Gone Home

Gone Home is one of a new breed of games that doesn’t let the pressure to have ‘game-like’ elements in order to be an interactive experience. Like Dear Esther, Gone Home doesn’t involve much in the way of gameplay, exactly (although more than the afformentioned Dear Esther).

Gone home subverted my expectations, and kept me interested as I went along. It has some nice little bits of humour mixed into some serious and powerful subject matter. It manages to keep a strong tone the whole way through. It’s not too long - I clocked in at around 100 minutes for my first playthrough. There isn’t likely to be much replay value, although I’ll probably do a runthrough in the commentary mode, and maybe in the future I’ll run through it again, like re-reading a good book.

I’d highly recommend it if you don’t mind a slower pace and lack of gameplay. If you liked Dear Esther, definitely give it a go. If you found Dear Esther too slow or the plot not gripping enough, I think Gone Home does better on both those fronts, and is more likely to be enjoyable to more people.

Get over yourself, games industry.

The Xbox One will require pre-owned games to be ‘re-activated’, that is, you will have to pay a fee (split between a retailer, Microsoft and the developer) in order to play games previously owned by someone else.

This is crazy. The games industry has spent some time going on about how piracy is killing them and the used games market is killing them, and it’s rubbish. Firstly, the games industry is thriving. More people are gaming, games are more mainstream than ever and it looks to continue working that way. The idea that the games industry is dying is a clear lie invented by greedy developers and publishers that just want to keep inflating their profit margins - not by producing better products, but by increasing the price for the customer.

That’s the real crux of this - this is a hidden price increase for the game owner. When you buy anything, the resale value is a part of what you pay for. If you can’t resell something, it is worth less in the first place. At the moment, that £50 game is worth the enjoyment you’ll get from it, plus £25 down the line, or £10 way down the line. With this kind of system, it’s only worth the enjoyment of the game. If they want to take away part of the value they are giving us, the game should be cheaper, but it won’t be.

This is an obvious attempt by the industry to try and mislead consumers into paying more for the same product.

The games industry needs to stop thinking it’s special. When you buy any other product you have a right to resale. Just because it’s a licence to use a piece of software does not mean the rules should change. So long as a given person ceases to use the software once they sell it on, they should be able to do so.

Companies like EA, Activision and Microsoft are showing that they are the type of company that would rather increase their profit margin at the expense of the consumer, than try and create good products and treat the customer well. That is partly the fault of gamers who are willing to buy things regardless of the mistreatment they get, but it’s also massively stupid on the part of these companies.

Producing media is all about the customer in the end - they have to enjoy what they pay for. These companies are trying to set a new precedent for how much value customers should expect for their money, and set a much lower bar than before. This might well have worked in a world where they still held monopolies on gaming, but they don’t. In today’s world, Steam exists. Indie developers exists. The Humble Bundle folks exist. GOG exists. The internet exists. These people will continue to set the bar higher, and there will come a point at which the consumer turns around and refuses to pay for the rubbish they are being shovelled, because they can get better.

The upcoming game developers who want to make great games and have real ideas and innovation won’t go to the companies that they loathe and who mistreated them as customers, they’ll go to the devs that treated them well, that inspired them. They’ll form their own studios that care. Hell, that’s how EA was founded.

In time, these companies will change their tune, or they will have no franchises left to milk, and nothing new of value, and they will die the slow death they deserve.

Everyone is a gamer.

I imagine plenty of people will come to this post expecting me to talk about casual games(a term that must be said in the same dismissive way one might say KFC while sitting in a five-star restaurant). This isn’t what I’m talking about when I say that everyone is a gamer - sure, Casual games have definitely expanded the number of people that play games, and that’s interesting for a lot of reasons, but plenty of people have pointed that out.

What I am talking about is gamification - the act of taking anything and giving it game-like aspects. This is something that has really taken off in the background, but it’s likely that you have seen an example of this. For coders, the instant and obvious one to point out is StackOverflow, which has excelled at this. The content is kept incredibly useful by the user base being extremely motivated - something achieved by gamification. Users gain reputation whenever they do something right, and loose it for doing anything really negative. It’s scary how much this actually motivates people.

Other examples are gamerscore on Xbox Live - which amounts to a giant meta game around existing games, and the very famous (and successful) Monopoly promotion that McDonalds have run a number of times. The reason these things motivate people so well is gamification - the fact that people feel that there is an overarching game to what they do, which they can win.

Now, if you have been watching Extra Credits (which you should be doing, as it’s insanely insightful and interesting) - none of this will be new to you, it’s ground they have covered very well.

The point I want to make is that this is having an affect on how people perceive all games. In the past, there were people who didn’t get gaming at a very basic level - those who just didn’t comprehend it or why people would play a game. That is something that simply doesn’t exist any more. Subconsciously, people have been taught the basics of games and understand them better - which is great for the medium as a whole (and has, I have not doubt, influenced the number of people getting into casual games) as people are not afraid of what they know.

There was a time where if you handed a controller to a ‘non-gamer’, they would back off, unwilling to even try to play - they were afraid of the unknown. Now, they understand gaming.

Gaming is a medium I love, as art, as entertainment, it’s excellent. It’s only natural to want others to enjoy something you enjoy, and gaming is at a really exciting point in that regard. Everyone is a gamer now - it only gets better from here.