“The Last Guardian isn’t about empathy, it’s about allowing yourself to be vulnerable, it is about overcoming heart and opening yourself up to the compassion of others”Sam Greer, Games are not empathy machines.
(I can’t remember what games industry nonsense I was reading through a few days back that brought this video essay back into mind and to be fair, it doesn’t really matter either. Whatever it was, I’m sure videogames will do it again because videogames can’t ever stop)
I am eternally wary of any argument that posits videogames at the top of a cultural food chain, especially when the argument as to why pretty much inevitably comes down to “because you can press buttons” (though the language is usually way, way, more flowery and/or TED-talky). The idea that they are empathy generators but not only that, are THE superior form of empathy generator – as various folks in the industry trot out regularly – is ridiculous and Sam punctures that within the first few minutes of their essay.
What follows is a lovely study of The Last Guardian, how the relationship between Trico (the cat griffin furry chum) and the player works, weaving all this into a chat about what empathy is and how you – the player – bring your empathy to games rather than it being a gift bestowed on you by videogames and why this matters.
I’m doing the essay a great injustice in that summary there, partly because I want you to watch Sam’s video yourself and partly because as I mentioned in my previous post, I’m a bit under the weather and thinking is hard. Sorry, Sam (and readers!).
Also of note! If you enjoy this video essay and you have a few quid spare, Sam has a Patreon you can contribute to.