Gone Home, video game, box art, night, sky, stars, dark, shadows, house, windows

Walking simulators: it’s not you, it’s me

Dear Walking Simulator,

If anyone had asked me several years ago why I play video games, I would have given them my answer without hesitation: the stories. There was a thrill in becoming immersed in a world and its characters, an eagerness in finding out what would happen to them next. Action and gameplay were important in their own ways, of course they were; but if a title didn’t have a strong narrative to hold it together it wouldn’t capture my attention.

That’s why it felt like fate when we met. Other gamers criticised you for your shortcomings but it was as if my dreams had come true – the one thing I wanted wrapped up in a pretty package. I completed Gone Home in one sitting, feeling unnerved at entering the abandoned house and struggling to prevent a tear from falling at the end. I failed to do the same with To The Moon and spent a rainy afternoon sobbing my heart out like a child. I explored the village of Yaughton in Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, soaking up every inch of its lonely beauty.

And I loved every moment.

But over time, what I want from our relationship is changing. I told you earlier this week that I’ve begun to question outlandish storylines and certain mechanics in old adventure games and a similar thing is starting to happen with other genres too. This is strange because I’ve loved video games for their stories for so long – ever since finding The Secret of Monkey Island as a nine-year-old – and at one point I couldn’t imagine loving them as much for anything else.

But less and less do I want to be a passive spectator. It’s no longer so appealing to simply follow your path and not have some input into or effect on its outcome (or at least feel as if I do): I want to get involved, make decisions, believe I’m having an impact on the situation. I’m not saying I need to be setting off explosions and blowing-up zombies every time we’re together, but I miss the challenge you’re unable to provide.

Maybe this has something to do with my current state of mind. When we first met, I was in a bad relationship with a job I despised and your digital tales were a distraction from the negativity in my life. But taking important steps to change those areas made me realise I’m able to overcome any obstacle thrown at me and I’m now ready to face a similar level of challenge in my gaming experiences. I could be overthinking this after a long day at work… but it feels though our time together is drawing to an end.

You brought me amazing stories and changed the way I viewed narratives within gaming. You showed me that video games are capable of evoking deep feelings and putting the player into the shoes of someone completely different from themselves. You inspired other genres to up-their-narrative-game, and I now have access to multifaceted experiences that provide challenge and decision alongside wonderful plotlines.

I know you feel it too, Walking Simulator. It was great while it lasted but our relationship has run its course. It’s not you, it’s me: I’ll always appreciate what you did for me and will remember you fondly, and it’s now time for me to see what else the world has to offer.

I have to go. There’s a pretty little RPG waiting for me, and he’s holding out the controller.

Love always,

Kim

14 thoughts on “Walking simulators: it’s not you, it’s me

  1. I hear you but I’d say ‘walking sims’ can vary depending on how much actual gameplay there is and the level of characterisation present.

    I really didn’t like Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture mainly because it felt like I was wandering this place being told small bits of a story by disembodied voices. Apart from listening there was very, very little to do. Yaughton was a museum, don’t touch the exhibits.

    Gone Home I liked because you had a part to play in this story. You were a member of the family and this house was strange to you as it was for the player. I finished it in one night also and it still remains with me.

    Have you played Firewatch? I’d argue it’s even better because of the choices you have and the relationship between the two main characters.

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    1. I know I’ve written here that I’m giving up walking simulators for a while… but I have to admit that I did buy Firewatch in the Steam sale over Christmas. I’d heard so many good things about it that it seemed rude not to, although I haven’t yet had the chance to play it.

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      1. Oh man, play it. It’ll only take a couple of sessions (about 3 hours total I reckon) but you’ll see what I mean.

        When you’re done let me know, I’d be interested in comparing notes.

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    2. I keep hearing more and more about this Firewatch game. One of my good friends played it with his wife and that sold it for me. I might try to play it with my fiancee when we get some free time, it seems like just enough input to keep it from being a “Walking Simulator.”

      Walking sims are definitely not my cup of tea, normally. Remember all the raving behind The Stanley Parable? I bought that game for $10 and within 30 seconds I regretted my purchase. Just not my style I guess!

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      1. I started playing Firewatch this week, thanks to the advice from @cripleh above… and oh-my-god it’s awesome! I’m very almost at the end so it’s likely I’ll finish it tonight, and I’ve an post kind of related to it coming next week.

        The Stanley Parable wasn’t my cup of tea either: I just didn’t get it. I guess you can’t win them all. 😉

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        1. “They can’t all be zingers!”

          Just felt like an obnoxious protagonist playing tricks on me. Folks raved about 18 or so different endings, I couldn’t even get through one beginning!

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      2. I haven’t played The Stanley Parable. I’ve seen a few videos of playthroughs and it made me laugh a lot. I dont think it ever had a console release so that’s the reason I’ve never played it.

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    1. That’s lovely to say, thank you! I’ve received a couple of recommendations for Kona and Virginia, so those are up next on my list.

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