Okay, so Quantic Dream, the creators of the story-heavy PS3 exclusive Heavy Rain, have pretty much hit the nail on the head with Kara, which is a video showcasing motion-capture animation technology revealed at this year’s Game Developers Conference. The seven-minute video shows a female android in assembly answering test questions. The video takes an emotional turn when the android (played by Valorie Curry) discovers she’s alive and objects to being sold as a piece of merchandise. The unseen male test inspector, who can be heard systematically typing on a keyboard during the majority of the video, attempts to have her disassembled — but quickly alters his decision after she begs him to remain intact, tears streaming down her face, her anguish tugging at his (and our) heartstrings.
This film is full of great moments: when Kara says her name to herself for the first time, you can see her joy at discovering that she’s a unique being. When she realizes that there are other androids like her and that there are many mass-produced Karas on the market, you can see her confusion and anger. When Kara discovers she’s going to be disassembled, you want to jump into the video and talk some goddamn sense into that guy off-camera. What’s he thinking? She’s beautiful!
I played a good chunk of Heavy Rain and found its design fascinating if occasionally frustrating (hey, I’m a PC gamer 90 percent of the time). The story was twisted and complex, the controls were unique and highly effective, the mood and atmosphere were claustrophobic and full of tension, and the timed portions were… well, too damn hard for a sweet-natured little PC junkie like myself. I’ll be honest; I enjoyed Heavy Rain for the story and the way it caused the player to forge an emotional connection with the characters. Quantic Dream has this so figured out, it’s frightening. The video Kara doesn’t represent their next game, but I can see where they’re going, which is straight for my sensitive parts. And that’s NOT because Kara says she can function as a sexual partner. I swear. I’m not as libido-driven as I think. I mean, what?
Seriously, if I may be so bold, we could say there’s a new kind of interest in story-driven games that seek to play with our emotions, rather than our reaction-times. Maybe it’s because I recently played Dear Esther, the first-person narrative explorer, or that I’ve been hearing so much about this new PS3 game called Journey, which is geared toward encouraging players to develop friendships without any actual communication (from what I hear, it works). Of course, “experimental” games, feeling less developed than your average video game, are probably not as marketable â€” but it would be interesting to see what Quantic Dream could do in this newly evolving genre. Or perhaps, what other developers could do with the technology showcased in Kara: I could see a future Dear Esther-like game containing interaction with characters that function as emotional agents, rather than your typical run-and-gun-and-jumpforcover AI. Now that would be truly innovative.
If you’re interested in seeing Kara in action and crying into your hot chocolate (or whatever other nancy-boy beverage you might be drinking) take a look at the high-def video on IGN. God forbid that a robot with the ability to communicate emotion actually exists one day — I’m too easily emotionally manipulated as it is…