damonpackwood

Magic

In video games on October 31, 2012 at 11:30 pm


We had a discussion in class yesterday about a lot things: Dan Ariely’s Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces that Shape Our Decisions. We talked about the growing field of cognitive economists. We even talked about the law. None of those conversations were particularly interesting but we digressed there for a minute and talked briefly about the idea of disenchantment and re-enchantment.

It was a fascinating yet brief discussion so prepare for a horrible paraphrase. The professor was connecting the idea that we — as a society — have become disenchanted with life and we look for opportunities to be re-enchanted. The one example we used in class was shopping. Apparently, spending time at a shopping mall, for example, amongst a bunch of people can have that effect on us.

This was an interesting idea, not the idea of shopping but the dichotomy of disenchantment and re-enchantment. So, while I was discussing this years appeal of downloadable games vs. the usual AAA titles with one of my buddies I saw that it was applicable.

I think the highlight of this year are indie games and I think the traditional $60 games in 2012 have been significantly disappointing. I’ve been trying to explain this to the homie for weeks now while he desperately flings his fingers on the latest Halo 4, Borderlands 2 and Dishonored. Ironically, he didn’t really enjoy any of them. He’s disenchanted. We all are.

We remember Halo 2. That was a good fucking game. We remember Bioshock and Half Life 2 which Dishonored borrows heavily from. We  remember the first Borderlands. Those games were enchanting. These new games, however, seem like failed attempts to rekindle the magic of previous games and we rush to get them into our consoles, fingers fidgeting in anticipation for another moment of enchantment only to feel a little like we just wasted our time. Unfortunately, they are not that good.

We are looking for video games to re-enchant us and the sequels, remakes and copies released this year are failing to do that. Now, those indie/downloadable games? That’s what I call enchantment.

Sound Shapes, Tokyo Jungle, Fez, Slender, Papo y Yo and Walking Dead, to name a few are some of this years most magical experiences, but I’ll leave you with the Queen of indie games — and the best game of the year — Journey. Alexander Geraets of Bit Creature wrote a cool piece about the latest from developer, thatgamecompany. In it she talks about how Journey made her feel at peace and not anxious like most games do.

Once in awhile an outcome can reassure the player; it can be peaceful. Sometimes I don’t need to keep fighting, or punishing enemies, or causing hurt simply to solve a problem. Sometimes, I just need a walk through the desert, to reach the highest mountaintop. On my way there, I know there will be a friend or two waiting for me, ready to play, eager to continue the walk together, and I’m content.

It’s a short little piece on Journey and although there are many of them out there, because the game is really that good, it made me think about the first time I met someone in the game. It was such an odd feeling. One, it scared the Hell out of me when I turned around and saw someone standing there. But, when I noticed they actually wanted to kick it and be friends in the most innocent of ways it reminded me why I hate multiplayer games. I was so excited, actually, that I turned the game off. Sounds funny in retrospect, but the moment was really that cool!

Read the article. Play the game. And, while you’re at it, throw out those derivative mega-budget titles and download some magic. Hey they’re only about fifteen bucks. You can thank me later.

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