Sometimes, video games help you to lose yourself in their worlds and stories, using the power of interactivity to bring you into the life of a character and to provide you with the opportunity to experience at least some version of their emotions. And sometimes, you get “Press F to Pay Respects.”
If you’re somehow not familiar with a video game joke that became a pretty widespread meme, the “Press F” moment came about in Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare. Early in the story, tragedy strikes, and the protagonist character attends a friend’s funeral. As the scene plays out, Advanced Warfare throws some interactivity your way to add some gravitas, prompting you to hit a button to enable your character to express their grief. If you’re playing on PC, the default key for honoring the dead in this case is “F.”
It’s not even Call of Duty’s fault–lots of games have had very similar moments with very similar prompts, or have allowed you to do dumb video game things at the exact wrong times–but the instance in Advanced Warfare just feels particularly goofy, probably because it appears in such a high-profile game. Here you are at a digital funeral for a fictional character in what the game hopes is an emotional, poignant moment, but a passing attempt at adding some interactivity to the scene actually works to completely undermine it. “Press F to Pay Respects” does nothing but scream at you that you’re playing a video game, and that the video game is ham-fistedly trying to get you involved in something so quintessentially human as mourning, and failing at it. It’s a glaring reminder that a lot of AAA games just don’t have a good idea of how to make it feel natural to interact with the world in a way that’s not about killing stuff.