I love a good story. I love it when a story can magically teleport me into a different universe, with different rules and different cultures. I love it when they show me something tragic or something wonderful, shaking me to my core.
I think all gamers can relate to a game with a story that simply stuck with you. For me, one of those games was Freebird Games’ To The Moon. Playing as two doctors, you help a dying man fulfill his last wish by travelling through his memories.
The experience lasted 4 hours, but those hours changed how I perceived storytelling altogether. I get a lump in my throat just thinking about it. The simplicity of the game, along with its fantastic soundtrack and beautifully written dialogue, really spoke to me. To The Moon became a hidden diamond waiting to be found and acknowledged by others.
Another example is the topical ‘Night in the Woods’ which received such high praise that, at the time of writing, it has an overall feedback of “overwhelmingly positive” on Steam. It’s not hard to see why: it features fantastic storytelling and a charming art style.
The game has phenomenal dialogue that is relatable and down to earth. We recognize ourselves in many of the characters, and I love every single one of them in their perfectly imperfect way. Repeated studies have shown that games help people with different cases of anxiety and depression, along with helping those suffering from severe social anxiety. Geek and Sundry made an article of this in 2015, giving an interesting explanation of how games can help mental health. Games create a safe and caring community. A game like Night in the Woods pulls up relatable, important topics like mental health, sexuality, and friendship.
While I’m happy that eSports get their deserved recognition, it’s important not to forget those games that want to express themselves as well. There are so many games out there that are waiting to be found, and we’re the only ones who can find them. It’s important that we do not let them drown in the wake of rising eSports.
The term “games” is a pretty vague definition that stretches so much further than the walls of eSport and the general player vs. player type of gameplay. I hope that this distinction will fade, and that a wider audience will start to open up and define games and gaming as something social, something immersive, something new and innovative. Because that is what they are.
Even though neither of the mentioned games cover the multiplayer aspect, it’s like watching a TV show. You watch it alone and then talk about it with others afterwards, and you might discover that they have a totally different opinion than you. This is an aspect that truly fascinates me: the player experience, and how it can be entirely different from person to person. It is no surprise that we perceive the world differently, and games are not an exception to that.
Today, games have become a form of expression. While some create songs or movies, others make games. In our modern era, books and television are not the only way to immerse ourselves into stories anymore. There is something unique about the way games tells us stories. Be open-minded. This is certainly not the time to be fighting change.
I hope that more people will experience fantastic worlds like Night in the Woods and To The Moon. I hope more people will fall in love with this type of gameplay, and the messages they convey. Give it a shot. Play it, enjoy it, love it. That is my opinion.
“The ending isn’t any more important than any of the moments leading to it.”
Dr. Eva Rosalene, To The Moon.