Been thinking a lot lately of the current state of video games.. I'm not sure why. Technically, we own an XBox One but my son plays on it mostly (or, er, most of the time) and I've dabbled a bit in other games, specifically Minecraft and Stardew Valley, which in some ways are similar – both are pretty open and you can kinda do whatever you want. Stardew Valley certainly has a linear story and it has much less variation but it certainly has a lot of charm (and hey, it's still being developed, as well as Minecraft). I don't spend a lot of time with either one of late but I go back and forth. Since video games are at least on my periphery, I do keep up on an eye on the big news so I had to chuckle when Cyberpunk 2077 didn't live up to the hype. But of course it couldn't.
I don't really care for AAA games – mostly because it takes 20-45 minutes to actuall start (sometimes longer) and I don't have long gaming sessions to begin with. Add in the grotesque, sex and language they tend to put in (and I'll say it) the same thing over and over again. Another thing I can't stand is when it's really a conceit. My son and I played Human Fall Flat because the controls are stupid. Maybe I'm an old man.
What I have discovered is that I like smaller, more independent games. They try to do things different and maybe they fail at it but at least it's original. Sometimes they have a story, sometimes they don't. Minit is a good example of this. It looks like it was ported from the C64. And it's basically a puzzle game but you only live a minute but one you do in one "round" carries over to another. Clever, fast, and kinda hard at times.
This summer I've bought into itch.io's Bundle for Racial Justice and Equality. Mostly because I figured that I would easily get my money's worth and also because I supported it's cause. Some of the games I had heard of (like Minit, which I had played before and Celeste, which is a very humbling plaformer). Few of these games rival a AAA in story and graphics, but the ones I have played are a lot of heart. Take, for example A Short Hike, a game I would have never heard until I bought the bundle. I've played it throught twice and may do it again… and I never take the time to actually finish a game! But it's sweet, with a fun little journey and story. Another one (and game I should get back to) is Signs of the Sojourner, a RPG/interactive story with a card game in it. And part of the game is to figure out when to win and when to lose.
Ironically, I have played none of these games on my iPad, which is certainly my main "gaming machine". Regardless, this started going through my mind as I'm playing Florence on my iPad. For a game, it isn't much. In fact, I'd say it's more of a story with easy puzzles (literally jigsaw puzzles a lot of the time) as you go along. But the story is so very well told… I was engrossed with it and how they told it. Another example is Gris, which is certainly more involved than Florence but certainly more art than game. A few years ago I was really into 80 Days, which is a re-telling of Eighty Days Around the World. It's not far (or hard) to get around the world, but there are so many paths to take that when you do it, you start again! And then probably again!
I guess this rambling is – I like story. I value story over form. I like many tasks, open world.. but if it's going to be a story, then make it a story!