The Birth of a New Gaming Genre

Very few games have ever made me feel something. Video games today have come so far where it feels like a step above a movie-watching experience. Instead of just consuming information, you actively make decisions that can shape your experience and even the game’s narrative in some cases. This gaming formula was most certainly prevalent in a game I just finished called Firewatch.

Instead of me simply reviewing this game, giving it a numerical score, and filing it away in my memory of good games, I need to take my experience a step further. Upon completion of Firewatch I remember just sitting still, staring blankly at the screen, thinking, “That’s it?” It’s true; the final act seemed almost lackluster and anticlimactic. The gamer in me wanted more… Like a twist ending that would’ve been formulaic, fitting and entertaining. But what actually transpired was a conclusion that left me wanting more. At that moment of still feeling hungry for more, I started mentally retracing my steps through the game’s story. I was looking for flaws, unanswered questions, or a hidden gem of information.

Yes, this game actually made me physically write out my thoughts. Most games don’t do that for me. Yes, this game made me write a blog post about it. No game has ever done that for me. Which brings me back to what this game made me feel.

Playing this game made me feel detached from societal norms, and was a refreshing simulator in a world full of first-person shooters. I don’t consider myself the emotional type, but what this game did for me was sort of place me in the shoes of one character in particular. I truly pondered what I would have done given the same traumatic situation. Though, I don’t want to specify which character in Firewatch made me feel this way. My intent isn’t to spoil the story because I think it’s an experience that even non-gamers should have.

One final point I’d like to make is that Firewatch made me think there should be a new genre to categorize games that present a thought-provoking story in the time-frame of a movie or short book. I’d like to coin the term “gamella”. Pronounced gu-mella, it’s a combination of a video game and a novella. In order for a video game to fit into this genre, it needs to be a short game. They usually range from $15 to $20 and present a 4 to 6 hour experience. The game also needs to be story-driven, and finish with an overarching theme or life-revelation. Firewatch fits the bill in its entirety. Some other fitting games of the term gamella include Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, Journey, and The Unfinished Swan.

In short, I had to write about Firewatch because I really want more people to feel what I felt from this game. If you’re not a gamer, that’s okay because this game has intuitive controls and simple enough direction. You’ll never really be scratching your head, wondering what to do next because the constant dialogue makes your objective clear. If you’re on the edge about buying this game, let me make it simple for you… Just do it.

Disclaimer: The picture featured within this article belongs to Campo Santo. (Video game developer of Firewatch).

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A Not So Simplified Life

ImageToday, everything is being simplified. With computers and smartphones, we can do almost anything from a push of a button. But did it ever occur to you that pushing those buttons is actually making your life harder? By harder, I mean that your physical capabilities are getting worse. Aside from always sitting around at a computer desk, I’m referring to the carpal tunnel or other joint problems that are becoming more and more common. Your fingers don’t see that push of a button as being easy. They see it as yet another repetitive movement. They cramp up and your tendons in your hands get used to doing the same thing every day.

            Some people have a problem with this more than others. A big factor is how much button pushing we do. With teens, they usually have a lot of time to play video games. How do you play a video game? By pressing lots of different buttons again and again. On top of that, your hands stay in the same position the whole time… so it’s only your fingers that make the little movements. (I know I just talked about video games in the last post and how they can be good for you, but the moral is- everything in moderation.)

           Consider this: When you’re pressing away at buttons, the rest of the joints and muscles in your body are going “My turn my turn! I want to do something!” Listen to your body. Do some other physical activity every day to satisfy the needs of the rest of your muscles and joints.

Video Games, Good or Bad?

ImageYou’ve probably heard your parents say that video games are a mindless waste of time that’ll just fry your brain. But are video games really all that bad for us? It depends on what you take away from the gameplay experience. I can say that when I play a videogame I look at it like a movie. I take moments to look around the virtual environments to get inspired by the programmers art-style. When watching a movie, I try to get into the director’s mind. I notice the camera angles he/she chose and the lighting in different shots to elicit a certain emotion in the viewer. A video game experience for me is an interactive movie. I sit back and absorb all the visible time and effort put into this digital work of art.

 So all I’m saying is, if you like video games and are trying to find reason to explain to your parents why they aren’t a complete waste of time, then look at every gaming moment as an enriching experience. What do you get out of gameplay? The satisfaction of winning, or the inspiration to create something yourself? It’s all about perspective my friend, so pick up a good video game and let your mind run free.