
tool in understanding those around us.
Only 35% of communication is verbal; 65% is expressed nonverbally. Words are used mainly for conveying
information, while body language, facial expressions and tone of voice reveal
our inner thoughts and emotions. Words
mean very little. It's not what you say,
but how you say it.
to know the secret behind the fabled "women's intuition"? Well, it depends, as many psychologists
believe, on women's innate ability to better read the subtleties of nonverbal
communication than men. Ever tried lying
to your mother or girlfriend? Women in
general are better at catching liars. You
can say one thing, but groupings of nonverbal cues, called gesture clusters,
can easily betray your words. Your
mother knows you have something to hide because of your increased blinking,
hands in back pockets, a well-timed gulp and a seemingly innocent and quick
nose scratch. That's why it's easier to
lie over the phone than it is to lie in person.
Another way of putting it is saying you have a gut feeling about
something. It means that someone's words
and nonverbal cues don't match. You
notice something off, but you don't know why you feel that way.
communication is also the secret behind the fictional Sherlock Holmes'
detective intuition? It's his
observation of nonverbal communication and attention to little details (also
lots of research into obscure topics such as cigar ashes and footprints, etc.,
but I digress). He relies heavily on
nonverbal communication because it's vital and more reliable than words in
understanding other people.
why am I talking about this and how does it pertain to video games? It's because nonverbal communication is
important not just in real life, but in games as well, particularly with story-focused
Final Fantasy VI and
Chrono Trigger, two of the greatest role-playing games ever created, loved by
fans of the genre, did not excite me in the way that I had hoped they would
when I started them. I have not finished
FFVI yet (about 20 hours in) so I will reserve my final judgment until then,
but so far, I can't say I'm in love with it. Another factor that adds to my problem is that
I didn't play them when they first came out in the 90's, so nostalgia has no
part in my opinion. Also the wow factor of
certain scenes (such as the opera scene) may have worn off over time.
that's not to say they are bad in any way.
I have played them recently, and I know their stories are still excellent. However, these stories lost some of the
impact just because I had a hard time feeling anything for these
characters. Specifically, the characters
in older SNES games just don't seem real to me.
subtle gestures, facial expressions, body posture, and tone of voice we are
left with only straight dialog and big, rudimentary gestures like arm waving
and jumping. Anyone who has ever tried
to make a joke on an internet message board knows sarcasm is hard to convey
without that certain tone of voice. But
sarcasm is not the only casualty.
that your face was completely devoid of all emotion, and you could not speak in
anything other than a monotone (a reality for some of us). All you would be left with to convey your
emotions was the words you speak and maybe a basic game of charades. The problem with words is that they are
easily misunderstood or are just plain lies.
Even silence can be confusing.
How many different silent emotions get translated into ".........." in older games. Sometimes the meaning is made obvious by the
music or context of the scene, but other times I am left wondering. Is she sad?
Angry? Bored? Shy?
Frozen with terror? Asleep? Catatonic?
Is she being aloof or sulking? When
I walk up to a character and all I get is "........" what am I supposed to
assume? In games with higher quality
graphics, you would be able to see a character's slight smirk, or their meek,
downward facing eyes or their clenched fists.
It's the subtleties that I'm missing. I'm going to use Final Fantasy X as an
example, since the new HD version should be coming out soon. Also, it was the first game in the series to
use subtle facial expressions and voice acting, and it is a game I know well. Before I begin though, I'll preface this by
saying that while the voice acting in FFX is not perfect, there are some standout
Anyone who played this game will remember the Macalania
pond scene? In this act, Yuna reaches a
crossroads where she questions her pilgrimage.
She shows a wide range of facial expressions, from soft, hiccupping cries
and tears rolling down her cheeks, to suddenly wide-eyed surprised and the
reflexive stiffening of her muscles at being kissed, to eyes filled with the
innocent wonder of first love. We see
all that. Pure, honest, nonverbal
communication. There is no need for
words. In fact, spoken words or text
boxes at that point would only be awkward.
acting also helps to give the characters stronger personalities. There are numerous occasions in which Lulu's sharp
and sometimes biting tone of voice warns her traveling companions not to annoy
her. In one particular scene, while the
party climbs the long stairway to the Kilika Temple, Wakka gives an unlikely
theory about his brother traveling through time instead of dying. What happens next is the unleashing of Lulu's
scathing reply to Wakka, immediately shooting down his idea, and then to Tidus,
and Yuna, making it clear that the three of them can never replace those who
have died. Her tone of voice here is key
to the power of her words. Annoyance, anger,
and the heart-breaking acceptance of loss are all expressed clearly. It gives her an icy façade, but at the same
time, hints to her true emotions without any character having to tell us. She could have been reciting nursery rhymes
and we would have still understood her feelings. It's that intensity that gets to you. You forget she is just a character; it makes
her seem real. Tone of voice reveals
what we may have otherwise missed reading silent text boxes.
Fantasy X is just one example of a game that benefits from better graphics and
voice acting. And this is a game from
2001. When I say superior graphics, I
don't necessarily mean current PC, Playstation 4, or Xbox One graphics,
although they are definitely included.
Even just Playstation 2 graphic are adequate. I just want to be able to see subtle facial
expressions and gestures. These
additions help to make the characters more realistic.
don't get me wrong, that's not to say that every game needs good graphics and
voice acting. Some games are great
without them. Do early Mario games
suffer without these additions? Or Minecraft? Journey?
Obviously not. What I'm talking
about in this blog are games that focus heavily on story, such as RPGs. So in games with older graphics, we are
missing out on much of a character's communication and inner thoughts and
Bad voice acting ruining likeability
should clarify that when I say voice acting, I mean good voice acting. On the
other side of the argument, bad voice acting can do damage to a character's
likeability and can actually make them feel more artificial then silent
equivalents. A well known example of
terrible voice acting ruining the likeability of a fan favorite is Link from
that 1989 Legend of Zelda cartoon. His
infamous "Excuse me, Princess" line has likely spurred many discussions at
Nintendo on the topic of voice acting in games, and is perhaps the main reason why
Link has been kept a silent protagonist.
Good voice acting can be difficult to achieve, but when it is
implemented well it can greatly enhance a game.
another note, tone of voice can sometimes be replaced with music to relay
emotions, which is something that earlier Final Fantasy games did well. That may be acceptable to many, but for me,
it's just not enough.
With all this said, I do believe
there's hope for my play through of Final Fantasy VI. If SquareEnix decides to remake VI for the 3DS
or Vita like they did for FFIV on the DS and PSP, then I will jump at the
chance to try it again.
my last counter argument could probably be summed up by the words "operator
error." There is the possibility that
this is just some kind of defect in me, and no one else has this problem. It's hard to say without talking with others
about it, which is one of the reasons I decided to write this. I understand that a lot of people may
disagree with me on the issue of graphics and voice acting. That's perfectly fine. I have no enmity for anyone who has a
different opinion. I just thought I
should put my own out there. I always
welcome constructive criticism, and I'd like to hear your comments on the
you need good graphics to help you get more immersed in game stories and feel
for the characters?
you think that voice acting is necessary?
do you see these components as nice, but ultimately superfluous or sometimes
thanks for reading.