Some games have taken on the challenge of having the player experience emotional growth of some sort (a Character Arc) by trying to give the player the most obvious Arc: to become courageous.
Assuming you're the player, this is done (or emulated) by your acquiring enhanced military skills or weapons as the game goes on. By the end, you can accomplish acts of daring-do that you couldn't accomplish at the start of the game. You're thus supposed to feel more powerful and courageous.
Does this work? Probably a little bit and that's not bad. After all, as we've seen from this book, to create emotional experiences in games we should grab every tool and technique we've got, and use them whenever they're appropriate.
The game Ico tried another method to encourage the feeling that you've become powerful: by having the smoky demons who are such a threat in the beginning becoming afraid of you by the end, as if you've become quite intimidating to them.
Whereas early in the game these smoky demons are very aggressive, by the end, after you've gone through and triumphed over countless ordeals, these same demons practically flee every time you thrust out your weapon to kill them.
Does this method work? Sure, a bit. When I played the game, watching those smoke phantoms cower, I did feel somewhat smug and tough.
The player spends much of that game protecting a young and innocent girl. Did this leave me more willing to take responsibility for innocent people in real life? Yes, a bit although perhaps someone else would have a different response.
To reprise the earlier idea, I think a game can change us about as much as a good film can change us. But films have traditionally been much more successful in this arena than have games.
I applaud every game that tries to take on the difficult challenge of creating a First-Person Character Arc. Hopefully, we'll see many interesting experiments in the future.
Still, there's a lot more that can be done…
Problems with Past Efforts
The problems with past efforts are several-fold:
There have to be other techniques to create a First-Person Character Arc than the limited ones used in the past. What are they?
Perhaps we designers should take the Character Arc of a person becoming more courageous and put it on a back shelf. That's because not only is it the obvious Arc, but, as in most games, if the player can die infinite times, it's hard to make a player afraid (cowardly), at least by the threat of death.