Wednesday, 16 December 2015

New genre : contemplative computer games

This is a brand new genre of games currently dominated by no publisher specifically but inhabited largely by Indie games. It's what I call the contemplative games.



Now I've been gaming for ages, like, when you ask me  "What was your first PC based RPG?" I'll shout out TOEE for example. If you don't know it, you were in nappies at the time. I used to create Doom and Quake LAN parties, and my first youtube was in fact a Lan party promotional clip. Yes, we even used phones, serial cables and co-axial cable for our first gaming Saturday. In those days we always had a BBQ (or braai) to follow. But let's leave the romance behind and get to the core of the contemplative games genre.
These games all have only 2 things in common:
  • Dying is not a bad thing, and there is zero stress
  • You will not get carpal tunnel syndrome
In a few of the games in this category, it is possible to die, while playing Anna for example, if you fall off cliffs or just walk into the water, you get a gentle rebuke and resume a few yards away. (spoiler: Anna requires you to step off the edge sometimes, literally and figuratively) . It's no secret and would not be fun, but in Bastion, you will die too. The narrator tells you off, but in a lazy kind of way, almost like a benevolent grandmother chiding you for stealing a biscuit and letting yourself be caught. Bastion is one of the few games in this category where a lot of crazy clicking is involved. But its in this category for a reason, and that reason is a set of elements the contemplative genre all have to score very highly on to get included. A contemplative game is never a shoot-em-up either, so its never going to deliver 60 hours of playtime, in fact 3 hours is the median. They are thus not a target market for publishing houses, and are thus a little harder to find since they occupy a niche. But it's that niche that I have come to love, which is why I'm sharing it today. If any of these games do interest you, please wait for my next instalment before buying anything, I'm going to tackle Money-Value and line them up in a rough order next week. Broadly I'll be scoring on Artwork, Sound, Plot Playability , Value and stinkers (in next week's post).

Artwork

To be a truly good contemplative game, there must be great artwork, or great soundtrack, sometimes both. Bastion scores so highly in these two areas that it makes up for the fact that it's a top-down isometric platform-shooter game. So at this point I'm going to go into the list and hint at the scores.
Dear Esther 5/5
Bastion 5/5
To the Moon 5/5
Trauma 4/5
Mind : Path to Thalamus 3/5
A new Beginning : Final cut 3/5
The Novelist 4/5
Year Walk 2/5
Proteus 2/5
Eidolon3/5
Gone Home 2/5
The Graveyard 2/5

If a game you see here got a terrible score for Artwork, run down this page a bit more just in case it has a redeeming feature, no guarantees, since I have included a few stinkers.

SoundTrack

Music, sound effect usage and environment immersion through sound.
Dear Esther 3/5
Bastion 5/5
To the Moon 5/5
Trauma 4/5
Mind : Path to Thalamus 2/5
A new Beginning : Final cut 2/5
The Novelist 2/5
Year Walk 2/5
Proteus 2/5
Eidolon 3/5
Gone Home 3/5
The Graveyard 2/5

Plot

I'm going to come right out here, this is probably the most subjective scoring area. For example I scored A new Beginning into this category only because the plot was about Green activism and time travel. It's a point and click adventure, and unfortunately you will die and will have to do a few puzzles, but none of  those where you go to location A, collect item, return to B, collect Item, go to C and then back to A.

Dear Esther 4/5
Bastion 5/5
To the Moon 5/5
Trauma 5/5
Mind : Path to Thalamus 3/5
A new Beginning : Final cut 3/5
The Novelist 4/5
Year Walk 2/5
Proteus 2/5
Eidolon 2/5
Gone Home 5/5
The Graveyard 2/5

Next week: Playability and Value

To score in this area, the game must be mechanically good, not having mouse support when its really needed will kill you, not having ergonomic keyboard features when it's needed likewise.

Many games in this category are low value, there are many reasons for this, as I've hinted at last week.

3 comments:

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