Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Games That Inspire

As a child of the 80's, I have been privileged to see the rise of personal gaming platforms. Coming from a family who loves games of all kinds, my brother Jon and I were primed for video games. We spent countless hours together, trying to beat Super Mario Bros on NES. When I entered high school, I didn't have time for video games, and the friends I spent the most time with didn't play, so Jon became much more of a gamer than I.

Since I am a writer and an artist, I love things that combine the two to great effect. There are games that have inspired me with their artwork and captured my imagination with their narrative.

Here are my favorites:

Space Quest: How many of you have played this game? It was suspenseful, funny, and full of Easter egg images for geeks. Here's a screenshot from SQ3: Pirates of Pestulon.

I remember Jon and I literally screaming when Arnie the Annihilator would inevitably track down our Roger Wilco character and kill him in some gruesome way. 

Myst: This first person adventure puzzle game was cutting edge. Gorgeous graphics and an immersive experience that didn't explain anything, just dropped you in to figure it out. I could spend hours just exploring, trying to discover the secrets to the character's backstory.

Who here has made it to the end of Myst?

Typing of the Dead: Stewart introduced me to this game. This one isn't about writing or art, but I'm sticking it in here because it's rad. The story isn't particularly original, and neither are the graphics, but the gimmick is incredible! This game will require several screenshots.

It's a standard FPS zombie game, actually a mod of House of the Dead 2. The difference is that guns are replaced with keyboards. Literally.

In order to kill advancing enemies, you must type on your keyboard instead of shooting. Correctly typed letters act as bullets. Words and phrases increase in complexity as the game progresses.

Since I'm a fast typer, I really enjoyed this game. I had fun sharing it with others. Kenna and I sat together and played through, screaming at the encroaching zombie hordes.

Amnesia: First person horror/adventure. This game is terrifying and brilliant. Play it with earbuds in.

Super Meat Boy: Independent game designed by two guys. It's a 2D scroller platform game that follows, you guessed it, a boy made out of meat, as he attempts to rescue his girlfriend Bandage Girl from Dr. Fetus. The character designs are graphic stylized shapes. Super Meat Boy will have you giggling and pulling your hair out simultaneously

Braid: This indie platform puzzle game is fascinating. It was designed by Jonathan blow, with art by webcomic artist David Hellman. The main character is on a quest to rescue a princess, which is nothing new, but the narrative is complex and interesting, and the game's most alluring quality is this: you can manipulate time. It's also beautiful and weird.

The Binding of Isaac: This indie, top down, 2D roguelike game has been called the game for gamers. When Isaac's insane mother receives a message from God demanding she kill her son, he escapes into the basement. It just so happens the basement is a dungeon full of monsters. Isaac, nude and weeping (his attack is to toss TEARS) wanders through the basement fighting foes and gaining equipment, and hopefully more lives. You can't save this game. It's very difficult. I've never gotten past level one. But I've watched Tyler play through it to the end. It's stylized art is strangely mesmerizing. And the story is top-notch. 

And my top two favorite games:

Limbo: This indie puzzle platform game is brilliant. The black and white presentation, ambient sounds, and lighting effects create an atmosphere so eerie, it's difficult to forget.

A nameless boy searches the edge of Hell for his sister. There's no dialogue. There are monsters and dripping water and faceless child enemies. What's not to love?

I had to turn it off a couple of times because it was too frightening. Too eerie. But it's so lovely with its dark atmosphere and gorgeous imagery.

And the completion of the game is totally open-ended, which some people hate, but I adore. Play it. Go on. I dare you.


Bastion: Stewart told me about this one too. This top down action RPG is profound. It's indie and it's beautiful, but it's also thoughtful, with haunting music and an involved narrative. And a unique narrator.

I don't really want to give anything away. It's a fantastic story, the art is excellent, and the ending made me cry.

If you're looking for a new game to play, choose Bastion. Remember, if you create something that touches people, that changes them inside, they will sell it for you!

What are some of your favorite games?


  1. Replies
    1. So what are your most inspiring games, Stoo?

  2. That's an excellent list. Makes me wish I gamed more. And had, you know, something more up-to-date than a Gamecube. :-/

    As for my favorite games...I'll always love the Legend of Zelda games. I love how all the storylines meet in places, and diverge drastically in others. Are they connected? No. ...but they COULD be, and that's awesome.
    I love Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem. I know it drove Tyler insane, but it's his own fault for not using a memory card. You can't NOT die, you have to save, but it's the dying over and over that seems so very Lovecraft to me. The storyline itself is intriguing in the way it spans centuries of time and multiple characters. I wish Tyler had been able to finish it, he would have liked it.
    Mostly I like games that many people can play and laugh together over, so my childhood is filled with A LOT of Super Smash Bros (Original, Melee and Brawl) and Mario Party.


What do you think?