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What Makes for a More Impactful Video Game Ending: Happiness or Sadness?

In the realm of video games, narratives have evolved from simple plotlines to intricate storytelling experiences that rival those found in movies, literature, and television. Within this landscape, the dichotomy between happy and sad endings has often been a subject of debate. Many players and critics argue that sad or tragic endings lend a sense of maturity and realism to a story, while happy endings are often dismissed as immature or unrealistic. However, it’s important to recognize that the choice between a happy or sad ending is not binary, and the narrative landscape can be enriched by the inclusion of happy endings. In this article, we will delve into the reasons why happy endings are valuable for video game narratives, challenge the notion that sad endings are inherently more mature, and explore how a happy ending can be grounded in reality.

Contrary to popular belief, happy endings do not necessarily equate to simplistic or unrealistic conclusions. Just as life itself is filled with a myriad of emotions and experiences, so too can video game narratives offer a rich blend of joy, sorrow, and triumph. Happy endings can provide players with a sense of closure and accomplishment, allowing them to see the positive outcomes of their efforts. This emotional payoff can be just as compelling and resonant as the emotional impact of a sad ending.

Depth and Realism in Happy Endings

Happy endings can be crafted with depth and nuance, incorporating realistic challenges and character growth. Rather than presenting an unearned, idyllic conclusion, a well-crafted happy ending can reflect the characters’ development and the choices they have made throughout the game. Just as in real life, overcoming obstacles and evolving as individuals can lead to positive outcomes. This adds a layer of authenticity to the narrative and reinforces the idea that growth and change are integral parts of the human experience.

Lunar Silver Star Story and Xenogears are revered for their captivating narratives and memorable characters. Both games showcase the narrative impact of well-executed happy endings that contribute to the depth of their respective worlds.

In Lunar Silver Star Story, the journey of Alex and his friends culminates in a heartwarming and triumphant ending. After overcoming numerous challenges and adversaries, Alex fulfills his destiny as the Dragonmaster and saves the world of Lunar. The happy ending not only rewards players for their dedication but also reinforces the themes of friendship, determination, and the power of unity. By showcasing the growth of characters and their ability to shape their destinies, the happy ending in Lunar Silver Star Story adds a sense of closure and emotional resonance, elevating the player’s connection to the game’s world.

Similarly, Xenogears delivers a satisfying conclusion with a happy ending that unites its intricate narrative threads. Players witness Fei’s journey of self-discovery and redemption as he confronts his past and shapes his future. The game’s philosophical and existential themes are beautifully resolved, providing players with a sense of fulfillment and resolution. The happy ending in Xenogears showcases the impact of personal growth and the potential for positive change, leaving players with a profound sense of accomplishment.

Rejecting the Notion of Immaturity

The perception that happy endings are inherently immature overlooks the emotional complexity that they can offer. Just as a sad ending can evoke deep emotions, a happy ending can provoke feelings of joy, relief, and satisfaction. The ability to evoke a wide range of emotions demonstrates the narrative’s effectiveness in resonating with players on a profound level. Maturity in storytelling lies not in the choice of ending, but in the skillful execution of the narrative elements that lead to that conclusion.

While sad endings can provide a sense of realism and gravity, it’s important to recognize that they are not the exclusive marker of narrative maturity. The portrayal of tragedy can be impactful, but it should not be regarded as the sole indicator of a story’s depth. A mature narrative encompasses a variety of emotions and experiences, capturing the complexity of the human condition. By limiting narratives to only sad endings, we risk missing out on the opportunity to explore the full spectrum of emotions that make stories relatable and engaging.

Not all narratives opt for happy endings, and some intentionally emphasize themes of hopelessness and futility. Tales of Berseria, an action RPG known for its dark and mature narrative, concludes with a bittersweet ending that underscores the challenges of its characters’ journeys. Velvet Crowe’s quest for revenge against Artorius ultimately leaves her and her companions with somber outcomes. The ending serves as a poignant reminder that not all stories conclude with triumph, highlighting the complexities of the human experience and the sacrifices made along the way. This ending resonates deeply with players, evoking a sense of reflection and contemplation about the nature of struggle and the harsh realities of life.

Happy endings in video games are not mere concessions to escapism or wish fulfillment; they can be powerful tools for conveying themes of growth, unity, and redemption. Lunar Silver Star Story and Xenogears exemplify how well-executed happy endings can enhance the depth of a narrative by rewarding players for their dedication and investment in the characters’ journeys. Conversely, endings like that of Tales of Berseria demonstrate how themes of hopelessness and futility can provoke thought and emotional resonance, even in the absence of a conventional triumphant conclusion. The diverse array of narrative outcomes in video games showcases the medium’s capacity to evoke a wide range of emotions and perspectives, making it a unique and impactful form of storytelling.

Catharsis stands as a central pillar of storytelling, a transformative force that lies at the heart of video game narratives. Regardless of whether a story concludes with a happy or sad ending, the ultimate goal remains the same: to evoke a profound sense of catharsis as the closing credits roll. A well-crafted video game ending has the power to sweep players into an emotional crescendo, providing a release that resonates long after the controller is set aside. The journey’s vehicle, whether joyous or heartrending, matters less than the potent catharsis it delivers, reminding us that the true essence of storytelling lies in its ability to move, challenge, and uplift our spirits.

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