I’ve been playing video games most of my life. I could say that I’ve enjoyed most of the games I’ve played. But I’ve always felt a bit disconnected after starting a game. Even though I enjoy nearly every aspect of a game, there’s almost always a feeling that something is missing. While I thought on this, I realized what was missing: I don’t care about the characters.
Nearly every game I’ve played I haven’t felt a connection to any characters. At first, I thought this was the fact that in the back of my mind, I was aware they weren’t real. But that wasn’t it; I have no problem connecting with T.V., book, or comic/manga characters.
Yet, game characters, never. My Pokémon can die, and then I’m simply upset if they were near leveling up or evolving. Because that’s more work. The Little Sisters in Bioshock? Sure, I saved them, but that’s because in the end, you earn more from saving them than killing them. So it served me better. I dislike having to go through protect missions, because the A.I. gets killed easily and that spoils my fun. So I began wondering: am I heartless? Is it because there aren’t enough gingers in games or characters I look at and think, “Sure, they’re like me,” in their personalities, beliefs, or goals?
After I thought back through countless games in my repertoire, I found one character that I actually developed an emotional connection with. All because of two words.
So here, one of the guidelines for spoilers is that it has to be five years before you can go on without a Spoiler Warning. So for anyone who hasn’t played Portal 2, you’ve been warned.
So yeah, once you’ve fallen deep down in Aperture Labs. Getting ready to take out GLaDOS and replace her with Wheatley to ensure your escape. As you find yourself surrounded by incinerators, you find one little turret on the conveyor.
Yep, this little turret, better known as the Oracle Turret, broke my heart, all from two words it says. “I’m different.”
And that got me. I originally planned on just leaving him. It’s a turret. They’ve shot at me since way back in the first game. At the time, I was unaware that saving Oracle would get me any sort of achievement. And once I saw I had earned one, it mattered more to me to make sure that Oracle was safe. If you’re wondering what made me decide to save it, here goes. A turret, a machine whose partners have lent me their fair share of bullets in the past, was able to pull a Grinch three-size-increase on my heart? Like I said, it’s all because of what it said. “I’m different.” That’s something I can understand. Everyone can. We’ve all had those moments where we’ve felt different. That time you were dragged somewhere by a friend and you don’t know anyone, the family party where there’s nobody you can have an actual conversation with about something you care about. It’s not easy to feel so distant when you’re in a crowd. I’ve had that feeling. So when I stumbled on something that admits that feeling I’ve felt and I know others have, too, that’s something I can connect to in a game. Once I made that connection with Oracle, my experience in the game grew and my gameplay felt deeper.
I don’t expect every game to have some little oddball that makes me think “I identify with them,” but I like seeing a character with a unique appeal to them. Someone that doesn’t quite fit into the normal molds that we’re so used to in games and makes you think and take notice. I know I’ll never be the macho man, suave assassin, or eye-catching female lead.
But Portal 2, you made me care a little more about you. Even now, I look back to the Oracle Turret I left guarding one of the hallways in the Aperture basement, and I’m glad to know he’s safe.