The Moment

by Karl Castaneda - June 30, 2005, 5:49 pm PDT
Total comments: 18

When you can feel a character, not just play as him. It's all about that moment.

I was recently going through some long-untouched games in my library, two in particular. First was Resident Evil 4 (not that old, but I haven’t played it in around four months). As I traveled along the path of Leon’s adventure, I eventually found myself at the cabin that left all who played it stunned. If you’ve played Resident Evil 4, you know the one. A horde of murderous villagers were attacking me all at once. I had nowhere to run, nowhere to hide – I was trapped within a would-be grave of spoiled wood. As I unleashed clip after clip of artillery, I could feel my heart beating, my hands shaking with each release of a round, my eyes narrowing in the hopes of overcoming the seemingly unbeatable challenge. Then it happened…

I had won. I had survived the attack long enough to proceed. It was at this time that I noticed I had stopped breathing, and I let out a sigh that could have been heard for miles. I could still feel the adrenaline pumping through my veins- the glory of a triumph was ripe within my soul. For a moment, I was Leon. I was shooting my way to conquest. I was completely immersed in the experience. It had ceased being a game. Just for that moment.

The second game I relived is widely referred to as one of the elite of this generation, Wind Waker. My favorite part of the game has always been the final battle scene, so I just picked up at the end of a previously beaten quest. For those of you who still haven’t finished the game, you may want to skip over the next couple paragraphs.

As I’ve done at least a couple dozen times before, I was once again up against the embodiment of evil, the sultan of sin, Ganondorf. After a somewhat lengthy precursor to the battle that followed, he revealed twin katanas to combat my trusty Master Sword. We dueled for what must have been a maximum of ten minutes. But what a fight… Sparks flew from each contact our blades made; I danced majestically through the air with each parry, and sped along the arena to accommodate a decent setup for Zelda to fire a light arrow into Ganondorf’s back.

And then it was over. I had sealed away evil once more and the world was safe again. The King of Hyrule then appears and we all know the rest, but it’s what follows that’s the most bizarre and perhaps the most sobering. As I sit through the credits, countless memories of the game’s adventure flow through my mind, coupled with the bubbled screenshots that are showed at the end. It’s here that I feel what I have yet to feel in any other game to date. Unlike Resident Evil 4, where it was action and suspense that bound Leon and I together, Wind Waker establishes a bond that goes much deeper – straight to the heart. Just for that moment, you feel Link’s pain, you feel his triumph, and you sympathize with his character, even though he doesn’t have a single line of dialogue.

When I talk to people who aren’t in-the-know about games, they often bring up controversial releases like Grand Theft Auto or Manhunt – citing the extreme degrees of violence or adult content. The way those people see it, games are about taking out aggression – it’s about some sort of perverse escape to perform cruel acts. And I feel sorry for them, because they’ll never know what I know. They’ll never experience the kind of catharsis I experienced during Wind Waker. They’ll never be bound to a character through a sense-shattering flurry of bullets in the attempt to save one’s own life. No, they’ll never understand why I play games. They’ll never understand that moment.

Talkback

MarioAllStarJune 30, 2005

I never played Resident Evil 4 (or any RE game for that matter), but I completely agree with what you said about things like The Wind Waker. Everytime I see those credits I feel connected in a way to the game and to Link--the music, the picture bubbles, and the preceeding dialog all create that experience.

And then, as you said, so many people play games with mindless killing and gratuitous adult themes. I'm not saying all games with violence are bad or not worthy of being played, but why would you want to play a game that lets you mindlessly kill people as you blankly stare at screen when you could play a game that connects to your emotions?

KnowsNothingJune 30, 2005

It's touching, it's moving, and it's completely true. However, I'm not sure if I exactly see the point behind this editorial. At the end you mentioned that people only see games as a way of taking out aggression, that they can never experience what makes us love games. While this is true, it seemed like an unfinished thought. Do we want to help these people to understand, or do we just want them to shut up? That's not what I felt the editorial was about though....

Is the point of the editorial to remind us gamers why we play games? If this was indeed the point of the article, you did a fine job. These days there's just too much emphasis on sales data (which can be interesting, but not really crucial face-icon-small-tongue.gif), the number of polygons, gigahertz, or mature content that even "gamers" forget why they love gaming; the "moments." If the editorial was simply a wake up call, than it works.

I don't want to offend you or anything, but this editorial sounds like a great first post in a thread where people post their own "moments." Perhaps there can be a seperate thread, or perhaps members will just do that here. Personally, I can relate with both of your examples. I've only had RE4 for a day (don't think I've encountered the cabin), but I've already experienced that feeling (mostly because I suck and there are always tons of villagers coming at me in all directions.)

Actually, I encourage you to share similar stories, and I completely understand what you're talking about (that it doesn't really have a point), because I felt the same way after writing it. I was hesitant to even call it an editorial, because there's no real argument. It's really more of an expression of "the moment." So no offense taken.

nickmitchJune 30, 2005

I feel that way all the time. It reminds me of Earthbound and the end credits where you see all of the pictures that the camera guy took. I remember sitting there and remembering all the adventures that I had.

LoknoJune 30, 2005

I certainly agree with you about Wind Waker, the final fight with Ganondorf is the highlight of the game. I got the impression that Ganondorf already realized he's failure before the fight. Every now and then he stops fighting and just laughs at the rain. I thought that was very powerful, and a first for a game villain; they never seem to expect defeat.

As for that moment of player character connection, I think that's when the game has done it's job. And it's my opinion that the future of gaming is increasing the frequency of those moments, the suspension of disbelieve. I think the game with the best player connection I’ve seen in actually Eternal Darkness. With the aid of the sanity effects, and the constant emptiness of Alex’s grandfather’s mansion, you really feel her fear, you see what she sees, you read and learn what she learns, and you become engulfed in the story. I really noticed it has taken hold when I first learned of the ancient city under the house. After that chapter as Alex, you still can’t go into the basement, and the current state of the city is hidden from you, but you know of its presence and fear it. That’s powerful, and it’s a power games are just beginning to realize.

miedoJune 30, 2005

I haven't watched the cinema scene before the final fight in a long time. I generally cheat by saving at the top during the battle and cut the power before the credits roll. Saves me a good amount of time, but for good reason. I loved that ending, and I loved that battle. I've held the second and third round going just because I enjoyed the constant parrying that went on between the two.

I agree with you, hehe.

MarioJuly 01, 2005

Nice editorial, i definately agree with the RE4 moment, actually that whole game is one big awesome moment. face-icon-small-happy.gif

Wind Waker has lots of awesome moments, I wasn't actually "in the moment" in that final scene though, I don't know why, it's been a while, i'll have to play through it again, i've played the first few dungeons about 7 times but only seen the ending once, I don't know what it is about the game that makes me stop playing =\. The best part of WW that I remember is the first island, there's so much you can do there if you use your imagination, like playing hide and seek with the pot lady, and playing with the pigs. There were lots of times I felt like I was Link, or just a little kid having fun with nothing to worry about.

Metroid Prime and Metroid Prime 2 have to be the two most immersive games for me. The view of the game contributes to that, as well as the AWESOME environments, I often feel like I am Samus exploring another world. A moment in Echoes that I will not forget, is when I was in Torvus Bog, where it rains, with rain drops falling on my visor, and it was actually raining outside my window in real life, that was a surreal experience, I was imagining that I was there.

Starfox Adventures is another game with "in the moment" moments. The test of fear is INTENSE, I was on the edge of my seat while my mind was getting raped during that, then when it finished I asked myself "what the hell just happened?". The graphics and environments and music is all beautiful, actually the game for me was mostly "awe" moments, the game is amazing in almost every way, just a shame it's a bit hollow in the gameplay department, it had POTENTIAL, damn it Rare.

Pikmin 2 is another one, sometimes when i'm just walking around, i think "wow, this is the nintendo magic, right here! what a game! face-icon-small-happy.gif".

FamicomJuly 01, 2005

I most definitely live for the gaming moment. That feeling you get that when it's over, you lose that 200% concentration level, you're in a cold sweat, and your hands are a nervous wreck (and maybe you haven't eaten in several hours). I've played through RE4 many times and have come across several experiences similar. Not that exact one since I was never dumb enough to go into the cabin to get attacked like that (ZING), but later on in the castle where they force you to defend the girl among a hoarde of armed villains, then snipe while she turns cranks was really chilling. That and the war level near the end. Wind Waker didn't resonate with me on the same level you had, but I certainly agree that it was the most gripping part of the game.

Other games that gave me the thrill of the moment were Super Metroid's final boss, and the whole return of Metroid sequence (really beautiful), Metroid Prime's final boss fight against Prime, Ganon's true form in Ocarina of Time, fighting the Big Four in Pokemon Red, fighting Ho-oh in Pokemon Gold, high level multiplayer Goldeneye, fighting Culex, Smithy and that damn wedding cake in Super Mario RPG, hour long triple threat ladder matches in No Mercy, the final fight with bowser on both SM64 and Super Mario World, and most recently, beating Giovanni on speed level 45 in Pokemon Puzzle League.

MarioJuly 01, 2005

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Not that exact one since I was never dumb enough to go into the cabin to get attacked like that (ZING)

What? You HAVE to do that cabin thing, the cutscene pops up Leon and Ashley run inside the cabin, next thing you know you're in there

Jiggy37July 01, 2005

I have to say, the funny thing is that it's not necessarily my very favorite games that make me feel "the moment." SSBM is my favorite standalone (e.g. non-Pokemon) game, but I never FEEL the characters or am able to suspend my disbelief; reaction and instinct are intuitive, but knowing there's a percentage counter and a life counter at the bottom of the screen wrecks it for me. And the overall Pokemon franchise is hovering somewhere around SSBM--I'm not sure whether above or below--but absolutely never gives me some kind of emotional connection. The FR/LG end credits, which also pan over all the areas you've visited, just don't come close to the tugging-my-heart feel of the similar end credits in Wind Waker or Earthbound or Majora's Mask or Mario 64 or even Mario KART 64.

Meanwhile, Tales of Symphonia is only my third favorite, yet was also the first game to ever make me cry. I KNEW Colette when she told Lloyd that she'd be waiting for her birthday present from him and "even if I become an angel, I'll always be waiting." Here was this pair of teenagers who had been best friends throughout their life and overcome every challenge waiting before them--and I'd seen them do it, from the first boss slaughtering me about as much as a first boss SHOULD slaughter a group of completely inexperienced warriors to other seal guardians tearing me up even after I knew what I was doing--and for once they were faced with something insurmountable. At the ages of about 16, they should have believed they were invincible, as people that young tend to do; at the ages of about 16, they resigned themselves to the fact that they weren't. The best they could muster up was a vague denial that getting through it was possible.

And then there's (the IMO highly underrated) F-Zero GX, where the machines are simply moving so fast that you're caught up in the fury and the intensity and the passion until eternity collapses into seconds and an experience becomes immortalized, and the entire race is a perfection never seen before and never seen again. It's difficult to describe--but easy to feel.

How many other games could I mention? The frantic fervor of Goldeneye multiplayer. Using the Suplex power in the Dyna Blade "bonus levels" in Kirby Super Star. The entire ending of Chrono Trigger in the version where you destroy the time machine by flying it into Lavos (because in other versions of the main ending, there's a flubbed line of dialogue), especially when Marle and Crono fly away on balloons while the really fantastic theme "To Far Away Times" is playing. The mad rush for survival in certain missions of Advance Wars 2.

These are the things that make a game great. The number of things I can do is irrelevant; the quality of the things I ACTUALLY do is all that matters. If Wind Waker involved nothing but its very well-realized fighting system, I'd easily take it over a game like GTA, which has a plethora of things to do, but implements almost none of them in a truly top-notch fashion. In that regard, I think I fully see what Nintendo meant so long ago when they were promoting "quality, not quantity"...

oohhboyHong Hang Ho, Staff AlumnusJuly 01, 2005

Ahh the Zone. Outside world vanishes. Your mind goes into a natural bullet time. You can almost graps the future. Your shots land on target everytime. Whether it be WW or CS or sports, it's there. For the less phyisically inclinded, there are games, for the more active, sports. More than just aderilane, pure concentration.

The diamond cup in F-zero is abit BS. It is nowhere as well designed and is full of cheap shots to up the difficulty.

Good artical and a timely reminder for all.

CaillanJuly 01, 2005

I stopped reading soon after I started. I haven't played RE4 yet but I dearly want to. Any spoiled surprises could ruin the experience. Could anyone tell me if it's spoiler-free or if reading it will prepare me for something? Anyway, even though I can't know precisely what you're talking about, I think I get the gist of it. Here's the most memorable gaming moment of mine this generation:

Playing F-Zero GX one night, I stayed up late with a few of my mates trying to finish a cup. I can't remember exactly what it was -- I think it was on hard mode and the fourth cup along from the left -- but I know it was the last one we knew about at the time, and that it was tense. On one run I almost started over because I lost too many of my craft early on, but I decided to keep going just for practice on the later tracks. I got to the last track (which was big blue) and to finally win the cup I had to avoid losing a life and come 11th place or better. It's a track with lots of right-angle corners and a very narrow strip just before the end, but I knew then that I could handle it all. I hovered in the middle of the pack -- around 15th, for those who don't know F-Zero -- throughout the whole race until the last lap when I was boosting like a maniac to keep up. I was sure those guys got faster as I lost my boost power. Anyway, maybe six or seven seconds before the finish I was still too far behind, so I used up the last of my energy on a final boost and got to 10th place. I was very excited and nervous but another car just grazed my vehicle as it passed me. Because I had no energy left, I died. I was pretty bummed out, but ready to try again despite the time of night because of all the excitement that had been generated. Then, just as I awaited for the damaged hull of my ship to be hauled off and the 'game over' screen to appear, another vehicle crashed right into me from behind and flung my blackened ship over the finish line, to 11th place. To my surprise, everything else happened as usual, and a voice announced in a strangely down-trodden voice that I only came eleventh place. If I do recall correctly I was exactly one-hundredth of a second ahead of whoever came 12th place. That's my gaming moment of this generation. Sure, it arose form me and not the game specifically, but in the end I'm not too fussed about that.

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Ahh the Zone. Outside world vanishes. Your mind goes into a natural bullet time.


I play a sort of hand drum, called the djembe, and I find that that happens sometimes. If I'm playing a phrase I learned while I was begginninig but haven't played since my skill increased dramatically, then often everything will slow down in my mind and I"ll feel exactly how much faster I can go. I get the natural urge to improvise.

Edit: Thanks.

FamicomJuly 01, 2005

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Originally posted by: Mario
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Not that exact one since I was never dumb enough to go into the cabin to get attacked like that (ZING)

What? You HAVE to do that cabin thing, the cutscene pops up Leon and Ashley run inside the cabin, next thing you know you're in there


Honestly, I don't even remember that. Not that I'm saying it isn't necessary, but I was confusing it with the zombie attack in the very beginning of the game. Where when you run into that one house and the chainsaw man appears....

Caillan, I can assure you that there are no RE4 story spoilers and reading that passage more than likely won't spoil any scares. There are quite a few cabins, so chances are you won't know you're in the one described until you're too busy blowing villagers away right and left to notice, anyway.

KDR_11kJuly 02, 2005

Hm, hadn't felt like that for a long time. Usually the only "side effect" I notice while gaming is the high pulse rate when fighting the final boss. But even that has been getting less and less these days, maybe because final bosses aren't what they used to be or maybe because I play almost no game to the end anymore.

IceColdJuly 02, 2005

I definitely got that moment at the end of Wind Waker - wow just thinking about it makes me remember so much. I was a lot more involved in Wind Waker than, say, Ocarina of Time. I don't know why, but I just didn't feel as enamoured with OoT as I did with TWW.

Like KDR, these "moments" are really becoming fewer and further between for me. I get them once in a while sometimes, while playing a gem, and when something hits me, or when I realize what a masterpiece the game is in my eyes. I get the usual adrenaline rushes, but nowdays not nearly as many of these special moments.

KDR_11kJuly 02, 2005

Oh, forgot the third option: I'm so used to that by now that I don't feel anything.

DasmosJuly 03, 2005

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Originally posted by: Famicom
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Originally posted by: Mario
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Not that exact one since I was never dumb enough to go into the cabin to get attacked like that (ZING)

What? You HAVE to do that cabin thing, the cutscene pops up Leon and Ashley run inside the cabin, next thing you know you're in there


Honestly, I don't even remember that. Not that I'm saying it isn't necessary, but I was confusing it with the zombie attack in the very beginning of the game. Where when you run into that one house and the chainsaw man appears....


That's the one where you cross over the bridge and you run into the cabin with Luis.....right..

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