the artistry and psychology of gaming

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Why Heavy Rain is a Great Game?

Why Heavy Rain is a Great Game?

David Cage is the creator of this game. His real name is David de Gruttola and he’s French. He began as a musician. He created the company Totem Interactive in 1993 working on music. He also composed original music for television, film and video game. He founded and became the CEO of Quantic Dream in 1997. There, he is the director, lead game designer, and screenwriter. He has directed 3 games so far: Omikron: The Nomad Soul (1999), Fahrenheit (2005), and Heavy Rain (2010). He has 2 children.

He prefers minimal gameplay. The gameplay of his games seem like a collection of mini-games and quick time events, but in fact they are more than that. The fact that the tense atmosphere of the game makes you experience it first hand and therefore the games are really affective. He loves mystery and his games are dark and serious, like a film noire. Plus, the story is truly suspenseful and you need to follow the game. The topics he handles are usually more mature than the average games, and he’s not shy to show nudity in his games. His characters are believable and deep.

Unfortunately, it seems all his games suffer from bad endings and plot holes as well.

I’ve got to admit- when you finally beat Heavy Rain and look back at it, knowing the identity of the Origami Killer and the real motives behind what people do, (don’t worry, I won’t spoil them for you), actually when you start to sort things out in your head- you’ll find many faults with Heavy Rain, and not small ones. The most important flaw of the Heavy Rain is related to what is also undoubtedly its strongest merit: the story. There are many major plot holes. For example, clues leading to the identity of the killer are obvious, and it’s really unacceptable that the police couldn’t find the killer for such a long time. The killer is playing a too dangerous game and it’s really strange that he hasn’t been caught long before the events of the game. Furthermore, there are some important clues that the families of the victims leave to Scott Shelby, the private eye of the game, and the game doesn’t even address the question “Why they didn’t give these clues to the police?” There might be some convincing answers to these logical errors, but what is important, they’re not given in the game. Maybe the second important flaw of Heavy Rain is the fact that it’s not really replayable; the first time that you beat the game the goose is killed and the golden eggs are laid down. Thirdly, the first time that you play the game you have the illusion that the plot of the game really changes because of your actions; but actually the game moves on a linear line and your actions really make a change very late in the game; maybe from the “Fish Tank” level onwards.

However, and this is the main point I’d like to make, none of these flaws prevent Heavy Rain from being one of the greatest games ever made. All of these occur to you on your second play-through, and the 10-15 hours you spend the first time you beat the game are going to be an unforgettable, haunting, addictive, and deep, experience. They will be 10-15 hours that you’ll never regret. Few other games have so deeply cut their way to the very bones of your emotions. You’ll feel shocked, depressed, happy, you’ll fall in love. The main merit of Heavy Rain is the same as all great works of art- and Heavy Rain certainly is a work of art- it’s human, deeply human, with human characters, human questions, human themes.

How far are you prepared to go to save someone you love? This is the moral question that the game asks, and this question is not simply a cheap theme to serve as a vehicle for violent, exciting, and erotic scenes to follow, or a story to add spice to a great gameplay. This question is the core of the game, and it poses it upon you, as the gamer. The game’s full of violent, exciting and erotic scenes, but they’re at the service of the question. Heavy Rain is possibly the most moral game ever made, it’s deeply, deeply moral. As the gamer, you are forced to answer the question, and I believe that’s what makes it great as a game. I disagree with some gamers that lament of the lack of gameplay. Heavy Rain is not an interactive movie, it’s a game. If it was a movie, it would lose this moral touch, it would be a well-made thriller full of plot holes at best, and a cheap slasher at worst. The nature of the story is such that it should be experienced, not watched. And I think that the QTE based gameplay of the game suits it best. As you play the game you’re so involved that this amount of gameplay is more than enough for you. (On a trivial note, although I dislike Wii I think this game would work perfect on it).

Therefore, for this very game, I think you can’t separate “gameplay” section from the “story” section. These two criteria are completely intertwined in this game, and they support each other.

Graphics of the game are like itself- great with faults. Great character modelings- one of the greatest ever- but yet there are many technical bugs that keep bugging you as advance through the game. You will notice them especially when you replay the game. But then again, the game looks fantastic, great, and you can forgive the faults for the general great graphics of the game.

But in sounds the game can gain a classic stance and a perfect score. Great music, plus great voice acting, plus great sound effects. It couldn’t be any better.

Much of the greatness of the game comes from the actors. They’ve done excellent jobs.

Few months before Heavy Rain an underrated game, Silent Hill: Shattered Memories, was released, which followed the same idea: a game that plays you as much as you play it, a game that forces self awareness on you, and again, had minimal gameplay. On the artistic note I believe it was superior to Heavy Rain. However, I think it’s now apparent that this trend will not end with Heavy Rain. Shattered Memories and Heavy Rain have just opened a door, they’ve just started a tradition. Therefore I believe both of them will be of utmost importance in history of video games. I recommend the superb experience of Heavy Rain to everyone, even nongamers.

There’s one thing that’s frequently used in literature and cinema as a tool to justify the actions of the characters. It’s trauma. The idea is this: When characters are doing crazy things, we have to justify it one way. So, why not put a disastrous event in their life and make sure this disaster serves as a turning point in their life. This is a very frequent device. It may or may not accord with psychological science of traumas, but that doesn’t really matter. It may be cliche but if it’s done masterfully it helps the flow of the story a lot. It’s all about creating plausible characters with believable history.

There are multiple aspect of using trauma as narration device in video games. One can think of Max Payne, where the death of his wife and daughter turns his life around. Also of the life of Cloud in Final Fantasy VII, where the traumatic event is the death of Zack. You can see a pattern here: most of the time the trauma is caused by someone’s death. Why? Because this makes the trauma more emotional and more compelling to the reader.

One great example is Ethan Mars of Heavy Rain. At first we observe Ethan in his normal life. We see he’s a good guy, a good husband, and a beloved father. Then one day he loses his son in a crowded shopping mall. The son exits the shop and is killed by a car. This turns Ethan’s life around. He develops Agoraphobia (the fear of crowds), has frequent black outs and also becomes depressed. This serves as a very important plot device because later we will doubt the fact that whether or not he’s the serial killer of the game.

Ethan’s portrayal of trauma may be psychologically correct, I don’t know that. But it’s believable and artistic, and serves his characterization a lot, and makes him compelling.

Heavy Rain is a very special case. When you first finish it, you’re very aware of its errors: you know of all plot-holes and shortcomings. Yet, you feel you’ve finished something special. The experience is not perfect, but it’s memorable.

But as the time goes by you discover the worth of the game even more. You find out that it has stayed with you. You remember it, and you feel it has changed the way that you view gaming. At the end of the year, you look back: it seems the most noteworthy experience you had.

The game’s approach to gameplay is minimal and yet it’s intriguing and haunting. The game narrates a chilling moral story with important questions. You face moral dilemmas, control plausible characters in a realistic environment. The narration is so great that it reminds you of Hitchcock. The story is so deep that you can discuss it from multiple aspects. And as a game, it tests you, as the gamer. You reach an awareness after finishing the game. This awareness is social, but it’s also of yourself. Heavy Rain is not an interactive movie. It’s a game. For only a game is able to bring the inner personality of its audience on screen, as part of the plot.

I wrote a positive review about this game before. After a year my approval of this game is only stronger. It’s a true masterpiece, because as time goes by, its negative aspects and shortcomings fade and its worth and depth is more revealed.

Remember Heavy Rain- and David Cage. These are the names you will hear a lot in the future.

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