At some fundamental level, all games are built from the same basic concept. From Skyrim to football to Monopoly to poker, a player has both a goal and a set of rules that frame exactly how he or she achieves that goal. Some rules say what you can do, some say what you cannot. All the same, something about our brains craves rules. In a very innately human way, they create challenges for us to exercise our minds and bodies. At the same time, it’s very arbitrary.
Two weeks ago I reviewed a then-just-released indie game called Anodyne. It was a familiar style of game set in an unfamiliar world, with quirky characters, dreamy landscapes and great music. I took my chances and emailed the developers, Sean Hogan and Jon Kittaka, to see if they’d be open to a brief interview.
Personally, I find it difficult to select a video game to review. Do I choose the latest and greatest AAA titles? On the one hand, you’ve probably heard of them and are eager to learn more. On the other hand, you’ve almost definitely read a review by a more eloquent, professional and studly reviewer already. Plus, brand new big-name titles are expensive, and I’m a college student. So instead, each game I choose to review is one that I think will surprise you, defying your expectations and treating you to something you’ve not seen before. Of course, they’ve had that very effect on me.
The contemplation of video games as an art form rears its head every so often in gaming journalism. Comparisons are drawn to works of art in traditional media, and everyone takes a moment to reflect on the meaning of art in general. Recent years have seen the influx of “art” games, designed with the purpose of being artistically thought-provoking, that utilize unique visuals, sounds or game mechanics. Artists often desire to distinguish themselves and deliver their own unique perspective and style; game developers are no exception.
I scoured the Internet for fresh games in preparation to write a game review for this week’s issue of The Student. Even with my computer’s dated hardware I figured I would find a new(ish) title that would pique my interest and be worth sharing with the Amherst community. Several titles caught my eye, yet before I reached for my wallet, I took a look at games I had played and reviewed so far. Few of them place significant emphasis on narrative in a fulfilling way. Instead, the story often serves as an exposition to justify gameplay.
After fighting my way through a horde of armored war-beasts, greedily snatching fallen gold and weapons and narrowly avoiding death, I looked to my clock and realized with surprise that two hours had passed. That sums up my experience with Torchlight 2, an action role-playing game and the sequel to Runic Games’ Torchlight. While you don’t need to have played the original to enjoy this sequel, Torchlight 2 dramatically improves just about every aspect of its predecessor.
While television and movies have struggled to migrate to the internet and take advantage of the boundless possibilities it offers, video games, as a relatively young medium, have been fortunate enough to evolve hand-in-hand with internet and online communities. More so than traditional media, the video game industry has embraced the internet as a rich digital distribution system, allowing developers and publishers to get their games out to a large audience. Digital distribution doesn’t only apply to PCs, mind you.