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.