Gaming with a Voice, Part 1: All Alone

In addition to writing, I’m a geek, so I guess I should address that part of me as well.  That’s fine, I can do that.  So, my next three posts are going to be about video games.  However, these are going to be games that are special in some way, a way that is both important for the industry and for gaming in general, but also important for the players.  Gaming should always be enjoyable and fun, but can also have a greater voice, beyond just entertaining its audience.  Gaming can become more than it is and these three games do that in their own unique ways.

First off, you must go play this.  Do not read any further until you’ve played that game.  It only takes a few minutes.  Go.  Now.

Have you played it?  No?  GO PLAY IT!

Ok, done?  Good.  So, what did you think about that game?  More importantly: how do you feel about that game?

 Loneliness by Necessary Games is minimalist in the extreme, yet the game is immeasurably complex and narrative-rich.  It doesn’t do this with lengthy cut scenes or complex game mechanics; the gameplay is simple and the characterization and exposition are non-existent.  It does this by making the player and their imagination solely responsible for creating the framework that the game exists within.  The story is purely what the player perceives it to be and infuses their actions with.  This transcends the boundaries of being a pure ‘video game’, a simple source of entertainment and moves into the category of art.  This game is what the player believes it to be.  Nothing more and nothing else.

Furthermore, the game actually informs the player about themselves.  Their actions speak about who they are as a person and their view of themselves and society.  The player is not pretending to be a character; they ARE the character and the character does exactly what the player would do in that situation.  Are you introverted?  Did you find yourself shying away from the other dots once you realized they would run away from you?  Did you optimistically keep trying to establish contact with new groups, even when previous groups shunned you?  You continue to move forward?  Try to go back?  Simply give up and stop?  All of these actions tell you who you are, what you are.  It’s insightful, amazing and frightening.

By no means is this game fun and I certainly would advise against playing it if you are feeling depressed or sad, because it is truly harrowing if you invest too deeply in the significance of what you are doing.  Yet, it’s a clear example that gaming is growing up, that it is becoming something more than just a ‘kid’s toy’, that games can be about more than ‘fetch this whatchit’ or ‘kill 20 snurgles’ or ‘rescue that princess’, and that gaming has an amazing potential to expand upon the human condition and experience as well as entertain.

Next time we’ll talk about what it means to be a hero.

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