Out of all the dimensions that videogames have occupied over the last decade, time gets the least credit. When one dimensional gameplay graduated to two, people were ecstatic – finally, something to play other than Line Hero. Later, 2-D gameplay gave way into a full three dimensions, and it seemed as if a whole new world had opened to us. All the while, we’ve barely been conscious of the contributions that time has made to our videogame experiences all along.
But all that has changed in the last decade or so. Through advances in both technology and game design, developers are slowly beginning to utilize the passage of time in creative new ways. Sometimes it’s in the service of realism; in others, it’s a way to offer entirely new gameplay possibilities. It can be as simple as a variation in scenery or as complex as Braid‘s mind-bending causality. And yes, it can get pretty abstract, but it can also be as simple as watching the sun rise over Stranglethorn Vale. It doesn’t really serve much of a purpose, but it sure is nice to look at.
In this week’s issue of The Escapist, we look at what videogames have to say about the passage of time. Robert Buerkle compares Mirror’s Edge‘s death-defying gameplay with Bill Murray’s Groundhog Day; Graeme Virtue relives his most precious gaming moments in reverse a la F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Benjamin Button; I take another look at Max Payne and the ascendancy of Bullet Time; and Dan Squire charts a timeline of videogame representations of time itself from Super Mario Bros. to Burnout Paradise. (Whew!)