Reason: we already have emotions in games! Lots of them.
You just have to know where to look!
But first: stop crying! (a necessary rant)
To be brutally honest with you: I feel like I’m going to slap the next person in the face asking for games to be more emotional. Just to make him or her cry, since that seems to be the experience they crave for. It’s an argument I’ve heard many times over. And if a game makes you cry that’s the ultimate testament for a game with emotions.
I call that bullshit!
First of all, would you really want to play a game that makes you cry? Would it really be such an outstanding, revolutionary experience? How many “touching” movies have you seen that left you cold-hearted? What about the movies that touched you in ways you’d never expected from a movie like that? Why did you even go see that movie in the first place? Was it because you wanted to cry?
Of course not.
Or what about affection … there are people who want to have more emotions in games because they want to feel affection for a character, feel empathetic towards a virtual character’s plight. If it fits the game, why the hell not? But we all know that games are badly scripted, often have terrible voice acting and the dynamics of a game make it very hard to create the exciting moment that will make you feel involved, will make you feel empathy for your virtual world posse.
Interestingly enough, the games that are actually able to pull this of usually present those events as cutscenes.
So there, you were just watching another movie. It didn’t have anything to do with the game. You had no control over it. Unless you call “Press X at the right microsecond in time or else you’ll lose and have to do it all over again” control.
If you do: screw you!
Emotions in games are aplenty!
Maybe you don’t realize that. Or you dismiss certain emotions as not being emotions. As humans, we have a tendency to only recognize emotions if we have them towards other human beings. But there are plenty of emotions you can have without some other human being being involved. I think games are actually doing a very great job to bring out those emotions!
Here are some of my favorite examples of emotions in video games:
My favorite sports game is FIFA. That’s football for you. For you americans, yes, that is still football. Your football is called American Football. I refuse to call our football soccer just because I refuse to accept that you (referring to the americans here) created a sport and called it football even though actually kicking the ball is an utterly under-represented part of the game.
So there, emotions in football. You know the situation, it’s like in real life. Your team wins in the last second: happy feelings. Your team didn’t qualify for the tournament by one goal? Just plain devastating.
But it can be much more intricate than that. How about the situation where you play against a terrible team not giving any resistance but you just can’t get to score that one goal to win. It’s like everything is against you. You hit the post, you miss the shot by an inch, you get a penalty but the keeper saves it. You name it. Eventually, you do score the goal. Relief (yup, that’s an emotion).
Next thing you know, the team you’ve had under control for the entire match is suddenly outwitting you. Everything seems to go perfect for them. You can’t tackle the ball away, instead they play tricks on your defenders. You push and pull the one with the ball but he won’t give it away. They pass through your players as if they weren’t there. Suddenly, a through pass opens up a hole in your team’s defense, the striker moves towards the goal, avoids three defender’s tackles in succession, then shoots from way far out and … goal! The equalizer. WTF?!?!??
That game was cheating on you (yes, I call you: FIFA 2011). You feel frustration, anger, disappointment, and you cry injustice!
Personally – but that is just me – at such an occasion I vividly imagine punching the person responsible for programming the game’s AI in the face real hard. Because that’s what I feel that person deserves for giving the losing team an unrealistic motivational push. Lucky for the poor fellow that feeling doesn’t last long. But just as a precaution, you might not want to sit next to me while I’m playing your game. Just so you know.
The horror, the horror!
Ok, so that’s sports. What else is there? Ah, of course: intense horror games. How about Dead Space?
So, here’s how I play games like Dead Space, ever since I’ve really enjoyed playing Doom 3 so much better because I properly prepped my environment.
My environmental setup for horror games:
- Pitch black darkness. Never play horror games in bright daylight. Even the gloomy light penetrating the shades, or your Xbox’s green power light can be a turn-off. So I put all that aside or cover it somehow. But nothing beats playing horror games at night.
- Surround sound. Preferably using surround sound headphones. The sound volume should be slightly above comfortable levels. Any external noise should be cancelled out as much as possible.
- Lying down. I want to be totally relaxed playing horror games. That way it feels more intense because your muscles don’t have to work, they just do when your body tells them to. Also, much less likely to hurt yourself in a sudden shock reaction event.
If the conditions aren’t perfect, I don’t play the game. If it’s bright outside, if there’s loud noise outside (or inside), or if I can’t play in a very relaxed body position I don’t play horror games.
That’s because if I don’t do that, the experience becomes more like an awful, gory splatterfest that you rush through and you care more about your character’s health than you do about your own mental state. You’re not in the game, you’re somehow just rushing through it, killing waves of monsters.
No wonder so many people dismissed Doom 3 as a stupid, boring shooter game.
Why am I telling you this? Because horror games are the most emotional games I’ve ever witnessed. I don’t cry over the loss of a companion in Dragon Age, I drop my controller in terror and shiver as I try to recover from a sudden and unexpected appearance of the most scary and dangerous creature imaginable. Oh, and I’m almost out of ammo and I can’t run very fast.
The only thing I haven’t done yet is to pee in my pants. But I’m sure eventually horror games will get there, too! I can’t wait.
The moral of the story
If you actually allow yourself to experience emotions in games, you will experience them. I think the state of emotions in games is merely a matter of your state of mind while playing a particular game. If you don’t get mentally involved and allow yourself to be sucked into the virtual world, you’ll wait forever for the game that makes you cry. No game will make you cry unless you allow it to happen. And once you do, you’ll realize not only is crying over a loss of a companion’s life possible, there is actually a great variety of emotions in games other than that.
Here and today, with the games you know and love.
You might not find much emotions in the way of desire, attraction, love, and loss. But you can if you really want to. Players have cried over many RPGs and I understand why. On the other hand, I don’t play Fallout because it might make me cry, and I don’t play it because I might feel attracted to that cute Brotherhood girl because she’s voiced by gorgeous The Guild actress Felicia Day.
In fact, at one time I enjoyed killing her. That was comical relief. We just were not meant to level-up together, I was sick of her buggy behavior.
What I really want to say
I think it’s time we cut the crap and stop talking about emotions in games. Games are already capable to deliver a great variety of emotions to players. But they’re just better suited to a certain kinds of emotions that are not related to deep human or social interactions. Why?
Because games don’t have fucking real humans in them! Or, in other words, if you had the choice between watching a low quality amateur porn and one that was entirely rendered in high-definition on today’s supercomputers using 3D models – which would you find more … ahem, pleasing? Of course, the one that has real humans in it.
So, emotions arising from human interactions, emotions that require social context, that’s for books and movies. Games are much better at presenting emotions not involving the human factor, and they may even be much better in that regard than books and movies due to the interactive involvement of the player.
Especially if you consider multiplayer games – you still won’t find that $$$N00bSh00t3r89%%% in Call of Duty has an enjoyably cute way to knife-kill you up-close while everyone else gets a bullet, then fall in love and be happily married ever after or so. Well, that does happen sometime, but that is because of real human interaction with the game only giving the context. And within that context, you won’t get more human reaction than those in sports games. You win, you lose. You hate, you fear. Games do get pretty emotional, as everyone who has ever played online knows:
“You suck … AAAAghhh
..ill you, I’LL KILL YOU!!! MOTHERFUCKER!!!”
Her words, not mine.
One of the most commonly expressed dismissive statements regarding self-employment is all the paperwork that you’ll have to do.
Over the past ten years, whenever the discussion came to “How is it like to be self-employed?” or “Would you consider becoming self-employed?” the paperwork argument came up frequently and usually pretty quickly. I think that’s just an excuse, moreover I happen to know from experience that it’s just not nearly as bad as most people tend to think.
The amount of paperwork I do compared to when I was employed did barely increase, and most paperwork except tax reports were simply one-time events. Let’s have a look at what causes paperwork for self-employed and how to handle it.
Invoices & Accounting
As a self-employed, you’ll have to start writing your own invoices. And there are rules and regulations for a properly formed, legally acceptable invoice. But once you know these details, creating invoices is easy and much less daunting than you might think. It’ll become routine pretty quickly.
In fact, you don’t even have to know all the details. Not only are there various templates available for creating invoices with various Office programs, you also have the option to buy an Accountancy program. It’ll print your invoices and generally do so much more for less than $100.
Or you could simply use Paypal to write your invoices. The advantage in this case is that you can automatically get paid via Paypal by sending the invoice to someone else’s email address. I’m sure Google and other eCommerce providers have similar features.
As far as accounting is concerned, that’s a job done by my tax consultant.
As an employee, the only thing I ever needed to do was a yearly income tax report. For years I haven’t done this myself. Instead I spent about an entire day collecting all invoices and receipts of the past year, put them in order and sent them off to my tax consultant. When I spoke to colleagues about this, some were almost shocked that I would be willing to spend €200 to €300 on a tax consultant when I could be doing the taxes myself.
However, for many years my tax return was 10 times or more than what I paid my tax consultant. And I also know from others that they utterly abhorred doing their taxes. They kept repeating for days or weeks that they’ve yet to do their taxes. Yet they refused to have them done by a professional. That’s simply self-damaging behavior. For avoiding the mental stress alone, plus the comfort of knowing that a professional will help me get even more money back from the state, hiring a tax consultant to do your taxes is the logical thing to do.
As a self-employed I now have to do additional monthly tax reports. But I’m spending less than 1 hour per month on collecting and printing my invoices and receipts and sending them off to my tax consultant.
In return I pay about €45 per month, or €540 total for the whole year. The good part is that these expenses are tax deductible in germany. In addition my paperwork is stored safely. In germany, you have to keep your entire financial records for at least ten years! That’s like keeping all issues of a 200 page monthly magazine for ten years! I don’t want to waste precious living or storage space on my paperwork.
For what it’s worth, and for the do-it-yourself types: the monthly tax reports are pretty simple. It obviously depends a lot on where you live and what type of legal entity you represent. But in the simplest case for a self-employed all that needs to be done is to calculate the sum of all invoices you issued or received, and the VAT paid. Then fill in the these sums in a few places on the tax form, and that’s it. In germany you can do all of that online with a program (Elster) that has helpful descriptions.
Depending on your country, there are various ways to register a company. Which one is right for you, and how much does it cost?
This is mostly a matter of informing yourself. There are authorities who will have the information ready for you, and who might even consult with you for free. In germany one would be the IHK. There are often a daunting number of options, but once you look a bit closer you’ll notice that 80% fall off the grid right away. And if in doubt, pick the company type that’s lower on the chart and cheaper to form – you can almost always upgrade later on with little hassle.
Once you know what kind of legal entity you want to create, the next steps are easy. In my case I spent less than 10 minutes filling out the paperwork at the town hall and have it signed and stamped. Done.
All other authorities were automatically informed and contacted me within a couple weeks with questionnaires about my work and expected revenue. Easy as long as you read them carefully. In some cases you want to opt out from membership and monthly payments explicitly.
As a self-employed you are responsible for your health insurance, your pension funds, and other insurances that may or may not be necessary. Those not necessarily necessary include insurances for disability or legal costs, for example.
Personally what I did was to inform my existing health insurance about becoming self-employed and took their first offer after a quick price-check online. I could have saved a couple € per year by switching but the difference was marginal and didn’t seem worth the trouble.
As for state pension funds I decided to opt out and not pay over €1,000 per year. They can barely keep up with inflation whereas life insurance or investing in stock fonds (not the risky ones of course) offer a much better valuation over the years.
Should you get additional insurances when becoming self-employed?
Well, insurances are only really helpful when you do need them, and most of the time you don’t. Insurance companies play with our built-in feeling of wanting to feel safe. The “what if” scenario that we naturally worry about once we start to think about it. In some cases we’re paying a lot of money for something that we’ll possibly never take advantage of.
With all insurances you place a bet on statistics whether a particular event that an insurance covers will happen to you. In some cases, like health insurance or car insurance, you’re likely going to have to take advantage of that at some point in time. However, are you going to need the disability or legal insurance? Hard to tell but much less likely.
If in doubt, you don’t need additional insurances other than the ones you already have. If you think you do, my rule of thumb is to get insurance that will cover mostly the worst case scenario. In many cases you can choose how much you’re going to have to pay yourself in case of an event. If that’s an option I would pick the one that has me paying the most, in order to keep regular payments down to a minimum.
If the worst case scenario happens, the insurance should be able to cover everything that you can’t possibly and comfortably cover yourself, for example you might want to opt in on the offer that covers only costs above $2,000. By the time such an event actually happens, you would have likely spent close to $2,000 on the regular insurance payments if you picked an option that already covers all costs above $400, for example.
To repeat, the rule of thumb for insurances is that they should only cover expenses that could potentially ruin you. You should not pick what they want, which is the amount of money you’d feel comfortable spending in such an event.
Paperwork.exe caused an Exception
Among the biggest worries that I’ve had, and others I know have expressed, is the fear of doing something wrong with your paperwork. Mistakes can be costly, they can lead to prosecution, fines and even imprisonment. So you’d better not want to make a mistake.
However, the truth is that those are worst case scenarios. I’ve made some mistakes in my paperwork or forgot to send them in timely. What really happened?
In one case I got a note from my tax consultant to make sure not to make the mistake again, in the other case I got a phone call from my tax agent informing me about the situation. They had already sent me two warning letters that I’ve never received. We discussed the issue, I fixed it, no further problems and no fine.
The thing is: if you’re small peanuts for the tax authorities, most of your mistakes will be forgiven, overlooked, ignored or not even noticed. Especially first-time offenses and those that don’t carry any signs of fraud or criminal intent.
For most newly self-employed this is a learning process and the tax authorities are aware of that. My personal experience with them has been that they’re just humans. If you don’t treat them like your enemy they will be your friends. After all, they don’t make the laws.
There’s Always Help
If you do run into a problem or have a question but don’t want to pay a tax consultant I’ve made the experience that you can simply call up the responsible tax agent and ask the question or discuss the issue. There are also courses and hotlines that you can take advantage of, most of them are free or charge only a nominal fee. Taxes & Co. are really nothing to be worried about if you’re just starting out.
The only thing that you should not do is neglect your responsibilities. Mainly to inform yourself, to do your taxes and just do the necessary paperwork with a positive attitude. And I believe that’s where most people are quite easily put off. You’d also be surprised how much valuable information is available on Wikipedia. It has been a great help and frequenlty provided better, more accurate and easily understandable facts than most Internet websites dedicated to the topic.
The additional paperwork for self-employed is a responsibility – but that responsibility is almost negligible once you learned what is actually required from you and that mistakes most likely don’t carry the severe penalties that you might worry about.