What games have you played which evoked emotional reactions in you?

So, I recently played Will Not Let Me Go - Details, and then I also played my father's long, long legs - Details and the uncle who works for nintendo - Details soon afterwards, and all three were effective in invoking some sort of emotional reaction from me (though Will Not Let Me Go was definitely the strongest of those, I spent a shocking amount of time tearing up even after I’d finished it). I was thinking about what other games I’d played previously and I realized that the majority of the games to which I’d had an emotional reaction have been about either children or teenagers ( Bogeyman - Details, And Then You Come to a House Not Unlike the Previous One - Details, Photopia - Details, Rameses - Details, for example, though the emotion there was mostly dismay ). In fact, I realized that Will Not Let Me Go was the only game I can remember that I reacted emotionally to that wasn’t centered around children or teenagers.

So I’m curious to know if that’s something that’s unique to me, something that’s encouraged by the market (perhaps because growing up is ubiquitous and relatable to both authors and players), or if there’s just a gaping hole in my selection. Can y’all throw some games out there that elicited emotional reactions in you?


Planetfall is the obvious example in this category, so I’ll throw that out.

I knew a writer who often talked about “death of a child” stories in workshops and classes. There’s the obvious meaning of the phrase, but in context she meant stories that used a child’s death (or threat of death) for unearned emotional weight.

Not that you can never use such an element, but rather, the writer should be earning those emotional heart-tugs through great story and character.

Maybe that’s why you’re seeing this pattern: More than other mortal threats, a child’s death strikes something primal and visceral within us.

– Jim

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Spoilers for some Infocom games follow.

For me, the obvious emotional element in Planetfall is Floyd’s sacrifice, but then, Floyd kind of gestures at some of the tropes of childhood throughout the story: trusting, naive, enthusiastic, selfless and sharing and friendly in an unselfconscious way.

There’s also the event of killing the skink in Trinity, where, in order to advance and be successful, the PC has to crush a lizard with his bare hands. Jimmy Maher talks about this and how it intersects with the readers emotions in a chapter of his book on parser IF.

The Unofficial Sea-Monkey(R) Simulation (a prior game of B.J. Best, author of And Then You Come to a House Not Unlike the Previous One). Sting from the current Comp.


I was an emotional wreck after this one.


To me, most IF games whose stories I appreciate, and where the game is supporting the story, are emotional. I don’t intend to sound so all-encompassing as to be blah. I just mean, this topic so far has mostly discussed emotions elicited by various kinds of tragedy, death and pessimism. I’d also suggest ‘death of an animal’ is right up there with ‘death of a child’, though ‘death of an animal’ is an event that can make people so self-conscious, it’s not even that they necessarily resent the animal dying (though plenty do), it’s that they resent the inauthentic manipulation they suspect an author of as soon as an animal is subject to narrative forces, whether it’s authentic or inauthentic!

Here are some games of other kinds I find emotional.

I find cosmological games pleasingly emotional. Like Andromeda Awakening, Andromeda Apocalypse, Harmonic Time-Bind Ritual Symphony.

I remember Coloratura has a kind of visceral emotionality, because you’re viewing humans who are experiencing complex emotions from the perspective of an alien that doesn’t understand them.

I like things where you read doomed stories of folks from the past, like Anchorhead.

I find What Heart Heard Of, Ghost Guessed from the current comp emotional.

Dead Man’s Hill provokes emotion because it explicitly avoids it in the narrative. It shows the mechanics of death in trench warfare.



Great question and in any artistic context shows the writer has talent IMHO.

A good half of the games involving childhood didn’t involve, like, literal child death, but on the other hand a good portion of them do! I don’t think it felt ‘unearned’ for most of them, though, but I can see that as something an author might write in.

As far as Infocom games, I have a really, really hard time emotionally connecting with parser games, just because the puzzle-y aspects and parser interactions tend to convert anything I’m supposed to be feeling into frustration. I am given to understand that Anchorhead is very creepy, but I couldn’t get into it.

I mean, is “fun” an emotion? I had loads of fun playing Vampire The Masquerade: Night Road being a vampire wizard doing crazy blood magics left and right and had a lot of fun with it. I guess it wouldn’t be wrong to say I had an emotional reaction to playing Night Road but it was closer to, like, the emotional reaction to playing through a RPG campaign where a lot of the joy comes from, like, agency and systems mastery and power fantasy.

Oh! I guess one recent one that I played that I had some really positive emotions about was A Paradox Between Worlds - Details so there’s at least one non-depressing one I can think of.


This one was interesting because, between me finding parsers awkward and having a very different upbringing, and it being an actual memoir, it connected more in theory than in practice. With something like Rameses, I can think of the characters in the game what I will, but with Sting, where it features real-life person Mike Russo, who I’d actually emailed once, I felt I could not judge or examine it as fiction, because to do so would feel disrespectful, I guess? To draw much of a conclusion about Mike Russo, full living human, out of these six episodes when felt crude to me, and I was not alike enough that I could look at it and immediately empathize. I can see why it would connect emotionally, though.


The game that has elicited the most emotional reaction for me was probably SPY INTRIGUE, but it’s very difficult to describe that exact emotional response. SPY emotions I guess. Solarium was also very much emotionally moving in a strange way, as was howling dogs. I don’t know how to pinpoint what exactly was effective about the stories…

Also, Venus Meets Venus and Bee mostly because I identified with the characters (and the great writing). Lilium too, but that’s about death.

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To be clear, I wasn’t saying any of those games were guilty of it. It was a general observation.

– Jim

The biggest reaction was A Mind Forever Voyaging, when I got to 2071 and 2081. I was horribly depressed for a week afterward.

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There’s been a few. One that really stands out for me is LASH – Local Asynchronous Satellite Hookup. I was in tears for a while after finishing it. One bit that set me off was


when the robot called me Master. I actually ended up typing in ‘I am not your master’ hoping it would trigger a response,

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I agree. The feeling of being complicit in the whole slave-master dynamic felt gutwrenching. Which is also what makes LASH such a strong game.

The coconut in Trinity. Felt sick the moment I saw the dolphin