Critical Play: Walking Simulators — Alex Tsai

I played Places, a walking simulator developed by ktch0. On its website, Places are described as “small and atmospheric 3D paintings where one can walk around and spend a few minutes.” It offers multi-platform support for Linux, Windows, and a web browser option.

Places is a single player game with no competition versus individuals or the game itself. The objective of the game is simply exploration, as the only controls of the game are using the WASD keyboard and mouse to walk and change direction, with the option to press space to jump and shift to increase the walking speed. There is no real conflict of the game; the player simply walks through the environment freely, and there are no boundaries or resources either. There is no determined outcome of the game, and the game ends when the player chooses to exit the environment. Places requires little skill, making it accessible to players of all ages and skill levels.

Even though I knew it was a simulation on my computer screen, I felt very immersed in my surroundings when playing Places. The main types of fun I experienced were sensation, fantasy, discovery, and submission. For example, when playing sketch 2, I was bathed in the relaxing sound of crickets and wind and could hear my own footsteps crunch beneath me. This helped me dissociate from the environment I was actually in (my desk) and escape into a world of fantasy. The feeling of walking was created with the bobbing animation of each footstep and crunching noise of footsteps, making the game feel realistic and creating a fun sensation. I felt as though I was discovering new parts of each terrain as I slowly explored my surroundings, creating a small sensation of challenge as I climbed hills or ran into a body of water. Playing Places also allowed me to experience submission, where I could mindlessly walk through a peaceful scenery without interruption. It was a meditative experience that allowed me to experience a rare feeling of calm amid my otherwise busy day.

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