Kentucky Route Zero is a videogame by Cardboard Computer (Jake Elliott, Tamas Kemenczy, and Ben Babbitt). It’s the most interesting thing I have played (or read or watched) in a while. What I’m jotting down here has mostly to do with the question of player agency vs. authorial control, but that’s just one facet of a game where every corner has been carefully crafted. I’ve included a bunch of links at the bottom for those who want a rabbit hole to follow. Continue reading “Player as actor in Kentucky Route Zero”
In my notes on Gone Home, I said that the mechanics of the game forced the story to be told in the past tense. I didn’t see how one could create a story exploration video game with that degree of subtlety any other way.
In a previous post on the story app Karen I wondered whether it was appropriate for The New York Times to call it “part game” since there is no way to lose. Turns out, Steve Gaynor, the writer and designer of Gone Home, presented a very thoughtful answer to this and related questions about what makes a “story exploration video game” a game in a 2014 presentation.
He lists the aspects of Gone Home that have been criticized for being un-game-like:
- No combat/puzzles
- No story branching/player builds
- No failstate
- Short runtime
And then lists the things that Gone Home does have that, by his definition, qualify it as a game:
- Variability of player experience
- Central focus on player agency
- A spirit of playfulness within its themes and rules
The whole video (55 minutes) is well worth watching.
In his article about why games aren’t art, Roger Ebert observed that you don’t win art. Games are something you compete in, solve, or win, and art is something you let happen to you, that transports you.
A few days ago, I played Gone Home, a game that you don’t win. Maybe, as such, it isn’t accurate to call it a game—maybe “interactive narrative experience” or something like that. Vocabulary aside, it felt like the way forward for a community of storytellers trying to figure out the most effective way to use new technical affordances to tell engaging stories. Continue reading “Gone Home is a departure”