I struck a dog last week.
Not a real dog, you'll understand. I may be cynical and slightly warped at times, but I'm not as bad as to actually hit a real animal. But in a videogame, I hit a dog, entirely intentionally.
Allow me to explain.
The videogame is Bully/Canis Canum Edit. Now, some of you may be flinching at this narrative right now, thinking sarcastically "well, unnecessary violent in a videogame, yeah, that's new". But again, let me explain. In the game, I was innocently doing a paper round.
Yes, a paper round. Never done one in real life, but here I was, peddling away on my bicycle, trying to earn a little money in one of Bully's many sub games, delivering papers. It's a loving homage to Paperboy, that age old game that you may remember. So I was doing quite well, managing to get some of my papers to their targets in the time limit, with 5 papers to go and plenty of time to do them.
Then I hear a growl.
And a bark.
Before I even realise, this dog (not sure of the breed, never really stopped long enough to check) was chasing me down the street, snapping at my heels. At first I tried to ignore it, but after a while it made delivering papers even more difficult and time was bearing down on me quicker than the canine who apparently wanted to eat my legs for no real reason. And it refused to give up, snapping and growling as I swerved in and out of traffic, avoiding cars and the occasional hoodlum wanting to turn my face into a Picasso.
Somehow, I managed to get my papers to their targets on time. Job done, cash earned.
But the dog would not leave me alone.
It continued to chase me regardless of where I went in the city or what I did. Unlike the local toughs who want a piece of my hide, this animal pays no attention to the blue-red flash of the law. So I decide to take a risk. Maybe it'll stop if I get off the bike.
Scooby Doo was waiting for this moment. And promptly attacks me. Biting at my legs and taking a small slice of energy with the chunk of flesh. I run, but the dog reaches me easily, taking another bite. Then another. Then another. Then-
I clock it one across its head.
It lets out a pathetic whimper and bounces to the ground.
And I feel HORRIFIED.
With one sound, one little realistic sample of audible pain, I'm made to forget my tormentor's constant hounding and instantly feel like a monster. The game has me pounding bullies into submission, slamming wood off their heads and flushing their melons into the toilet without remorse, yet as soon as I raise my hand to an animal in self defence, I vilify myself and make a mental note to not do it again. Which is exactly the point.
Bully is a game that teaches consequence of actions more so than many other games I've played. Flush fire crackers down the loo and the rushing explosion of water will horribly bidet anyone in the other cubicles. Offer abuse to authority or to anyone while authority is present, and you'll be instantly reprimanded and often punished for it. Even something as innocent as accidentally bumping into someone can have its consequences as students drop their books, fall over and do their best to either make you feel like a jerk or retaliate, making sure you're very careful about personal space in the future. The game's moral core is very strong, with every character in the story ending up being a better person by the time you complete it. Sounds Disney, sure, but it works. And it only works as well as it does because you're made to think about each of your actions throughout the game. Interactive moral cause and effect.
As a storytelling technique, it's incredibly effective and something I'm trying to learn from. The closer you bring the reader to personal response, the more they react. It's something I intended to do from the very moment you started reading this entry. No doubt, most of you reading saw the opening line and instantly reacted. Those who know me will be asking how or why, those who don’t know me will be wondering who exactly this cruel bastard is and why he has the audacity to put such information in the public domain.
Emotional empathy and response is one of the writer's greatest weapons. Regardless of the medium, whether it be film, book, game, comic book, music, whatever. Appealing to emotion(s) while getting you to ask whos/whats/whys/hows is the draw of any story, across any genre or medium.
If there's any particular movie, book, song, game, comic or whatever that stands out for you, please do post it here and a quick reason why it has that effect on you. It'll be interesting to see the sort of range there is for this sort of thing…