Tender Rain

The things that were most interesting to me in Quantic Dream‘s Heavy Rain were the quiet moments of tender interaction. They were not interesting to me because of the story. Or because of the character I was playing, or the character my avatar was interacting with. These moments were simply moments that I recognized from life.
Heavy Rain: kissing
It felt wonderful to be able to care for a baby and rock it gently. Or to say goodnight to my avatar’s son by kissing him on the forehead. One of the strongest emotional moments for me was the simple gesture of middle aged private detective Scott Shelby, in the pouring rain, putting his coat on the shoulders of Lauren Winter, a prostitute whose son was murdered and who was helping with the investigation. And then of course there was the tender kissing and caressing of Madison Paige and Ethan Mars in a moment when both felt weak and exhausted and sad. A moment of fragile trust when everything around them seemed to have stopped making sense.

The interaction in these scenes was minimal. But it was enough to make me feel involved as a player (not only a viewer!). What was happening in the scene was something that I wanted to happen, it was my decision. I responded to the situation and I decided to act. And the feeling of being involved in this simulation was immensely powerful.

There’s something about representation that fascinates humans. Not just pictures in general. But depictions. Depictions of things we recognize. At various points in history, authorities or rebels have warned against our fascination with images, often worried that we might mistake the representation for the real thing. But I don’t believe this is ever the case. We enjoy the simulation partially because we know it is not real. That does make the representation more fascinating than reality, in some way. But we never mistake one for the other.
Heavy Rain: rocking
So far, representation has been limited to visual and auditory stimulation. And artists have achieved impressive results in sculpture, painting, photography and film, to a great extent thanks to our willingness to have our emotions manipulated. But only now, through the combination offered by contemporary videogames technology, of believable representation with interaction, has it become possible to represent our actions. It’s an honor to be a witness to such an important moment in art history.

We don’t actually hold a baby when playing Heavy Rain (much like we don’t actually see a naked woman when looking at the Venus of Milo), but we go through all the mental steps it takes to do so. We will never mistake playing the game for actually changing diapers or feeding an infant. On the contrary, by being a representation, the game becomes grander, becomes symbolic, connects us with other members of our species. Like admiring a painting of the Madonna may instill a feeling of connection with all mothers in the universe.

The representation does not replace reality. It is a celebration of reality! And being able to perform these gentle interactions in Heavy Rain, is a celebration of the tenderness in humans, of how we all share this capacity to love and to care and to silently hold each other, without words, without reasons.