The player experience

In early games stories were often limited, you would usually have one primary goal and the gameplay was the way you achieved that goal, story would often be conveyed through text such as dialogue or just a few sentences to set the scene. This was because technology was a hugely limiting factor, emotions were harder to convey through small sprites and voicework took up too much of the game’s space to be feasible. As technology improved 3D games began to appear and voicework and even cutscenes were beginning to become a common occurrence, these allowed for stories to be far more immersive as they could convey a scene far more convincingly. Characters would have more detailed personalities, with facial expressions and dialogue being a very effective way of conveying emotion without outright telling you how the character feels.

[Minor spoilers for the first boss of Undertale]

This gameplay clip I have chosen to use shows the player fighting Toriel, a character who has played the role of a motherly guardian, guiding you through the first area of the game, protecting you and caring for you after you have been thrown into this unfamiliar and dangerous environment. The context of the fight is that Toriel does not want you to leave the safe haven of The Ruins as she states the outside world is dangerous and she fears you will be killed, she tells you that she will only let you pass if you prove you are strong enough to survive and the fight begins. This fight is one of regret and sorrow as Toriel blatantly does not want to hurt you, as your character begins to approach death Toriel’s attack patterns change, she begins actively attempting to miss you with her attacks because she does not want to kill you, she only to convince you that it is better to stay with her in safety [Video 1: 1:37]. To add to the theme of Toriel not actually wanting to hurt you is that if she does manage to kill you accidentally her face will show great shock and regret before the screen snaps to black an instant later. [Video 2: 0:56]

I believe this is a great example of creating meaning and emotion in a way other than just dialogue, through the character’s facial expressions (changing most notably after 1:21 of video 1) and the way they fight you. I believe the non-verbal methods used improve the scene as they are a more subtle and impactful way of conveying meaningful emotion.