Video games disappoint me all the time, but they rarely manage to explore the feeling and then make it a central part of the interactive experience. Regret is rarely something that developers try to understand and create.
Most of the modern video game world is concerned with empowering the player, which is done via simple leveling up mechanics and easy acquisition of more items, more weapons, more options, and there’s rarely a sense of disappointment that does not lead directly to a reload or a restart.
I began thinking about the lack of regret and disappointment in video games while contemplating how to react to one of the many curveballs that Crusader Kings II
has thrown at me: the early death, from the plague, of both of my sons, which meant that my kingdom was set to be inherited by a rather unsavory male brother.
In most games, be they strategy or action oriented, such a random occurrence would lead to the reload of a previous save, but in Crusader Kings II I chose to soldier on given the situation and to try and see whether I could find a solution to the problem and get another pretender to the throne.
Just like in the real world (although I have not experienced a similar situation I can project a reaction) I was feeling a deep regret, but that emotion only made me more determined to try and push forward towards an outcome I wanted.
I wish Call of Duty
would supply me with something similar, allowing me to lose one crucial character, let’s say the President or some other plot important NPC, while also giving me a route to move past this event that involves feeling disappointment.
Unfortunately, I suspect the empowerment will remain the rule for the next few years, with publishers giving gamers more access to fantasies that make them feel special rather than sometimes putting them back in touch with their own disappointing humanity.