I played ‘Gone Home’ tonight, an interactive ‘not-game’ thingy from some of the guys who made Bioshock.
I super enjoyed it, which I wasn’t actually expecting. For the longest time I’ve been in the mindset that good game storytelling is all in the mechanics, and if a not-game has no gameplay, does it have mechanics? I guess somewhere along the line I got kinda corrupted in my approach to how I consider game design and what’s important, and that bugs me so much, what have I been missing out on?
I still kinda stand by my feelings on game narrative and interaction, but how I define that really has to change. Something like Journey is mindblowing interactive experience- there’s not much actual ‘game’ there, but the ..journey…it takes you on is something that you could not get from a movie, or a book, or whatever. Same goes for ‘Gone Home’, which felt very much like an interactive movie, but not in that cutscenes-and-QTE-and-then-a-bit-where-you-shoot AAA extravaganza way which tends to be incredibly hit and miss for me personally ( I cannot stand QTE ). All the little things that surround the interaction, how the music changes, how the lighting sets up a scene…these aren’t mechanics in the sense of ‘do this to win’ but they’re..well, they’re designed moments, right? It’s a weird one. Someone un-warp my mind from the bad influences still swimming around it please!
So all of this has got me thinking that my attitude to games has been kinda stinktacular over the past couple of years. It makes me wonder, as a result do I really have any idea of what’s really contemporary now? I’ve been swimming around in my own back-catalogue clinging to my kinda outdated tastes for a while now, partly because i’ve not really given myself much time for games, partly because this horrible cynicism snuck into me from somewhere and It’s been hard to shake it off. It’s not even my own cynicism, but it clearly taps into things which I find important, else I wouldn’t be as arsey about videogames as I have been.
As much as I’ve experienced new things, I’ve been a little too up myself to really expand on that and maintain a passion that can keep me in this industry and keep me eager to push things beyond some misguided notions on art style, Or a generalised drive to want to make something good without knowing what ‘good’ is in a broader context .
I mean I guess I’m kinda fortunate that the current generation has stretched on for so painfully long that most of what’s out there now is iterative shooty shoot, which I can ignore, but me turning my nose up at something like Gone Home for so long because it’s a weird not-game thing? Man, who the heck even am I?
This seems to happen a lot to me in games, now and then I’ll be sucked into some peer group or other and get a little cliquey about my tastes, and eventually end up kinda cynical out the other end of it. Except this time round I’ve not even been sucked into a group, I’ve done it to myself and now out the other end I realise I know absolutely nothing.
But hey, I do still keep buying these weird little games and not-games the moment steam shoves them in a sale, or the moment they’re in an indie bundle, and that’s something pretty important. If Gone Home was a console game, even on XBLA, I’d have vague intentions of checking it out but never get round to downloading it because that’d involve clearing space from my console, and then I’d have to mess about going through all the pages to find the thing even after its installed. If it was a disk game? Even worse, I’d have to wait for amazon to send me a copy ( because GAME would never stock it ) and then I’d have to store it in a box somewhere because I have no space left on my shelves currently, then I’d worry if my aged 360 would red-ring on me and the entire fuss would put me off ever trying something slightly different.
And that’s me speaking as a console gamer whose remit is ‘slightly different’. I still have ‘slightly different’ console games in their shrink wrap because I’ve yet to get round to trying them. But on PC? Shoving the ones I wanna try right there on my desktop, a click away, on a laptop which can handle anything I throw at it? Heavens, it’s almost entirely too convenient. And maybes that’s exactly what I need to get me looking at games with eager curiosity again instead of flecked with this weird unwanted ‘making games//worrying so much about industry direction and issues of gender or violence or whatever the heck is the hot topic atm has made me a little tired of games’ cynicism.