In a recent group chat with close friends, the question was asked, “Which Pay-Per-View would sell better: Batman versus Captain America or Goku versus Superman?” Of the four of us, we were evenly split and equally set in our reasons why.
For me, I voted Batman versus Captain America because, to borrow from wrestling, Goku versus Superman has no heat to it and, despite agreeing that it would be an epic spectacle, I could not come up with a reason to care about the fight. Contrast that with the battling ideals of Captain America and Batman, and it’s easy for me to see a story that makes that fight even more intriguing.
That is a long way of saying some people value spectacle over substance. There is nothing wrong with that, but I almost always choose the thing with something to say over the thing with a lot to show.
When it comes to videogames, especially talking about video games, most of the conversations we have are about their most spectacular elements. We hype up graphics and frame rates, we talk about the importance of draw distance, we gawk over animation quality, etc. Often (and I am guilty of this myself), we forgo an uglier, better game for a prettier, worse one. Yet, in our modern era, I am finding more and more games with things to say (regardless of their appearance) are finding a foothold.
This brings me to Ghost Giant, a game for Playstation VR I recently completed.
In Ghost Giant, you play as a giant ghost. You awaken one day in the forest to the sound of a crying boy named Louis. At first, he is surprised by your presence, but you quickly become friends. As the game progresses, you learn that only Louis can see you, and that he desperately needs your help to get sunflowers planted at his mother’s farm.
Gameplay is a blend of point-and-click tropes with puzzles and a storybook diorama-esque feel. It was not my favorite part of playing Ghost Giant or even the reason I finished it.
For me, what made Ghost Giant click was the story. Louis feels all alone because he is alone. He managed to ruin his friendship with his only friend, and his mother is clinically depressed. Louis has taken her depression and inability to get out of bed on his own two shoulders. Like her, he refuses to seek help because he fears she might go away. It a tragic, heartbreaking piece that, even with a happy (but realistic) ending, left me crying inside a VR headset – not recommended.
Obviously in Ghost Giant’s case, it does a good job with presentation (spectacle) but excels most at story (substance), and neither of those things are mutually exclusive, but I love that games like this exist.
I can have a ton of fun in the latest Mario or Call of Duty, but, as with every other medium – books, movies, television, music, you name it – I really, really dig something that can make me feel on spiritual level. I love walking away with a new perspective or feeling drained from the inside out. Just like finishing a good book, Ghost Giant weighed on my mind for many hours after finishing, and, nearly a week later, I can still recall the emotions it conjured up within me. Video games are largely accepted in the mainstream, but it’s these kinds of experiences I wish more people who do not play games would think of first. Or, better yet, experience for themselves.
Sure, books (and other mediums) can accomplish something similar, but each does so in subtlety different ways. Nothing reminds me of being human more than something like Ghost Giant, a game about a ghost who talks to animal-people. The gameplay, however inaccurate and frustrating I found it be, still managed to make me feel like a larger-than-life being helping a little boy through a traumatic time in his life. And that’s pretty damn cool in a way only a videogame can pull off.