For this critical play, I chose to play three different environments from Places: Sketch 5, Place 6, and Place 5. While playing the game, I was thinking of the arguments against walking games mentioned in the Salon article; in particular, I was thinking about how these types of games are “devalued” because of their divergence from Soviet-era shooter games. The idea that consequences to storyline and location can carry as much weight as the possibility of dying was really interesting to me, and seems like a powerful way to exercise fun in the form of across almost every form: sensation, fantasy, narrative, (occasionally) challenge, discovery, and expression.
While the mechanics of each “Place” were identical (players navigate using keys on their keyboard, and pan up, down, and sideways using their mouse), I think the details specific to each place made playing them unique and fulfilling experiences, even when done back-to-back. The background noise in each game made you feel truly immersed in each environment, and changed depending on the type of terrain you are traversing. Furthermore, there are small, subtle challenges embedded in each game: Place 6, for example, had a lake to avoid, and Sketch 5 had a hill to climb, resulting in a panoramic view of the entire game.
After a long day, I found these “walking games” more fulfilling and relaxing than more involved alternatives. While I can see how the simplicity of Places makes each game unsuitable for repeatable play, I could see how it’s the visual and/or game parallel to listening to music without lyrics.