Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Game Changer: Heavy Rain (Spoiler Free)

Introducing Game Changers! This is a new segment we’re trying out in which we talk about games that have changed the way we think about games. The idea is to highlight some innovative, thought-provoking, idea-generating, interest-renewing, fascinating, or unique games that have in some way had a big impact for us.  
Heavy Rain

How far would YOU go...?

Heavy Rain is a story-driven video game for the PlayStation 3 that has you taking on the roles of four characters that are trying to investigate a serial killer. Just thinking about this game makes my heart race a little even now, and it’s been almost a year since I’ve played it. The game has a gripping emotional storyline that exemplifies the tagline “How far would you go to save someone you love?” It’s a resonant theme, and one that challenged me to really consider my own strength of will. Would I be strong enough to do what I’m asking my characters to? Could I save him?

Heavy Rain is not for the faint of heart, it pushes you to think past your typical video game choices and really get into the lives of these characters. No matter what you do there is a story and an ending, not a “game over” screen. Think about that for a minute… if a character dies the story goes on without them, and you know that it’s your choices and actions that decided their fate. If they ALL die, there is still an ending. It’s an awesome feat of interactive storytelling to make such a thing possible, and it’s heavy. I found myself wanting to try to make things go differently sometimes, but it was the type of regrets you have in real life rather than those gamey moments where you just want to back up to your last save. The story in Heavy Rain bought me into its world enough to live with my mistakes. It was a solid 10-12 hours of gameplay that I don’t think I will ever forget, and after 1000’s of hours of entirely forgettable games this “short” game really delivered on experience, impact, and insight. 
This game changed my opinion about what makes a character feel real and important. I always thought that player created characters were an essential component to an immersive role-playing experience, but the characters in Heavy Rain feel more personal and three-dimensional to me than any characters I’ve made over the years in video game worlds. I got to step into the lives of those people, make the hard choices, and live with the consequences of my actions.
Heavy Rain changed the way I look at how games can deliver an experience and engage the player in a story while creating a sense of ownership in the characters.  It is not the perfect game, and it’s certainly not for everyone, but all I can remember when I think back on it is that overwhelming feeling of being "wowed". For me, playing Heavy Rain was like all the best parts of a good book, an impactful movie, and a deep role-playing game experience wrapped up in one tidy package.

Your Turn!

What games have changed how you think about gaming? Have an opinion or insight about this post you'd like to share? We'd love to hear from you, and we think we've made commenting a little easier... so let's talk it up folks!

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