Games that capture a specific feeling that is hard to put into words

i‘ve always really loved art that captures something that feels impossible to accurately describe to another person. one of my favorite examples is a song that’s about the feeling when you‘re in a relationship where you know you’re both not into it and you both want to break up but no one really wants to do anything about it so you just sit and wait for it to fall apart. a previous thread here talked about the feeling of incidental discovery when hiking, and i liked thinking about that.

a few days ago i played and beat Getting Over It With Bennett Foddy and found myself continuously thinking about how it captures the very specific feeling of "when you're holding something glass in your hands and it slips and you start to bobble around in the air and have that instictive reaction to save it." sometimes you do save it, sometimes you make it worse and it shatters on the floor.

what are some other games (or moments in games) that capture hyper-specific feelings?

This is a great question that takes a lot of thinking to answer. I‘m gonna let this percolate and come back to it. The challenge for me is a lot of the strong yet intangible feelings I’ve had with games have been peripheral to the game. I strongly associate that feeling with the game because of the time when I played it, not so much because of a thing the game did. But I‘m sure there’s something where the feeling went the other way.

I'm not sure if it's in exactly the same vein, but (10+ years ago) I checked in on animal crossing for the first time in like 2 years and found a bunch of letters and presents from my ex girlfriend - she'd sent them when we were together, but I had stopped playing and didn't see them til we'd been broken up for over a year. That's some kind of intangible feeling of needing to avoid social media or locking down your email so you don't experience something potentially shattering, but it was more facilitated by the game than something mechanically in there?

I'll keep thinking about it.

A lot of games I make often start with a specific feeling that‘s hard to put into words! I think it’s very much what drives a lot of my game design philosophy. One of them was “What it feels like to be in a drive-in theater at night” and so I built a whole drive-in theater complete with a public domain movie

The American and Euro Truck Simulator games capture that long, lonely, roadtrippy drive feeling where you‘ve got a task in front of you that requires just enough Being Present and input where you’re doing something tangible but you‘re also able to listen to music and think about other things. Driving long distances has always been when I do my best Big thinking since I can’t mindlessly internet browse or play something else that‘s a more fully encompassing distraction. Since you really can’t focus your full power on these long stretches of road/nothing, you‘ve got no choice but to think about things other than just what’s in front of you. It‘s much more condensed of course, in the sims you won’t be on a stretch of dark featureless road for more than minutes at a time but it still captures that specific zen-like feeling more than any other game or type of game I can think of. I recommend playing them when you're slightly tired.

@marlfuchs2#3711 woah!!! this owns! tysm for sharing

@ttzop#3719 i should finally give those games a shot. i used to live a 4 hour drive away from my partner when we first started dating and i would do that 8 hour round trip sooooo many times that i came to love them for exactly that. time to just sit and put on some music i've already heard and just think about stuff. now i don't have a car and i miss drives like that more than anything else about owning a car

I used to love riding bikes in Bully, especially through the town at night, it was just so relaxing. Going at a leisurely pace just felt responsive in the best way, like churning out a few strong pedals to glide on smooth gravel. It was fun for both wandering aimlessly and making a journey from point A-to-B just a little more interactive or thoughtful. Unlocking it for the first time also did well to capture that freeness of being a kid/teenager that can just ride their bike anywhere. A lot of people didn’t like the bike controls, but I think it’s because they wanted to go fast and to go fast you really have to slam the button repeatedly.

Games where it feels better to do a thing slow are a pretty interesting beast in my opinion. It‘s the developer’s intention (hang out with this!) coming up against the player‘s expectation (I just want to do stuff fast). But sometimes it works in the middle, for people that actually enjoy the game. When people start wanting to go too fast and subvert the game’s main mechanics, it‘s because they’re not enjoying the rest of it.

I was immediately able to understand this bike riding thing and why it worked for you, so that's neat.