If you told a person in 2005 that a mobile phone game would be popular enough to have its own theme park, they’d think you were insane. Yet Angry Birds land exists in Finland and is part of England’s own Lightwater Valley.
So it’s no surprise that as gaming has hit the mainstream, so too has the mainstream hit gaming. These last few years have seen games be released that force us to reconsider how we define what a game is.
In 2013 Gone Home was released: a game with no goals, almost no interactivity and no fail state. For many traditional gamers it was nothing more than a walking simulator – players would wander around a virtual household and put together the story from objects strewn around the house. The game won a number of game of the year awards despite lacking so many features considered essential.
This year we saw another game that made us question how we define games: The Order 1886. A lets player with an early copy of the game finished it in around 5 hours, most of which were cutscenes or QTEs. To put that in perspective, most games of its budget are around 8 hours long with at least 2/3rds of that being ‘proper’ gameplay.
For many people this lack of interaction is a rapidly growing issue in big budget games, Metal Gear Solid 4 had over 8 hours of cutscenes – that means players were sat watching it for as long as it would take most games to complete. The maker of Metal Gear, Hideo Kojima, stopped being a director to make games and his cinematic style shows in these cutscenes.
Yet Metal Gear Solid still provided players with more ‘direct’ gameplay than cutscenes and enough replayability through gameplay outcomes and rewards to keep players coming back. The Order: 1886 is essentially a “play it once and never come back” game, the only new things to be found on repeat playthroughs are collectables and the gameplay does not offer many options to the player other than your typical third person fare.
For both these games, Gone Home and The Order: 1886, risks were taken to redefine the medium. Though I may not consider them as entertaining as your typical Point and click adventure or third person shooter, the medium cannot evolve unless developers take these risks.
Some of the best games of previous generations took our expectations and threw them away; Shadow of the Colossus is a game with nothing but boss battles but it was done in such a memorable way that even 9 years later it still holds up. Psycho Mantis’ reading of the player’s memory card in Metal Gear Solid is one of the most memorable moments in gaming, appearing in top 10 lists for the last 17 years. If having a few “walking simulators” and “interactive movies” is what is needed for moments like taking down a colossus or beating a boss by unplugging your controller to exist then I’ll happily accept that (after all, no one’s saying you have to buy the games that flop).
Image via wikipedia