Feature Article

Why I Kind Of Love Ghost Of Tsushima's "Press F To Pay Respects"

I might not write good haiku in Ghost of Tsushima, but at least we're all trying.

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 hamfistedly 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.

Which brings us to Ghost of Tsushima and its take on pressing F to pay respects.

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Ghost of Tsushima is pretty emotional, for an open-world game about sneaking up on and stabbing the soldiers of an invading army. Its themes include sacrifice, what you owe to others and to yourself, and failing to live up to the expectations of those closest to you. It spends a lot of time building relationships between Jin and various characters, and then explores how much it can hurt to lose those relationships, whether through tragedy or through the characters' own actions.

It's a surprisingly introspective and contemplative game, and that's reflected in several moments in which Jin visits graves. When dropping by, say, the grave of Jin's father, you get Tsushima's brand of "Press F to Pay Respects," but it's more than just hitting a button to trigger a momentary somber animation. Instead, Jin sits quietly before the grave for a moment and takes in the scene around him. A second later, you're spurred to engage with one of the more interesting ideas of Ghost of Tsushima, and write a haiku.

Before we go any further, more than one person has criticized the implementation of Ghost of Tsushima's haiku mechanic and the quality of the haiku it allows you to construct, and those criticisms are right. (Our own Kevin Knezevic breaks down everything that's wrong with Tsushima's haiku pretty comprehensively, in fact.)

Yes, haiku is historically anachronistic for the period the game is covering, which makes them feel, at least intellectually, like the idea of an element of Japanese culture rather than a more deft use of it. And Tsushima does not help you write particularly good haiku, it must be said. The system gives you a prompt (such as "Reflect on Loss") and then lets you pan the camera across the landscape around you, where you can find and pick one of three haiku lines. You repeat the process until you create a little 5-7-5 poem out of the nine total options. As it was described by Austin Walker on an episode of Waypoint Radio, it's essentially Mad Libs, and as Kevin wrote in his piece, all the poems are pretty much meaningless.

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Considering all that as read, Tsushima still gets a lot right in deploying its haiku idea for these emotional moments--it's less about the haiku you produce and more that you're spending time producing one at all. When you visit the grave of Jin's father, you actually visit his grave. You sit there for a while. You look around the scene and take it in. You reflect on their relationship and what it means to Jin, something that has been built into his character development. You take a second out from the sneaking and sword fighting to just sit and think. And you write a bad poem.

In trying to find a way to add interactivity to a personal, human moment, developer Sucker Punch actually landed on a pretty good idea, or at the very least, a creative solution to the problem. The haiku system is still pretty damn video gamey, but at least it actually does kind of feel like paying respects--more than hitting a key to advance a cutscene does, anyway.

Tsushima is an action game that's willing to slow down and put its players in quieter, more introspective moments to serve its story. If games are going to continue to try to make these moments interactive in a meaningful way, you could do worse than cobbling together a bit of dumb verse to honor your dead in-game dad.

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philhornshaw

Phil Hornshaw

GameSpot editor in Los Angeles, and the co-author of So You Created a Wormhole: The Time Traveler’s Guide to Time Travel and The Space Hero’s Guide to Glory. Hoped the latter would help me get Han Solo hair, but so far, unsuccessful.

Ghost of Tsushima

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gamingdevil800

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Gotta say the short speech you come up with before dueling your father figure w was very deep

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tsunami2311

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Edited By tsunami2311

press any key

remember when that was meme before meme was thing? and how many people looked for that "any" key?

Game look amazing I trying to hold off to see if it come to PC, 30 fps for these type of game are not fun to play for me, which why I got sekiro for pc cause I could get the 60 fps

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Random_Matt

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The game selling millions and ranking top of sale charts clearly upsets GS.

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Crazy_sahara

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Edited By Crazy_sahara

Press uck to pay respects, nice one reviewer.

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monkyby87

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Gamespot can’t stand that most everyone else either likes the game or at least don’t have issues as much as this site. Get over yourself Gamespot.

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Sindred

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"more than one person has criticized the implementation of Ghost of Tsushima's haiku mechanic and the quality of the haiku it allows you to construct, and those criticisms are right"

You mean two people? Seriously you're the only site that's so desperate to complain about this game that you keep bringing it up in new articles. Everyone else has moved forward (even ign) and started writing articles on hints and hidden locations. "More than one" are even talking about the phenomenal photo mode. They're done trying to justify their review with whiny articles. Just face it. The game did well.

Haiku inaccuracies didn't affect that. And neither did your review lol.

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USDevilDog

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Edited By USDevilDog

I thought the inclusion of haikus in the game was rather awesome. Though its structure may not be accurate for the era it portrays, it was a thoughtful and culturally respectful design. People seem to forget that samurais were highly-cultured warriors who wrote poetry, painted, played music, practiced calligraphy, and shared philosophies. The design choices in Ghost of Tsushima (Jin's affinity to music, the wind aesthetic, the calligraphy motif, or the haiku) aren't there arbitrarily like some reviewers have wrongly stated nor was it a case of trying too hard. It was actually an earnest homage to the culture, which many Japanese reviewers and game designers have applauded. Samurais were deeply embedded into Zen Buddhism and their demeanor and actions reflected that.

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BryanWeary

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Edited By BryanWeary

Unlike the author of the other article(the one that decided to take offense in the comments with anyone that dared to have a differing opinion), I enjoy the haikus. They may not be historically accurate, but neither is pressing down on the pad to heal, among other things. That said, here are a few of my choices.

Edit - Minor decision spoilers ahead, for those that want to fly blind. 😁🍻

On Strife:

Brilliant it blossoms

Peer through the mist and we'll be

Shattered, but alive

On Defeat:

Stillness of one's mind

A lone pebble alters fate

Gasping for new life

On Survival:

Giving life to all

A wandering mind searches

Visions always clear

On Preservation:

Sights set high above

A journey's path never known

Viewing the future

On Fear:

Whispers drawing near

Shifting shadows beckon forth

Guided by night's glow

If you stayed to the end, thanks for reading. 😁👍🍻

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ratchet200

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@bryanweary: I didn't stay to the end but that's because i want to experience them for myself. Writing haiku's in this game is incredibly immersive and relaxing i love it.

I agree with everything you said in that first paragraph, especially about pressing down to heal XD.

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BryanWeary

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Edited By BryanWeary

@ratchet200: I suppose I should have added a spoiler tag, even if not that much. 😁👍🍻

You're right though, making your choices for the haikus and then hearing them with the relaxing atmosphere as a backdrop is quite nice.

Edit - I can't claim the "down to heal" as my own original thought, but I did find it amusing, myself.

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Keaze_

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Jesus how many more things did you want Sucker Punch to make ---perfectly--- and 100% accurately and inspired. They don't have an unlimited budget. Did you want them to go hire professional Haiku monk writers straight from Tibet and make them break their vow of silence to write 27 different possibilites of the however many haikus there are in the game or something? This is nonsensical ''journalism'' trying really hard to fish for ideas. There's already an article on Gspot crying about this.

Now please feel free to correct me on the origins of Haikus and what Tibetan monks' writings are called, or that Tibetan monks don't write when they're in the process of a vow of silence.

For christ's sake games used to be two paddle boards with a ball swinging in between. Look how far we've come and what beautiful world SP was able to create. Why try so hard to criticize an aspect that I found was so profoundly astonishing. Like someone said below, it is metaphors and I think most of them work very well at providing an option that reaches someone personally.

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Donut0389

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Edited By Donut0389

But...the haikus DO by and large make sense for the given theme of each one. Lots of symbolism and metaphor. Like say it gives you "Reflect on Going Against Tradition". You make a haiku that reads:

The steadfast mountain.

A cold stream ever flowing

The mountain relents.

That's not unrelated nonsense gibberish. It's metaphor. Tradition a massive monolith of a mountain. But even the most steadfast of traditions will eventually fall as times change, new traditions are adopted, and old traditions are forgotten. Much like a river cleaving a mountain in two.

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JustTheTip

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JustTheTip  Online

What is with some gamers and their awkward sense of humor? I don’t understand how “Press F to pay respects” is even a little funny, let alone funny enough to warrant a meme. I played that Call of Duty, and I didn’t think anything of that moment, because it wasn’t funny. It was just a prompt.

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Thanatos2k

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@justthetip: Hold F to pay respects is funny because of how absurdly reductionist it was. Call of Duty forced you to "pay respects" via a button prompt in order to proceed with the mission. It was basically trying to tell you how to feel, which was a reflection of how shoddily written the story in these mainstreamed Call of Duty games was. It was funny in a "Wow this is pathetic" kind of way.

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Doomerang

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@justthetip: Memes aren't created just from funny things. They can be created because something is just so stupid that it's pun-levels of groan-inducing. The "Press F to pay respects" thing is that form of meme.

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DancingCactus

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f

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