Recess! 5 – In a world

Recess! is a correspondence series with personal ruminations on games.

Dear Alper and Kars,

Two weeks ago, Kars asked me why I’d play Ni No Kuni if I could watch a Ghibli film instead. After that, he told Alper to continue playing Proteus instead of taking a hike. I guess truth is subtle!

The why is in the world. It’s the sales pitch of adventure games: being able to feel like you’re in a place that’s normally hard or impossible to reach, without a risk of injuries, and doing something meaningful there. A Ghibli game allows for an extended stay in the universe that their movies only let you peek into, personally make friends with the characters and, of course, collect trinkets.

Do you guys ever feel nostalgic about (the world and characters of) a film you just watched or a book you just read? I have this all the time.

I finished the new Tomb Raider last week, and I was happy to find it has a much bigger non-linear portion than its obvious source of inspiration. (I know Uncharted was itself based on earlier Tomb Raiders. That were not original either.) This means that after rushing through the story, you can spend hours combing through the game’s island, hunting deer and exploring optional tombs. Unity of location FTW, BTW.

I then got a demo of BioShock Infinite, which also made me happy. The development team has paid so much attention to non-essential scenery stuff, it’s a joy to just walk around. I almost got sad when the shooting started. Actually, scrap the ‘almost’.

Judging from these two big-budget commercial releases, it seems like large game development studios are getting better at unlocking the power of their worlds, through a better understanding of the tools that make you connect with them. Things like: actually filling them with things worth seeing and collecting. Though banal things like slowing you down, or changing the camera angle, turn out to work well too.

This is all very much in contrast with the augmented and actual reality games Alper so eloquently wrote about last week. In times of interesting games of many kinds we live, yes.