Rapture Revisited Part 7: Out of the Uncanny Valley

My tour of Olympus Heights provoked the strongest emotions of any chapter thus far. It began with a welcome and cathartic sigh of relief when I awoke to find all the little sisters I’d saved safe and relatively sound in Dr. Tenenbaum’s care. The reunion provided a welcome counterpoint to the many levels of tension, panic, and unflinching violence.

So I wonder: What does the orphanage looks like for players who harvested the girls?

Little Sisters in Tenenbaum's Care

My reprieve was short. Soon I was plowing through one wave of splicers after another on my way to find Frank Fontaine.

I must’ve rushed through this chapter the last time I played. I can’t remember for sure, but I was thorough this time and managed to find a few rooms I didn’t recognize. One in particular made me pause.

Death is everywhere in this game. You might not think a little more would matter, but this was the first and only time I found where the dead included children.

A Tragic End

In one of the apartments you find the aftermath of an apparent family suicide. The bodies of a man and a woman lie on one sofa. The slumped figures of three little girls rest on another. A bottle of poison sits on a table between them. I wish there’d been an audio journal, something that said who they were and what happened, but I found nothing.

Now, this is not a realistic game. The poly count is relatively low, at least by today’s standards. The same model is used for all three girls with few alerations; they could be clones. Animation in the game is occasionally stiff and awkward.

None of that matters much, at least not when it comes to eliciting a deep, emotional response. It may actually help. Fill in too many details and you may lose people in the uncanny valley. Show just enough, keep the level of detail consistent, and the player’s mind will provide the rest.

At least, that’s been my experience. I don’t need a particularly high degree of realism to feel deep emotions. I react to ideas. Sometimes, when that fosters deep immersion, it’s great.

In this case, not so much.

If you can recall a particularly strong emotional response to a game, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.

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