My biggest problem playing video games nowadays is that look you get when you tell someone you love video games.
Anyone who doesn’t play them still has this notion that it’s all shooting bad guys, no plots, blood and gore all over the place…
Exactly what television news channels adore referencing whenever some kid goes crazy and shoots/stabs a bunch of other kids at school. Even our most treasured games like Bioshock, regarded as pretty much the Godfather of artful gaming, still has plenty of blood, guns and explosions. However, the truth is that there is a whole world of games out there with none of the above but no ever mentions them and that is partially the fault of us gamers.
If we want to legitimise the gaming industry we have to start pushing inventive and unusual games to the top of the charts and the forefront of the publics knowledge of games. So, here are a few titles that you can tell your mother about without confirming exactly what she already though when you have to mention zombies or spaceships.
Flower – by thatgamecompany, available on the PSN.
This game is beautiful. Play it. If you need more convincing than that, then consider this: this game does not use language, characters or enemies. It’s a stunning piece of art that deals with urban sprawl and what industrialisation is doing to nature without at any point saying it directly or detracting from just how satisfying the game is. When you first start playing you will be absolutely transfixed by the visual side of the game, complimented by a magnificent and interactive soundtrack. The more you play it, the more intense and jarring the game becomes until it reaches a climax that will blow you away.
Journey – by thatgamecompany, available on the PSN.
The most recent game from the company that gave us flower, Journey is the next evolution of their unique way of creating games. This is more of a narrative based game than Flower and despite the fact that they at no point use any decipherable language, the story is engaging and satisfying. Thatgamecompany seem to be intent on creating games that literally anyone can play but everyone will love. It’s atmospheric, impossible to properly describe and features the strangest online multiplayer mechanic I’ve ever seen.
LittleBigPlanet – by Media Molecule, available for PS3 and PS Vita.
It’s narrated by Stephen Fry, it’s so adorable that you could let a five year old play without worry, yet so enjoyable that you could suggest playing with all your grown up friends at a party, without feeling embarrassed. If you need any more info then you’re crazy but just to humour you; it’s predominantly a platformer, a la Mario but with the added feature of being able to create levels yourself and put them online for others around the world to play. It was so successful that there is now a second game and even a racing game on its way.
Braid – by Jonathan Blow, available on XBLA, PSN, PC and Mac.
Another platformer but considerably more story-centric than LBP, this is another very hard game to describe. The story is told in an intentionally vague way that leaves it open for al kinds of crazy interpretations but at its core it is sort of a ‘what if Mario was actually a crazy stalker and Peach was really running away’, though that is horribly simplifying it. The gameplay is inventive and involves many different kinds of time manipulation, making you really stretch you brain to try and complete it.
Limbo – by Playdead, available on XBLA, PSN, PC and Mac.
God damn this game is creepy. It’s beloved for its amazing art style and simple but challenging gameplay and like Journey, it manages to tell a story without telling you anything. Maybe this one isn’t for grandma but switch off the lights, get comfortable and get ready to be gently terrified.
By Ralph Jones