I love PC gaming, it presents so much that console gaming just can’t provide. But console gaming still has PC gaming beat on one front: story. Console games tend to be longer and more complex than PC games and because of this they tend to be able to put a strong story into their games. Now this is not to say that all the stories they put into their games are good, in fact nowadays you are lucky if you find a good story in a console game. PC gaming is filled with great games, games that are fun and innovative and unique, but they lack severely when it comes to story. PC games have the problem that their stories often fall under the weight of their gameplay, leaving one starved for story.
For a long time I had been starved for story, lost in the desert of PC gaming searching for an oasis to quench my thirst. I finally reached the oasis I was hoping for in July of 2012. In July a minimalistic puzzle-platformer was released on Steam. I would have completely passed it by if it had not been for a video critique of the game that I saw on YouTube. The critique was done by a man named TotalBiscuit in his “WTF is…?” Series. I only got to see the first few levels of the game but I was struck by a few things in particular, first of all, how simple and beautiful the game was. The game had fantastic use of shape and color to give interest to what might easily be taken as a very boring game. The second thing that struck me was the well thought out and planned narration (the game has a wonderful British narrator who tells the story as you progress). But the narrations did much more than just tell a story, it reached into my soul and made me connect and feel emotion for a bunch of colored geometric shapes. Immediately after finishing the video I went out and downloaded the demo of the game and played it all the way through that night. The very next day I bought the full game and beat it in one sitting. Afterwards in afterthought I found it so strange that I had begun to feel for a group of colored blocks.
The game I’m talking about is Thomas Was Alone and it is one of my absolute favorite games of all time. Thomas Was Alone, when you allow yourself to be carried off by the story, is one of those games that know how to pull at your heartstrings and keep you hooked. Every aspect of the game, the visuals, the music, the narration, and the gameplay, everything comes together to make this emotional, gripping tale which is fun and original. It’s a piece of art that is funny and witty and I recommend everyone should play it. I will say that the price is a little steep at $9.99, the game isn’t that long, but I definitely think that if you have the money you should spend it on this and play it as soon as you can, and if you don’t have the money as I imagine many of you don’t, then wait until this game goes on sale and pick it up as soon as you can. Just one last thing on my part: “When you play this game you shouldn’t go in with any expectations or hopes, but simply dive in and get lost in the game and you will see its true beauty.
Kentucky Route Zero is an extremely unique game. There are so many layers to this game, so many details that make this game something more, something deeply story-filled. I was hooked to the idea of Kentucky Route Zero from the first time I saw it; Kentucky, caves, the open road, magic realism, and a beautiful art style, there is almost nothing about this game that repulses me. The game takes its inspiration from classical point-and-click adventures and uses their gameplay to tell a deep and rich story. Kentucky Route Zero is interactive and unique, allowing you to control the direction of the story and put into it your own likes and desires, shaping the story the way you want in ways that remain with you throughout the story. The game is divided into five acts, two of which have been released. The art style in the game are beautifully simplified and organic, they move and flow and change in wonderful ways that make the game seem large and epic. On top of that the game has a great soundtrack performed by the Bedquilt Ramblers, a group of folky bluegrass musicians who express the soul of Kentucky and mysticism in music which is deeply rooted in and connected to American history and culture. I won’t take the time to say anything on the plot because I feel in games so deeply dependent on story, like Kentucky Route Zero and the other games in this piece, the story must be experienced firsthand or else it loses a great deal of power. Kentucky Route Zero costs $24.99 for all five acts.
The last game on my list is one I have been deeply excited about and one that has only just recently come out. This game is based off of a Half-Life 2 mod concerned with the story of one man and the strange events that happened to him on one particular day. The game was recently Greenlit on Steam earlier this year and redone from the ground up to turn the simple mod into a standalone game. If you haven’t been able to guess, the game I’m talking about is The Stanley Parable. What is The Stanley Parable? Well it can be compared to a vast number of different other works: Groundhog Day, The Matrix, Portal, Inception, and the Book of Job. But at its heart it is something else, something altogether separate from any of these works, The Stanley Parable is an inventive and fun game where you are given free rein to do whatever you want at the expense of a mysterious and British narrator. As you progress you will see that there are seemingly countless forking paths and stories hidden all around the game world waiting for you to find them. This game is witty, humorous, and at times scary and shocking. As you play you will be given the option to make blatantly obvious choices and decisions, but hidden all around the game world there are hidden choices and often it’s when you turn off your brain and quit thinking in conventional terms, that you find the strangest and most enjoyable endings. You will find at least some small enjoyment in this game and keep coming back to it again and again for that comedic kick. I love this game so much. If you want to pick it up, you can find it on Steam for $14.99.