Name of Game: Places
Platform: Varies by map (sketch/place). Available on Linux, Windows or through a Web Browser
Target Audience: Any. Probably best for 18-60+
Places follows the Walking Simulator genre of games, where players are self directed and there is not an aspect of competition. Player’s objective is to explore – I didn’t find anywhere to interact directly with the game other than through observation; the objective of the game was to observe. The game is contained within the boundary of the online simulation, although I did not find an edge to the map after walking for 3+ minutes.
The types of fun of Places is Discovery and Sensation. Each place or sketch brought a new map, the purpose of which was to explore, hence the Discovery fun. I would also say that the game exhibited Sensation. While the player could not directly interact with the world (e.g. by picking something up), and there was no audio, the game was visually stimulating.
I explored three paintings – Place 3, Sketch 2, and Place 6
Place 3 – snowy mountains on a low light day
Sketch 2 – open plain with hills of trees
Place 6 – hills surrounding a lake
While each map does not contain a narrative through which the player uses the map to explore, each map, through the unguided environment, allows the player a platform to explore and contemplate. The maps are aesthetically pleasing, and the ‘watercolor’ graphic format compensates for a lack of specific detail. I did discover a mechanic not contained in the instructions in Sketch 2 – sprinting – which helped me traverse the map more quickly to reach a vantage point. I also found that you could move through objects, such as trees, which felt weird. Two of the three maps also were similar environments to those that I had experienced in real life, which brought back memories. Perhaps the story that Places tells is as much the user experience as the reflection that can take place while exploring the paintings.