The Problem With the "Walking Around Simulator"

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The Problem With the "Walking Around Simulator"

I don't think I've weighed in much on this whole 'Walking Simulator' concept that adventure games have devolved into in recent years, but let's give it a shot.

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Also, not everybody plays a video-game to be challenged. Some play to unwind. To wallow in a passive experience. Maybe after a stressful day perhaps. They don't want a short, 2 hour picture that will pass if they so much as spend too long on the shitter. But they also don't want overly needy input that will kill you if you so much as fantasise about going to the shitter. They may want to meander aimlessly around a nicely rendered countryside, listening to some eerie music. Different strokes and all that progressive jazz.

Xsjadoblayde:
Also, not everybody plays a video-game to be challenged.

Well that's essentially the whole point of a game, so if someone doesn't want that then maybe video games just isn't for them and they'd be better off finding some other medium.

Wow, the Escapist is really pushing that Phil Hornshaw guy. The editor apparently felt that it was necessary to have not one, but two links to the same article about Her Story in there.

Xsjadoblayde:
Also, not everybody plays a video-game to be challenged.

That's like saying not everybody cuts their hair to have shorter hair.
If there's no challenge, it's not a game.

We ARE done here! Class dismissed!
Next period: Shooting fireballs out of your hands 101.

I think it's important to note that "challenge" doesn't necessarily mean difficult, in this context. A game can be overwhelmingly easy, and still have obstacles to overcome. The mere presence of obstacles goes a long way. In The Vanishing of Ethan Carter's case, it did this through puzzles. In The Stanley Parable's case, it did this through challenging the player to find all the paths and endings.

I think the problem with a lot of these so-called "walking simulators" is that they're trying to have their cake and eat it too. They want the player, all at once, both to be a passive observer and to actively advance the story forward. That's no way to design a game. Games should be active, and movies should be passive. There's nothing wrong with either approach, but they are polar opposite, intrinsically incompatible concepts. If you must marry the two, make the active/passive nature and the conflict between the two central to both the story and gameplay, like Metal Gear Solid 2 or The Stanley Parable. Don't just put elements of both in the same product and call it a day.

P.S. Thanks

Johnny Novgorod:

Xsjadoblayde:
Also, not everybody plays a video-game to be challenged.

If there's no challenge, it's not a game.

They used to have a name for that kind of stuff; interactive media.

inmunitas:

Well that's essentially the whole point of a game, so if someone doesn't want that then maybe video games just isn't for them and they'd be better off finding some other medium.

Johnny Novgorod:

That's like saying not everybody cuts their hair to have shorter hair.
If there's no challenge, it's not a game.

Perhaps if you didn't assume everybody that came into the salon wanted their hair cut. Some may want a restyle/recolour and a friendly chat. Just because someone may desire a different style of experience for a moment, it doesn't mean they are trampling all over your territory, redefining your favourite cabbage patch. I do not understand this gatekeepery behaviour when it comes to a trivial definition.

Well I enjoyed Dear Esther simply because it was a nice relaxing way to kill 90 minutes. I don't think of it as a game but more as an interactive exhibit. As an exhibit is how I think games like this should be played if they are going to be designed in the manner that they have been

Xsjadoblayde:

inmunitas:

Well that's essentially the whole point of a game, so if someone doesn't want that then maybe video games just isn't for them and they'd be better off finding some other medium.

Johnny Novgorod:

That's like saying not everybody cuts their hair to have shorter hair.
If there's no challenge, it's not a game.

Perhaps if you didn't assume everybody that came into the salon wanted their hair cut. Some may want a restyle/recolour and a friendly chat. Just because someone may desire a different style of experience for a moment, it doesn't mean they are trampling all over your territory, redefining your favourite cabbage patch. I do not understand this gatekeepery behaviour when it comes to a trivial definition.

It's not "gatekeeping", you don't got to the salon looking to buy a new kitchen, it's just basic common sense. Are you seriously going to start accusing the salon staff of "gatekeepery behaviour" when they tell you to look else where for an oven?

I like these little articles about walking simulators, though I still feel like we haven't quite nailed down what makes them more or less of a game.

As someone who enjoyed a few Choose Your Own Adventure books, I recall them being more meaningfully interactive and having a more engaging story than most of the indie arthouse shovelware getting trotted around these days, and it's honestly confusing how regressive the whole thing seems.

You don't need 'action', but at least add puzzles or give the player meaningful choices. I cannot fathom how a design team can justify cobbling together a series of audio logs and written notes, scattering them around a lifeless - if scenic - vista, and then handing control over to the player, as if it even matters.

YES! Thank you, Yahtzee! You once again nailed it and hit it out of the park!

Alex Baas:
Well I enjoyed Dear Esther simply because it was a nice relaxing way to kill 90 minutes. I don't think of it as a game but more as an interactive exhibit. As an exhibit is how I think games like this should be played if they are going to be designed in the manner that they have been

Then they shouldn't even call them "games" when trying to sell them; that's flagrant false advertising.

Xsjadoblayde:

inmunitas:

Well that's essentially the whole point of a game, so if someone doesn't want that then maybe video games just isn't for them and they'd be better off finding some other medium.

Johnny Novgorod:

That's like saying not everybody cuts their hair to have shorter hair.
If there's no challenge, it's not a game.

Perhaps if you didn't assume everybody that came into the salon wanted their hair cut. Some may want a restyle/recolour and a friendly chat. Just because someone may desire a different style of experience for a moment, it doesn't mean they are trampling all over your territory, redefining your favourite cabbage patch. I do not understand this gatekeepery behaviour when it comes to a trivial definition.

Because language shapes thought. And the minute you start dubbing "walking simulators" as games, you lower the artistic standards of the medium.

This is me sitting in my chair, sipping my coffee and taking 2 minutes to share an opinion. I don't know what "gatekeepery" means.

inmunitas:

Xsjadoblayde:

inmunitas:

Well that's essentially the whole point of a game, so if someone doesn't want that then maybe video games just isn't for them and they'd be better off finding some other medium.

Johnny Novgorod:

That's like saying not everybody cuts their hair to have shorter hair.
If there's no challenge, it's not a game.

Perhaps if you didn't assume everybody that came into the salon wanted their hair cut. Some may want a restyle/recolour and a friendly chat. Just because someone may desire a different style of experience for a moment, it doesn't mean they are trampling all over your territory, redefining your favourite cabbage patch. I do not understand this gatekeepery behaviour when it comes to a trivial definition.

It's not "gatekeeping", you don't got to the salon looking to buy a new kitchen, it's just basic common sense. Are you seriously going to start accusing the salon staff of "gatekeepery behaviour" when they tell you to look else where for an oven?

Good grief wooster, that analogy needs to be put down before more damage is done to the poor thing.
Let's see how we can tidy up this mess;
First off, if the salon is selling us kitchens...a customer cannot be blamed for buying and enjoying their kitchen.
Second...off? Secondly, when some customers are referring to themselves as salon staff, others are within their right to call them out on gatekeepery behaviour. Right, I think that sort of still holds up. Please don't drop it again. It is becoming strained and fragile.

Johnny Novgorod:

Because language shapes thought. And the minute you start dubbing "walking simulators" as games, you lower the artistic standards of the medium.

This is me sitting in my chair, sipping my coffee and taking 2 minutes to share an opinion. I don't know what "gatekeepery" means.

*Looks towards steam greenlight, kickstarter, COD, Randy Pitchfork, Konami, Sega/sonic, Squeenix, Digital homicide and the remains of Rareware*

Ehhh, it looks like you have much larger problems to police than these travesties, "the walking simulators" at the moment.
It seems i'm the only one not agreeing with Yahtzee on this one, so this appears to be a fruitless uphill struggle. Nevertheless, I remain unconvinced by contempt.

My answer is that if there's no real interactivity, you don't even feel like you're a character in their world. You feel like you're just an observer. Being able to interact with things, and opening the occasional door or turning on the occasional radio doesn't count, is an important factor in immersion. Even when that interaction is just murdering everything in your path, it makes the experience that much more real somehow. The quality of said interaction is important too; in BioShock's later levels, for example, it felt like I was just being herded through more areas so they could dump more exposition on me that they couldn't have revealed before the big twist, and you yourself brought up this complaint about the section of Portal 2 where you escape the testing facility.

Also, I know I've said this before, but if you're reading this: PLAY JAZZPUNK. Seriously, it does an excellent job of blending bare-bones adventure puzzling with comedy that doesn't wear out its welcome.

Alex Baas:
Well I enjoyed Dear Esther simply because it was a nice relaxing way to kill 90 minutes. I don't think of it as a game but more as an interactive exhibit. As an exhibit is how I think games like this should be played if they are going to be designed in the manner that they have been

The difference, as I brought up last week, is that you don't have to buy a museum exhibit to experience it. Even if you paid admission to the museum itself, you probably didn't do it just to see one thing and you won't be taking it home with you and having to find a place for it on your shelf. Dear Esther worked fine when it was a free mod, something to say "Hey check this out if you get a chance" and there was no investment but our free time. Which isn't to say it's worthless; worthless is when something is so bad that it's a waste of your time as well as your hypothetical money. Even after it was rereleased on Steam, it felt more like a chance for people who had already been through the original and thought it was the bee's knees to replay it in a prettier form in exchange for dropping a little change into the tip jar. If Steam ever offered the ability to release things for free and put up a voluntary donation slot, "virtual exhibits" like this would be a perfect fit for that system.

Xsjadoblayde:

inmunitas:

Xsjadoblayde:

Perhaps if you didn't assume everybody that came into the salon wanted their hair cut. Some may want a restyle/recolour and a friendly chat. Just because someone may desire a different style of experience for a moment, it doesn't mean they are trampling all over your territory, redefining your favourite cabbage patch. I do not understand this gatekeepery behaviour when it comes to a trivial definition.

It's not "gatekeeping", you don't got to the salon looking to buy a new kitchen, it's just basic common sense. Are you seriously going to start accusing the salon staff of "gatekeepery behaviour" when they tell you to look else where for an oven?

Good grief wooster, that analogy needs to be put down before more damage is done to the poor thing.
Let's see how we can tidy up this mess;
First off, if the salon is selling us kitchens...a customer cannot be blamed for buying and enjoying their kitchen.

The salon isn't selling us kitchens... that's the point.

Second...off? Secondly, when some customers are referring to themselves as salon staff, others are within their right to call them out on gatekeepery behaviour.

What customers are referring to themselves as salon staff? Where did you get that from?

Alex Baas:
Well I enjoyed Dear Esther simply because it was a nice relaxing way to kill 90 minutes. I don't think of it as a game but more as an interactive exhibit. As an exhibit is how I think games like this should be played if they are going to be designed in the manner that they have been

I've played a couple of "games" that are actually interactive museums, done in the same engine/interface. However, in these cases they were usally side projects attached to actual games, neither lasted more then a few minutes and both were free(or included with a game I paid for).

In particular, the Call of Cthulhu game Shadow of the Comet had a Lovecraft museum and Kentucky Route Zero had something similar(released between episodes 3 and 4).

Again, the difference being that both were free and neither was expected to last more then 10-15 minutes.

I've been pro "walking simulators" in theory for awhile but we've had several years of these things and there's still no good ones apart from the "Stanley Parable" which wouldn't have been better as radio plays or short stories.

The whole "it's not a game" thing still isn't a real criticism but the related criticism of "I don't feel in any way involved in this story". Stanley Parable could be considered "not a game" because there is no challenge but you ARE involved in the story and driving it with your actions (hell your actions ARE the story).

I look at walking simulators the way I'd look at a movie that was nothing but panning over scenery: yes it meets technical definitions, but has removed so many elements I wonder what is left to find entertaining. Yeah, not everyone plays games for the challenge, but not every game is Dark Souls, and if we don't want to die frequently, we play a lego game, or a nintendo platformer, or an RPG with heavy dialog. I'd never be so mentally dead I'd go back to reading Cat in the Hat. I just don't see the appeal except people like that limited level of story telling and the particular themes.

This isn't to say I don't see the point in a grander scheme. Not everything has to be combat based, and going through a mystery or political thriller with a wide array of choices on how to act to people sounds like a good idea. Even the best parts of Walking Dead and other Teltale games are trying to keep the whole group happy. Sadly, the tech isn't there yet under the best AAA budgets to pull off full interactivity with consequences, so when put together by indie developers, all they can afford to do it a truncated story with little options but "go from point A to point B"

It's a genre I can only defend what it might become, not what it is now.

inmunitas:

Xsjadoblayde:

inmunitas:

It's not "gatekeeping", you don't got to the salon looking to buy a new kitchen, it's just basic common sense. Are you seriously going to start accusing the salon staff of "gatekeepery behaviour" when they tell you to look else where for an oven?

Good grief wooster, that analogy needs to be put down before more damage is done to the poor thing.
Let's see how we can tidy up this mess;
First off, if the salon is selling us kitchens...a customer cannot be blamed for buying and enjoying their kitchen.

The salon isn't selling us kitchens... that's the point.

Second...off? Secondly, when some customers are referring to themselves as salon staff, others are within their right to call them out on gatekeepery behaviour.

What customers are referring to themselves as salon staff? Where did you get that from?

Ok this salon metaphor has totally gotten away from you guys here and you're misusing it. The salon "steam" (or other video game store) is selling kitchens "walking simulators" which is a product you consider inappropriate for the salon "steam" because salons "video game stores" are a place to get your hair cut "buy (more traditional) video games" and you think the salon "steam" should either stop calling itself a salon "video game store" or should stop selling kitchens "walking simulators".

Abandoning the analogy entirely. I really don't care whether a walking simulators is a game or not, people use words differently sometimes and there's no reason why your definition would be the correct one, even if it happens to fit into how the word has traditional been used (look up genetic fallacy). Definitions don't dictate what a word means they describe how words are used.

If you just want to get across the point that walking simulators are all shit and couldn't possibly be engaging the way other genres are then... just say that! I think I might well agree with that claim.

inmunitas:

What customers are referring to themselves as salon staff? Where did you get that from?

Customers in salon = consumers in gaming/ people like us. If you refer to your previous post, it would appear that you upgraded the anti-walking-simulator customers to salon staff. Naughty naughty ;)

Salon = All gaming platforms

Hope that clears everything up. :) This is not as fun as it first was. :(

Edit: Oh damn, ninja'd..curse you, captcha...curse you!

Xsjadoblayde:

inmunitas:

What customers are referring to themselves as salon staff? Where did you get that from?

Customers in salon = consumers in gaming/ people like us. If you refer to your previous post, it would appear that you upgraded the anti-walking-simulator customers to salon staff. Naughty naughty ;)

It was a hypothetical question.

K12:
Ok this salon metaphor has totally gotten away from you guys here and you're misusing it. The salon "steam" (or other video game store) is selling kitchens "walking simulators" which is a product you consider inappropriate for the salon "steam" because salons "video game stores" are a place to get your hair cut "buy (more traditional) video games" and you think the salon "steam" should either stop calling itself a salon "video game store" or should stop selling kitchens "walking simulators".

You seem to be more confused about it then we are, I guess you win?

Johnny Novgorod:

Xsjadoblayde:
Also, not everybody plays a video-game to be challenged.

That's like saying not everybody cuts their hair to have shorter hair.
If there's no challenge, it's not a game.

To be fair, I cut my hair every one in a while to get rid of the split ends.

A better example would probably be not everyone uses their Iphones to call one another. It's a waste of money, technology, and time if all you're gonna be doing is texting and sometimes get a ringtone app.

I'm all for there to be games that are story-focused over mechanic-focused, but there's only so far you can push that line before all you're doing is just making a cheapish movie and calling it a day. And the Chinese Room in particular has been on my shitlist since AMFP.

Redd the Sock:
I look at walking simulators the way I'd look at a movie that was nothing but panning over scenery: yes it meets technical definitions, but has removed so many elements I wonder what is left to find entertaining. Yeah, not everyone plays games for the challenge, but not every game is Dark Souls, and if we don't want to die frequently, we play a lego game, or a nintendo platformer, or an RPG with heavy dialog. I'd never be so mentally dead I'd go back to reading Cat in the Hat. I just don't see the appeal except people like that limited level of story telling and the particular themes.

This isn't to say I don't see the point in a grander scheme. Not everything has to be combat based, and going through a mystery or political thriller with a wide array of choices on how to act to people sounds like a good idea. Even the best parts of Walking Dead and other Teltale games are trying to keep the whole group happy. Sadly, the tech isn't there yet under the best AAA budgets to pull off full interactivity with consequences, so when put together by indie developers, all they can afford to do it a truncated story with little options but "go from point A to point B"

It's a genre I can only defend what it might become, not what it is now.

Well said, and I appreciate your view.

It's an art form in it's nascent state. Something that seems like a good idea, but hasn't developed yet. Something akin to what a lot of the abstract artists of old must have gone through before that was considered a legitimate style of painting and everyone else was doing more mainstream work I'd wager.

Good post. :)

I reckon all you need in order for a 'walking simulator' to work is for the mystery (because it's always a mystery) to be engaging enough that you'll actually want to solve it, banking on natural human curiosity to carry the player through.

The only walking simulators I like are Stanley Parable, Journey, and Proteus. Stanley Parable because it tells an interesting story in an interesting way, and Journey and Proteus because they're visually and aurally appealing, and atmospheric.

Johnny Novgorod:

Xsjadoblayde:

inmunitas:

Well that's essentially the whole point of a game, so if someone doesn't want that then maybe video games just isn't for them and they'd be better off finding some other medium.

Johnny Novgorod:

That's like saying not everybody cuts their hair to have shorter hair.
If there's no challenge, it's not a game.

Perhaps if you didn't assume everybody that came into the salon wanted their hair cut. Some may want a restyle/recolour and a friendly chat. Just because someone may desire a different style of experience for a moment, it doesn't mean they are trampling all over your territory, redefining your favourite cabbage patch. I do not understand this gatekeepery behaviour when it comes to a trivial definition.

Because language shapes thought. And the minute you start dubbing "walking simulators" as games, you lower the artistic standards of the medium.

This is me sitting in my chair, sipping my coffee and taking 2 minutes to share an opinion. I don't know what "gatekeepery" means.

Wait, are you insinuating that calling the "Walking Simulators" games makes the former worse? Because that would be a pretentious statement.

The reason Stanley Parable works is it's almost a comedic deconstruction of the genre, before the genre even existed. The out the window ending in particular. Laughing at the player standing there hoping for more content and saying that you can quit anytime you want.

Steve the Pocket:
If Steam ever offered the ability to release things for free and put up a voluntary donation slot, "virtual exhibits" like this would be a perfect fit for that system.

You could wing it if you wanted. Game is free, there is DLC available for $X, DLC adds a "Thank You" message to the title screen.

I was very surprised when Adam Sessler named Gone Home as one of the best games of all time, I thought he was totally off his rocker when he said that. These games(if you can even call them that) are just tedious exercises in patience for me and make me wish I was doing household chores instead.

Drathnoxis:
Wow, the Escapist is really pushing that Phil Hornshaw guy. The editor apparently felt that it was necessary to have not one, but two links to the same article about Her Story in there.

Methinks the Escapist might be trying just a little too hard to court approval with the sort of people who think that any game that doesn't involve dudes shooting things is "an SJW game" and "SJW games" are bad.

K12:
Abandoning the analogy entirely. I really don't care whether a walking simulators is a game or not, people use words differently sometimes and there's no reason why your definition would be the correct one, even if it happens to fit into how the word has traditional been used (look up genetic fallacy). Definitions don't dictate what a word means they describe how words are used.

Basically, this. Leaving aside that some people seem to define "game" as "based around combat," even Yahtzee points out that not everything delivered on a gaming platform has to fit the narrow criteria by which the term "game" gets used. Oddly, his entire point in this column was that it's okay for some people to like that sort of thing, but of course the comments are chock full of people who go right on complaining about the very existence of walking-simulators.

Still, at least we have one column where someone mentions Gone Home and the entire comment section wasn't immediately swamped by people saying, "I don't particularly care about Gone Home but here's a fifty-paragraph essay on why it's the worst game ever and only fat hairy lesbian SJW bigots would like it."

inmunitas:

K12:
Ok this salon metaphor has totally gotten away from you guys here and you're misusing it. The salon "steam" (or other video game store) is selling kitchens "walking simulators" which is a product you consider inappropriate for the salon "steam" because salons "video game stores" are a place to get your hair cut "buy (more traditional) video games" and you think the salon "steam" should either stop calling itself a salon "video game store" or should stop selling kitchens "walking simulators".

You seem to be more confused about it then we are, I guess you win?

You're the one who's arguing over whether a walking simulator should be compared to a kitchen or hair dye.

Drathnoxis:
Wow, the Escapist is really pushing that Phil Hornshaw guy. The editor apparently felt that it was necessary to have not one, but two links to the same article about Her Story in there.

I figured it was to indicate that the link was the editor's choice and not Yahtzee's.

Seems harmless enough to me.

-Dragmire-:

Drathnoxis:
Wow, the Escapist is really pushing that Phil Hornshaw guy. The editor apparently felt that it was necessary to have not one, but two links to the same article about Her Story in there.

I figured it was to indicate that the link was the editor's choice and not Yahtzee's.

Seems harmless enough to me.

If that's the case then they really should have had the editor's note next to the first link, or scrapped the first link and just had the second with the editor's note. The way it is makes it look like both Yahtzee and the editor are endorsing that Phil Hornshaw's article, and besides that it's just redundant.

09philj:
The only walking simulators I like are Stanley Parable, Journey, and Proteus. Stanley Parable because it tells an interesting story in an interesting way, and Journey and Proteus because they're visually and aurally appealing, and atmospheric.

I'm not sure I'd call Journey a walking simulator. Journey involves basic puzzle solving, some platforming and at times, avoiding enemies who you can't fight back against. It isn't just "walk until you reach the end".

Not to mention interaction with other people(co-play).

The stanely parable, I think, in a complete inversion. Sure, it looks like at first glance that all you do is walk around, but the real trick and point to the game is finding and exploring all the different branches.

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