Okay, let me preface this by saying that I am in no way a “hardcore gamer”. I don’t even own a console, except for a PS2 that I literally never use. I play all my video games on PC, mostly through Steam. (As an example of my ridiculous stubbornness/laziness, I can’t be bothered to buy a mouse, and so have managed to beat several games using nothing but the trackpad on my laptop. Impressive, I know.) I’m very picky about the games I play. I’m not really about leveling up or beating puzzles or anything like that. I’m a story-teller, and I’m interested in games primarily for their value as a story-telling medium. I think that gaming is an amazing new medium for interactive storytelling. Unfortunately, I feel that where games are at right now falls ridiculously short of that potential.
A while ago, I came across a post on tumblr where people were talking about how they wished that video games would implement a “tourist” mode, in which the antagonists in the game either ignored the character, or were taken out of the game entirely. There were a few really good arguments for this. For one, video game designers put so much work into designing amazing environments for games, and it can be hard to fully appreciate them when you’re being attacked by zombies or soldiers or what have you. Secondly, there are people who would love to play video games, but are disabled in some way, either physically, so that it’s hard to properly work the controls, or mentally, ie. the situations or violence are too stressful for them to handle. And finally, plenty of people (myself included) are just not that interested in stories or games that are based primarily on violence and shooting.
Now, I’m not one of those people who believe that violence in video games has a huge correlation to violence in real life, although I will admit there are compelling arguments to the contrary. I’m not 100% either way, but I’m not convinced that shooting someone in a video game leads people to want to go out and shoot people in real life. More likely it’s the opposite. But there’s a huge portion of the gaming community that gets absolutely outraged at the idea of a game that doesn’t involve huge amounts of violence and killing, at games that aren’t primarily based on how many antagonists you can kill. Imagine if we placed those kinds of limits on movies. Certainly horror and action movies are common, and there are several that are quite good. But they’re only one type of movie. Imagine if experimental movies, or ones that were primarily about relationships, or nature, or ones that had a slow pace, were considered lesser, or called “not a real movie” or the producers of such movies were attacked and told that they were “ruining movies”. That’s kind of where we’re at with video games right now.
And it’s SUCH a waste of potential. If you haven’t heard of the Oculus Rift yet, you should definitely check it out. It’s basically a headset that immerses you in a 3D environment. You can turn your head to look around, there are two screens to actually make it seem 3D, and it makes you feel like you’re actually there. IT IS SO COOL, AND I’M SO EXCITED FOR IT. Unfortunately, I’m not excited for the majority of games on it. I enjoy games like Mass Effect, Bioshock and Halo for their story and extensive world-building. I tolerate all the violence in them, even though it’s stressful for me. But I don’t think I could handle being in a 3D environment and surrounded by violence, or having to shoot someone who was actually right in front of me in the face. I don’t think it’d be good for me. I’m incredibly excited for this technology, but really disappointed by the limits it will have because of the state of video games right now.
But video games are expanding, and new, experimental games are emerging. My favourite new genre is called the Walking Simluator. These games are usually first person, and involve minimal interaction with other characters and little to no violence. They put the focus on exploration, puzzle-solving and story-telling. Below, I’m going to recommend a few different types of games that I’ve played and really enjoyed. I hope these games, and more like them become available. While I have nothing against action and horror games, there is the potential for so much more, and I hope we can achieve it, and that more games like these are made available.
June 7, 1995. 1:15 AM.
You arrive home after a year abroad. You expect your family to greet you, but the house is empty. Something’s not right. Where is everyone? And what’s happened here?
Gone home is an interactive exploration simulator. Interrogate every detail of a seemingly normal house to discover the story of the people who live there. Open any drawer and door. Pick up objects and examine them to discover clues. Uncover the events of one family’s lives by investigating what they’ve left behind.
Go home again.
A deserted island… a lost man… memories of a fatal crash… a book written by a dying explorer.
Dear Esther is a ghost story, told using first-person gaming technologies. Rather than traditional game-play the focus here is on exploration, uncovering the mystery of the island, of who you are and why you are here. Fragments of story are randomly uncovered when exploring the various locations of the island, making every each journey a unique experience. Dear Esther features a stunning, specially commissioned soundtrack from Jessica Curry.
Forget the normal rules of play; if nothing seems real here, it’s because it may just be all a delusion. What is the significance of the aerial – What happened on the motorway – is the island real or imagined – who is Esther and why has she chosen to summon you here? The answers are out there, on the lost beach and the tunnels under the island. Or then again, they may just not be, after all…
Portal has been called one of the most innovative games of the decade. A hybrid of FPS style and a new genre of spatial brain teasers, Portal offers hours of totally unique gameplay. Set in the mysterious Aperture Science Laboratories, players must solve physical puzzles and challenges by opening portals, maneuvering objects, and moving themselves through space in ways that used to be impossible.
Playing Portal today will teach you how to love a “companion cube”, whether a computer named GLaDOS really wants you dead, and why your friends keep telling you
“The cake is a lie”.
Alone on a mysterious island, you set out to explore its grandeur and mystery. Hear how a chilling tale of intrigue and treachery, defying all boundaries of space and time, is being told.
3 thoughts on “A New Kind of Gaming”
Dear Esther is great, I love the narrative and emotive quality of the setting. Immersive, walk-through, narrative environments in video games definitely have untapped potential.
Have to say out of the above list of games, only Portal 1/2 held my attention long enough to finish it. But then that could be my lack of patience with the lack of action. Any way, thanks for the interesting read!
Ha, yeah, they can be a little slow. Myst is damn near impossible to beat, but I wanted to include it since it was pretty much the first of its kind. I think with games like these you really have to be in the mood for them. 🙂 Thanks for reading!