I Get It!
Video games offer us a release from our often boring, mundane lives. A portal into (portal?) being a sea captain, a space pilot or professional athlete. Game plots and stories have grown to be closer to movies in recent years and in order to do this there has to be a level of identification with the audience, grounding the experience so you can compare it to an aspect of your own life. Here we select the top 10 moments that video games have successfully replicated real life, not in their entirety, but in small places. Enjoy.
No matter how boring you may think your life is, chances are your family probably has some baggage. From a loan that was never paid back to an argument that two relatives had that never got solved, for Edith Finch however things a little more sinister than that. Edith’s family has a curse upon it leaving her as the only remaining family member, during this game you investigate the house that she grew up in and uncover the family’s secrets and living habits. Although Edith’s family undeniably has its quirks, they all have relatable characteristics and aspirations, especially relatable if you live in a secret bunker underground of your family’s home and have lived on canned peaches for decades.
I think it’s far to say that most of us in our time have felt the pinch of your favourite jeans after over indulging on food. Whether it’s been your birthday, Christmas or just a time where you have been a little stressed. This is a little explored dynamic in gaming and so it was fun to see GTA San Andreas exploring this mechanic in a pretty subtle (for GTA!) kind of way. In order to stay fit and healthy, CJ our protagonist, must eat. However if he eats large, fried meals continuously over time the character will take on a chunkier, rounder shape which not only affects the aesthetics of the game but also reduces his physical capabilities. The only way to lost some heft in the game is to do cardio or go on a diet. After not eating for 48 game hours, CJ will stall to lose the weight he has gained, but careful, as in real life diet too long and your muscles will also deplete.
Is there anything more depressingly relatable in a game than being put on a virtual diet?
Hard to leave out of a list of games we find relatable is the experience of the Sims. Supposedly the original concept of the game was supposed to be a satirical dollhouse of modern American life, and the developer Maxis were not hugely sold on the idea although did sign off on it and along with EA released the game in the year 2000. Two years later, and 11.3million copies later, The Sims was the biggest selling game to date. How the game is relatable is clear, it’s a microcosm of our everyday lives, both in our aspirations and fantasies and also just in the normal activities.
Who would have thought a game where your character throws a temper tantrum when it’s not had a sandwich, or dances around holding the crotch of it’s pants when you haven’t ordered it to the toilet would become one of the most impressively performing games series ever. It all comes back to the fact that we can relate to these funny talking people and through them can vicariously live a life that’s different enough to be intriguing, but similar enough to relate our experiences to theirs.
Any Cat people out there? If you’re like me you can’t pass a friendly feline in the street without giving it a scratch on the head to the point it tries to follow you home. In Shenmue a kitten is orphaned by the same car that carries the man who liked your father. Whilst that part isn’t so relatable, the optional sidequest to heal, feed and name the kitten sounds like something I’d do. Luckily the little guy hangs around your shrine so it’s easy to find them at the beginning and end of each day. Ultimately you strike a bond with the little critter and it finds a new home with one of the local children's family. There are the cold-hearted out there who would ignore such a noble task of saving this creature. Not me though sir. Not me.
Fighting the evil Mantroid, interviewing with the press aaaand… washing the dishes, it’s all in a day’s work for Captain Spirit! If you’ve played any of the games within the Life is Strange series, you’ll know that they all have relatable elements to them from attending school, answering text messages with emojis and trying to find things in your extremely messy room. Something that the previous games have yet to include though are chores, for Chris Erikson though - a 10 year old boy who believes that he is a superhero – chores are just part of the job. During the stand-alone episode, players are given the choice to wash dishes, shovel snow, put washing in the machine and more! All things that I would much rather do in game than in real life.
Kids playing in the street or the playground should be part of everyone’s childhood and it forms the core mechanic of the plot in the most recent South park game and it’s prequel. There’s so many relatable things that occur here (among a wealth of absurdities), fights are infrequently interrupted by passing cars who will tell you to “get out the damn road kids!” or by annoying friends or cousins who just want to be part of what you’re doing. Time travelling farts aside the game manages to strike a great balance in making the most out of the mundane by simply throwing in a good piece of imagination and making the story all the more epic amongst the normal town surroundings.
If you’ve ever been on a group trip somewhere with your friends, no doubt that there was one friend that liked to document everything. Cast your mind back to a time when you’ve agreed to a nice day out somewhere and at the end of the day you find yourself in various candid photos on your friend’s social media pages. In Final Fantasy XV, that friend is Prompto. As the four friends Noctis, Ignis, Gladiolus and Promto take a road trip to safely transport Prince Noctis to his wedding. Budding photographer Prompto always finds time for a photo along the way whether it’s of their car’s new paint job, secret shots of his friends and even photos in the middle of battle. Who wouldn’t want to remember THIS road trip!
Starting Half Life is a lot like starting any Monday morning. If you commute to work on a train or bus you’ll be right at home here on the Black Mesa Transit System. There’s a few sights to see along the way but then there’s probably a few things you’d take a second look at on someone else’s journey if it wasn’t the norm for you. Everything seems a bit high tech and extreme as you pass rockets and heavy duty industrial machinery whilst guided by the recorded safety notice but at the end of the day the journey is just a means to an end to get you to your desk. Familiar things you’ll see like other commuters on other trains on their merry way and standard warnings you’ll hear about no smoking come over the speakers. Finally you’re greeted by security wishing you a “Good Morning” and reminding you that you appear to be running late. Story of my life.
Busy, busy, busy. The main feature of my adulting life appears to be time management. We often talk about how our modern lives mean you have to really stretch to find your gaming opportunities in between work, sleep, chores, keeping up with friends, fighting shadows in mind castles, more chores etc. Well you might not be fighting in mind castles but the team in Persona 5 are and that’s in amongst everything else that we do on a daily basis. With the gaming day split (at most) into a morning, afternoon and evening block of time, time management plays a huge role in Persona 5. Using this time to earn money to spend on weapons, train your skills, build and uphold friendships which strengthen your allies all whilst having to keep your studies up in order to pass the end of term exams feels extremely relatable whether you are, like me a functioning (mostly) adult or still in education like our Persona heroes.
Any of you that have a dog, a cat or any pet really will understand the frustration that I had with Trico – the giant bird/dog – when playing 2016’s The Last Guardian. In order to progress in the world of the game, you often had to rely on your large feathery companion for help. To ask Trico for assistant you had to call his name using the R1 trigger and use a combination of different buttons for different commands. The nameless boy that you play as can’t do this until later in the game once you have built a bond with Trico, does that mean he’ll always respond as soon as you ask him to though? Uh, NO. I encountered countless times where I would call Trico to come over but he would much rather do something else and when I would eventually get him to the right place, he would sometimes totally ignore my commands. This lead to some very frustrating gameplay however also added to his realistic dog-like charm.
In my experience one of the most rewarding parts of a good relationship is being able to share your hobbies with your significant others. So, one of my personal favourite relatable moments in a video game is the moment shared between Drake and Elena, post a noodle dinner where they settle down on the couch to play Crash Bandicoot. Not only does this add the value that you, the player, get to play a little retro platforming action but it serves more to show that in between the fingertip ledge swinging adventure there is something very human between the protagonist and his beau. Its rare that a game can so casually instil so much heart into cut scenes like this. The writing and animation from Naughty Dog really serves its purpose here in using a different pace and dynamic to enhance the connection we feel to the loved-up twosome.
These are our choices for the closest thing to real life experiences in gaming. We'd love to know yours in the comments below.