by Eden O’Nuallain
What does the word “gamer” even mean anymore? It used to mean a teenage boy with acne ousted by social isolation into a windowless basement, like a cross between Steve Urkel and Buffalo Bill. Now, I ride the bus every day with a dozen people who are glued to their phones. In a strange reversal, experienced gamers are now the elitists who wouldn’t waste a minute, let alone days of their lives, on Candy Crush and Flappy Bird.
I don’t have the time I used to have to play Tomb Raider and Team Fortress. I like games that are like a cake now. Every little slice is a complete experience. Not being able to complete a level in one sitting isn’t a task in frustration. These are the games I can jump into and out of at a moment’s notice, but unlike Candy Crush and Flappy Bird, I can still enjoy a real story and experience progress beyond a level number. This means 2-D games. Art is at a premium in 2-D games, so they have to tell their stories very efficiently. I don’t believe they can get away with adding as much filler as first person games like Call of Duty do. Players would lose their patience too quickly. Stories are told via environments instead of narrators.
Inside is from PlayDead Games, the makers of Limbo, a deep, dark, depressing game that nonetheless incorporated the hilarious macabre of Edward Gorey. Their next game looks stern and powerful, but wacky and irreverent, too. Part Terry Gilliam and part Guillermo Del Toro perhaps?
Ori and the Blind Forest came out of nowhere, but after two minutes I know it’s an experience I must have. Sometimes these games can be like a chance to live inside moving artwork. I can just feel the breeze on my face, and I’ll dream of those flowers lighting up in the night.
My game of the show is Valiant Hearts: The Great War. 2-D platformers were pretty dead until the indie game boom revived the style a few years ago. 2-D engines were the only kind that were affordable. Smart developers like Epic Games and CryTek have followed suit: their latest 3-D engines are incredibly affordable. Both companies are taking their profits off a release’s back-end; they know it will result in a similarly much-needed injection of originality and increased appeal in first-person gaming.
2-D has become so mainstream again that Ubisoft, one of the biggest, baddest developers out there, has started designing indie-feeling platformers focused on individual visions and unique art styles. Valiant Hearts: The Great War has a retro-cutout, handcrafted style that gives it the innocent energy and excitement of a child’s diorama. Combine that with a story about war and lost friends and I wonder if games are going the route of superhero movies: previously childish things banished to the Buffalo Urkels of the world, but that artists are suddenly figuring out how to fold complex social commentary into on a massive, irresistible scale.
Eden O’Nuallain is a financial ghostwriter and freelance editor. Her script notes are as vicious as she is right about them. She encourages everyone to commemorate our new LGBT History Month by learning about your local organizations, sharing them online (you never know who’s reading), and volunteering some time with them.