RWP: Experimental Games

For this week’s RWP, I played “Grandmother’s Garden” and “Lethargy Hill” from Kitty Horrorshow’s “Haunted Cities Vol. 4”, while I watched play-throughs of the other games in that collection as well as “2:22AM”.

Playing the games from Kitty Horrorshow’s collection, I was INCREDIBLY scared. I booted up “Grandmother’s Garden” first, chosen at random and not knowing anything about what I was about to play beforehand. Right off the bat, the graphics made me feel quite uneasy — something about the low-poly nature of the graphics, alongside the low-resolution stills of non-sensical quotes in between scenes made the game feel creepy in a way that ultra high res, more outright gore-y horror games aren’t quite able to do for me (I’m thinking games along the lines of Resident Evil with more straightforward, typical scary horror stuff). A small detail of “Grandmother’s Garden” specifically that made it uniquely scary for me was the framing — the camera stays still, and you move your character forward, sideways, and backwards based on the way they are oriented in the frame. When moving from one area to another, the framing will abruptly change, almost like a jump scare — at one moment you’ll be walking forwards from a bird’s eye view, and then the next you’ll be walking towards the camera all of a sudden. I honestly can’t explain quite why this was so scary for me, but it just was. These small details that were scattered around the game, along with the simplicity, almost a restriction, of your movement that exacerbated the feeling of helplessness, made the game uniquely frightening. The same went for “Lethargy Hill”, where the only mechanic was walking around an enclosed map and you couldn’t look up or down, only side to side. All of the games in the collection evoked a feeling of walking in a nightmare for me — it reminded me of dreams that I’ve once had that have stuck with me for a long time and can’t seem to forget about.

This feeling of being in a dream was only exacerbated by “2:22AM”. Once again, the low-poly aesthetic gave me the same feeling of creepiness, and with this game there were also cuts to videos filmed in real life, for which the contrast between the two gave me chills. The random cut scenes of completely non-sensical things like the colorful balls bouncing around a cup and the strangely animated flower reminded me of the randomness of weird dreams — where you jump from doing one thing to something completely unrelated, and you don’t even question while in the dream how you ended up there. The rounded edges of the screen that resembled an old TV and the lines across the screen that would slightly blur it added to the feeling of being in a dream — everything felt like something I’ve experienced before, even though I hadn’t seen anything exactly like what I saw.

Given my experience playing these games, there was no question in my mind that this was as a “high quality” game for me. It really wasn’t a question for me — I suppose there might be ways to objectively measure “high quality” in games, but nonetheless I had an amazing experience playing these games in the way that it made me recall things about myself and past dreams that I’ve had from pretty deep down. There is certainly some merit in there being established platforms such as Steam or the Epic Store that might filter out games they don’t deem as high quality — it reduces some load off of the player in seeking out games, because they know that a game on one of these platforms will meet a certain bar. However, the issue with this is that it leaves other non-traditional games in the dust, and it leaves these few platforms to be the authority on what games are good and which are not good. People should have both the freedom and exposure to games that might not check the standard boxes of what is deemed a high quality game, which this idea of platforms filtering out what they deem as low quality games directly goes against. Platforms like that act as a haven for non-traditional games should be put more at the forefront of the current gaming infrastructure.

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  1. I definitely agree that platforms for smaller games, like, should be emphasized more in the game scene. Unique experiences like 2:22 certainly should get more attention! I couldn’t experience the games from KittyHorrorShow in person (as I am too afraid of anything horror-related), but it was neat to hear that things such as a completely still camera angle played a distinct role in establishing the creepy mood.

  2. Your comment raises an interesting point about the subjective nature of game quality. While these games provided a profound and immersive experience for you, it highlights the challenge of objectively measuring and defining what makes a game “high quality.” It’s fascinating to consider how different players might have varying criteria for evaluating games, and the importance of recognizing diverse perspectives in the gaming community.

  3. Hi Jiwon, I appreciate your descriptive experiences playing these two games. I remember when I played 2:22, I was so dumbfounded and confused, but also oddly in discomfort. Its simplistic 3D art played into its eerie vibes, which I enjoyed. I also agree with you about the unique experiences these games can offer, which makes such a cool platform to share these kinds of games. I wish there were more ways to advertise games like this to a larger audience, but that is something for another discussion.

  4. Hey Jiwon, it was interesting reading about your thoughts on Grandmother’s Garden, since I only watched bits and pieces of a walkthrough on that one. I can definitely see how the abrupt cuts and the way you move your character changes based on these cuts would be incredibly jarring and unnerving. I wonder how you strike the balance between abrupt cuts and not jarring your player out of the environment they’re immersed in.

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