My Unforgettable Experience With Papo & Yo
Playing through Minority Media’s latest Papo & Yo (on the PlayStation Network) last night made me realize how much potential the game industry has to connect with people and make them FEEL deeper emotions, (other than fear, anger, or revenge) deal with heavy themes/metaphors, and perhaps even make them reflect and meditate on their own lives through successful use of gameplay and story.
Late last year, I wrote an article about a game called Keys of a Gamespace; a free independent game designed to bring about the moral and ethical decisions we deal with in real life and help people deal with theirs through gameplay. A point-and-click psychological game that take players on an emotional ride that will make anyone question his or her own morality. The deeper into the main character’s subconcious mind the players go, the heavier the themes and ethical dilemas become, climaxing in one of the more difficult choices one has to ever make.
While not as heavy in execution as Keys of a Gamespace, I believe that Papo & Yo is one of those rare interactive experiences that succeed in generating player empathy through characters, their interactions, and their stories. It successfully entertains the player, but at the same time brings forth real issues that many children and even adults deal with in real life. As the title alludes to, Papo & Yo deals with a not-so-good father and son relationship. Papo & Yo’s world is a fantasy world in which Quico creates in order to escape from his real life. Though like many fantasy worlds we create, our own experiences, fears, and trepidations tend to seep in.
Throughout the experience, there was this feeling of wonder and a feeling of endearment between Quico and his friend Monster. Monster is both a helpful ally and a dangerous liability. In Quico’s world, everything is shaped by his imagination and experiences; his desire to always go up the highest spots (a metaphor for leaving his life in the slums) and his black and white relationship with the volatile Monster. (a metaphor for his real relationship with his alcoholic father).
Papo & Yo reminded me of why I started playing games in the first place. See back in the Philippines, (where I spent my childhood) life wasn’t as suburbian and safe as it is now in North America. My friends and I found gaming as an escape to a fantasy land that could take us to wonderful worlds that helped us deal with our real lives. Kind of like how Papo & Yo’s main character goes into his own fantasy world to deal with his own issues and relationships.
Don’t get me wrong, I am a gamer first and foremost. I do enjoy revenge-filled bullet ballets, militaristic simulations, and simple reasons to dish out violence in-game. But there are times when I want to deeply connect with the characters on screen. There are times when I want to deconstruct a characters psyche and find out what makes him or her tick. And there are times when I appreciate a heartfelt, personal story over a blockbuster, bullet and explosive-filled extravaganza.
My hope is that more experiences like Papo & Yo get created; that more experiences get created that can entertain us but at the same time give us valuable lessons that we (as players) can take bring into our real lives. May it be a revolutionary and lead the way for a new breed of video games that entertains but at the same time deals with real-life issues in a classy way.