The conversation surrounding what makes a game isn’t one that is particularly new.  We all draw different things from different experiences, and if we’re going to run with the concept of games as art (hint: we should), then we have to accept that some will find value where others don’t, and vice versa.

Have you come across a game that you found significant value in, despite it bending the conventional rules of video games?  What was it about it that drew you to it?

Thursday, 2:00 pm – Albert

I have to admit that I rarely attempt to play games that are story focused with minimal actions. What I mean are games like Dear Esther. When we all gathered around one person to watch the game it felt like watching a movie and was narrated. The atmosphere and the story telling was great, but for some reason does not resonate with me. I suppose it’s the same reason why I would rather play a game than watch a game. I by no means do not see the appreciation of the genre and I definitely believe that these games are art but it just does not interest me. I have not played the Stanley Parable or Gone Home but I have heard so much praise. This is how I feel about the Witness as well. Heavy story telling and puzzle driven. Just not my cup of tea and to some i’m sure are like “WOW, go play CODBLOPS meathead”. But it’s not that… it’s just other genres of games are gripping me right now. Perhaps someday I will venture into those games with an open heart and mind! Damn my lust for alien killing and masochist nature (X-Com 2). I’m excited to hear about Firewatch and what Gavin thinks about it since I have heard all good things.

On this week’s topic of bending conventional rules, i’m not sure if this qualifies but I am on a Rogue-Like kick. Darkest Dungeon was the epitome of this and it has absorb a lot of my hours recently. To a lesser extent, if you include ironman on Xcom 2, this is the same boat. It is the constant challenge and the high highs and low lows that drive me to want to do better. It has that quality that I am currently craving which is like life, keep learning and doing a little better each time. When you do “survive” or do better in a run you feel amazing and accomplished.

The other game that I believe has bent the convention of games has been Kerbal Space Program. There are elements from games there but no other game that I can think of has all the elements of KSP. I have watched so many youtube videos and actually learnt the rudimentary and basics of physics from that game that I wish I paid more attention in school. The real-world implications of this game has had me so excited for small accomplishments like getting into orbit. If you haven’t already played this game I challenge you to put a couple of hours in and try not to want to learn again.

Tuesday, 10:44 am – Gavin

I forgot, I also played some Shadow Complex Remastered on the PC this weekend, which was given away for free with the Epic Games Launcher, the new platform from Epic Games.  I played a bit of this game on the Xbox 360, so I was absolutely thrilled when it came up for PC, and for free!  Unfortunately, this game runs like unbelievable garbage on my laptop, which is strange because I can run much more intensive and demanding stuff on my meager laptop.  It’s choppy beyond belief, running at around 15 frames per second, and in a game where precision is even remotely a factor, that’s unacceptable.

It’s a shame.  Perhaps I’ll have to bite the bullet and grab it from the Xbox marketplace after all.  Darn.

Monday, 10:13 am – Gavin

I was fortunate enough this weekend to have some significant time to play games, and so I spent some time with The Beginner’s Guide.  It builds on the concept of narrative first-person experiences, but in this instance, it doesn’t really tell a story per se.  Instead, it’s Davey Wreden, co-designer of The Stanley Parable, narrating a series of unreleased games developed by an individual named “Coda”, with Wreden injecting his own thoughts and interpretations of Coda’s games.

I’ll be honest – I didn’t finish it.  Unless there was a big, dramatic change in what the game was attempting, I got the gist of the game quite quickly and found that it wasn’t for me.  Coda has some interesting concepts and ideas, and Wreden’s interpretations of them were legitimate and well-founded, but I didn’t find it entertaining at all.  This struck me as something I would have rather experienced in a book or as a documentary.  It was informative, and it demonstrated that Coda has a very high-concept vision for the games and experiences he designed, but all in all, it just wasn’t fun.  The Stanley Parable was fun because of the humour involved, same with Dr. Langeskov, The Tiger, and the Terribly Cursed Emerald.  Their commentaries on game design and narrative structure were high-brow, but done lightheartedly enough that I could play them both as documentaries and as outlets of entertainment.  TBG, on the other hand, missed that integral second part.

That said, I’ve had no problem finding value in game with limited interactivity but strong stories to tell.  I have very strong emotional attachment to Gone Home.  The story was relatable and the characters were deep; I don’t know if it was a product of when I played it, but everything just clicked for me in the most perfect way.  I spent 2 hours in the game and it could have been a lifetime.  Same story, to a lesser degree, with Dear Esther.

Perhaps that’s where TBG failed.  In the absence of other compelling elements, I simply couldn’t relate to it.  I’m not much of a creative type and I don’t design games, so nothing in TBG really resonated for me.  Perhaps it’s just as simple as that.

The rest of my games this weekend were Black Mesa, Need for Speed: Most Wanted, and another shot at Axiom Verge.  Black Mesa, I’m glad that I finished it because it was frustrating me.  It continued with the excellent pacing of Half-Life, but as I mentioned last week, it blurred the lines between what I did remember, what I didn’t remember, and where the developers changed things from the original.  It’s a good game but didn’t blow me away the way that HL1 or 2 did.  I doubt that I pick it up again.

NFS: Most Wanted is currently being given away for free with EA’s Origin On The House.  I played it for about twenty minutes before realizing that I think I’m done with true-to-form racing games.  I appreciate what it’s going for, but the handling was too real and I just kept crashing everywhere.  I had no desire or investment in learning to steer properly, so I uninstalled it as promptly as I installed it.

Finally, Axiom Verge is still great.  I had the urge to replay it as soon as I was done with it the first time, but took a bit of a break from it.  I went back to it again and it’s still absolutely masterful.  There flaws that I highlighted previously are still there, but they’re dulling a little bit with time.  If you have any interest in Metroid-like exploration, then this is the game for you!

Also, Firewatch comes out tomorrow.  Huzzah!