Critical Play: Walking Simulators

I played a portion of What Remains of Edith Finch (couldn’t finish due to time length). I thought that walking really pulled the story and the atmosphere together. I played the game on my iPad; the mechanics involve using two fingers on the screen at the same time, one finger to point the visual direction and the other finger to control a joystick to move forward/backwards/left/right. Additionally, there are mechanics to interact with objects in the environment and click on dialogue bubbles. I am the only player with control in the game, yet there is a strong presence of other people’s stories as the narrative involves figuring out what happened to Edith Finch’s family members. Therefore, the mechanics of being able to only control my own movements while being surrounded by other people’s stories makes the gameplay feel mysterious and eerie. The type of fun is fantasy, as I’m placed in a whole new world and story. The walking simulator adds to this type of fun–since I am able to control the player’s movements and wanderings, it really makes me feel that I am placed in this imaginary world, with an imaginary role and story that I have free reign to explore, and that is fun to me as a player. Additionally, the walking simulator was enhanced by the aesthetics of the game. The visuals and the sounds made both the game environment and player actions feel very realistic, and helped make the fantasy element of fun even more potent as I could really imagine the scenario I was exploring with the help of realistic props and noises.

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