Did you know? Not EVERY game has to be a massive epic? That sometimes a game can be a simpler escape from the drudgery of everyday life? That maybe, just maybe, the game does not always need layered metaphors of philosophy or connections to real life, that sometimes someone has a story to tell and the quality of that story is not solely dictated to it’s length?

Well, maybe someone should have told me that sooner!

In my last post, I had lamented once again about how I have so little time these days to play games and focus enough energy in to this podcast and blog. That I had needed to re-prioritize my time given the obvious responsibility of raising a child. As part of that re-prioritization, I had told myself that I should start looking towards smaller titles and taking up some of the hype surrounding the more successful indies. With clear conscience, I can assure you that I was not let down.

To begin my journey I had purchased Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice. Unfortunately for me, I had limited time to play and I only made it through to the first real combat phase before getting distracted by yet another Destiny update. I deeply regret this, and swear to return to it as soon as time allows.

Image from http://www.Hellblade.com. Don’t look at me like that, Senua! I’m working on coming back as soon as I can!

After that failed attempt, my life kind of came to a head with my frustration to game and produce content, and Destiny was proving too grind heavy for me to accomplish my goals within the time allotted for the current season, so I gave myself that final push to break free. Since then, it has been amazing.

Pure Chaotic Fun

The first smaller title that I took down was Gat Out of Hell, because of my love for everything Saint’s Row and because it was on sale on the PSN store. It wasn’t as great as a full Saints Row title, but it was the perfectly scaled down experience. It is basically Saints Row 4, but with Hell themed abilities, weapons, and story.  Actually, if you’re wondering what Saints Row is all about then I would suggest Gat Out of Hell as a starting point since everything, from ridiculous beat-down animations to the obscure pop-culture references are all in there with an accelerated leveling system and a shortened storyline.

An Emotional Gut Punch

One of the additional reasons that I wanted to start playing indie titles was that since they are smaller, they can take creative risks that larger titles may avoid. While AAA titles make have emotional story lines within them, the story as a whole can get lost in side quests, loot collections, and combat nuances. Remove all that, and all that is left is the story that the writer(s) wanted to tell. Enter, “Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture“.

In this (ahem, BAFTA Award Winning) game, there’s literally zero combat. The entire experience revolves around piecing together what snippets of dialogue were left behind in suspended memories of a town’s inhabitants. Sure, to collect a few trophies you would be required to be a dedicated completionist, but by bypassing the requirements for these would not detract from the game’s narrative in the least.

However, I was expecting this game to be emotional. Clearly it delivered, and what stuck me the most notable was the fact that this was accomplished almost exclusively through the voice acting and the script itself. The only “cinematics” were that the little lightning bug “silhouettes” only suggested body positions, not actual reenactments. By allowing my imagination to fill in the blanks, the story became richer and more immersive. It is as if by creating the narrative that existed inbetween the dialogue snippits, I then became personally and emotionally invested in what happened to the characters, and ultimately their….well…play the game to find out!

Oh So Cute and HEY! I Thought This Was Supposed to be a Happy Game!

So, Unravel. This game looked SUPER CUTE TOTES ADORBS a few years back when it was announced but, since I was yet to be a father at this point I paid it little mind. Now that I’ve got less time to game and I am trying to get these smaller titles out, and Unravel 2 was just announced at E3 2018, the time is now!

As you get to the half-way mark in the total story, things start to take a more melancholy turn. As Yarny (yes, that’s the little red dude’s name) continues on with it’s journey, the narrator begins to age. You start to see where this is going in the journal that you slowly recreate and pictures that represent lost memories that you reclaim, particularly in the level titled “Rust”. Things get dark both literally and metaphorically, until it everything becomes bright again right at the end. It’s actually a very sweet perspective on life if you allow yourself to get set adrift in the narrative.

OK, Back to the Big Games

So as much as I have been enjoying the smaller titles, there’s only so much that I can deny my nature. I am currently playing “God of War” and plainly seeing why it is affectionately referred to as “Dad of War”. While this is my first entry in to the series, I am fully away of Kratos’ reputation. Clearly, this is a massive departure from that. Even so, there is no lack of brutality in the executions and death animations.

While I am sadly playing on “Give me a Story Easy”, I am still finding enjoyment in the game by witnessing the imaginative interpretation of the Nine Realms and seeing how a man that has defined himself with rage and violence copes with the burdens and responsibilities of being a father, both as a role model for his son and to support him in his fragile emotional state.

So What Indie Game Should be Next?

To be clear, I still intend to go back to Destiny once Forsaken releases. But until then, I am rather enjoying the simple pleasure of an ~8 hour game. I am able to get my indulgence of art and story telling out of the way as well as the satisfaction of seeing a game through to it’s completion. I know there are many, MANY more out there, but if anyone has some suggestions on what I should put on my queue, sound off in the comments!