I am having a major case of writers block. This is the honest truth. I have spent most of my Sunday morning (this was typed on Sunday) staring at a blank post form in my WordPress setup, taking frequent breaks to watch Youtube videos (Bioshock 3 game play video blew me away) and amuse myself with flash games. I have bunch of unfinished posts in the queue but half of them don’t feel right and the other half are just ideas I jotted down in the past. They are more of sentences or slogans than actual posts. But the words are just not coming. This is of course just a temporary condition – it comes and goes. In most cases the best way to shake it off is to just start writing anything – random rambling helps me to get back into the flow.
So I figured, I might as well share the crap I have been doing today. If I’m not mistaken this post will be queued for Friday, and I try to make Friday posts be weekend themed – having to do with entertainment, movies or games. So flash games.
Somehow I stumbled upon Everyday the same Dream. It is sort of an exploration of the bleakness and depressive quality of modern life. It is about a nameless, faceless guy who is stuck in a rut, repeating the same routine of waking up, getting ready to work, driving in a traffic jam and slaving away in a cubicle farm every day. But you can break the cycle, and choose to interrupt his normal routine with interesting results. I spent 15-20 minutes playing it, trying to find all the cycle busting methods and thought it was rather
interesting game piece.
The style reminded me of ImorTall which uses a similar gray and black color palette and similar mechanic of just holding the walk button to see what happens. It is very short (less than 5 minutes) but it does provide an interesting commentary on war atrocities, unexpected friendship and loss.
Another game with a good story is In the Company of Myself. A short platformer with some interesting, innovative mechanic and some excellent writing. I heard it described as “poor man’s Braid” though I can’t comment on how accurate this is since I never played Braid. Either way, stick with it for the first few levels. It’s worth it. It’s actually more of a “game” than the other two because some of it’s jumping puzzles are somewhat challenging.
Coma has a pretty decent story as well. You play a little boy exploring an odd oneiric world full of strange people, and off messages scribbled on the walls. Odd, stylistically pleasing, and very moody.
Then of course there is Today I Die which is more of an interactive poem than a game. Along with the Majesty of Colors (in which you wake up as a sea monster) it represents a very minimalistic approach to this medium. They tell stories by using very few words, and visuals.
Of course the loaded question here is, whether or not these things are art? Roger Ebert would say they are not, but then again he is an old close minded curmudgeon who have never seen a video game he didn’t hate so his opinion doesn’t really count unless he is talking about movies. Most people in the industry do agree that games can be used as an artistic medium. Games like Braid, Flow, Flower, are very much art pieces. So are games such as Portal or Bioshock with their style, and complex storytelling. So are the few, minimalistic flash titles I listed above.
But it is a medium in its infancy. We are just begging to learn how to use this interactive medium to tell mature stories. We have yet to see the video game equivalents of Shakespeare or Michelangelo’ works to emerge. But I’m confident that we will once get there. Ebert claims that interactivity of video games will prevent them from ever achieving that status. That the freedom games give to the player prevent designers from creating compelling artistiv vision. But don’t we already have forms of artistic expression that do include interactivity and participation?
Besides, Ebert’s critique of games as an art form is rather mild. The award for the most scathing, to the point and ruthless deconstruction of the “artsy flash game genre” goes to Marcus Richert’s Passage in 10 Seconds.
If you know any other worthwhile artsy flash games, please share them in the comments.