Tuesday, 26 July 2011

But is it art?

As a follow-up to my Strange games through the ages post I decided to have a look at those ‘art’ games I mentioned…
And ask some obvious questions like:
    1. What makes it different?
    2. What makes it art?
    3. Are they games?
    4. What is available?
    5. Where did this ‘movement’ come from?
    6. And perhaps both most and least importantly, how well does it sell?
The supposed art-house games scene has become a bit of a semi-underground phenomenon lately. But is this a real movement and a bona fide genre, or just more industry hype and spin?
I decided to have a bit of a root around with these self-styled ‘art games’ and see what I could find out. I asked the six seemingly most asked questions as above, and have attempted to answer each in turn. But remember this is all just my opinion, and I tend to veer away from the standard FPS and like stranger games.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Strange games through the ages...

OK, so this post is pretty self-explanatory really. Here I’m going to take a look at some of my favourite games that were always considered a bit strange.

 I think it’s fair to say that we now have a bit of a sub-culture of developers making intentionally ‘different’ games (see my ‘When is a game not a game’ thread) but that isn’t where this post is going.
Here I’m interested in programs that were released as main-stream games, which genuinely had something different, innovative, or just plain odd about them. And make no mistake, strange games are by no means a new phenomenon. As well as the odd left-field game (pun intended) from the mainstream software houses of the times; there have always been some developers that seemed to specialise in the strange and different.

The first game I ever picked up that seemed to break, or at least crack, the mould was the eponymous ‘Attack of the Mutant Camels,’ followed quickly by ‘Revenge of the Mutant camels’ both by Llamasoft and created by the hairy hand of the Yak; AKA Jeff Minter. It wasn’t long after this that I stumbled upon a copy of ‘Weird Dreams’ for the C64 and then ‘Trap-Door’ for the ZX Spectrum. I think that was the start of me becoming hooked on games that looked and played a bit different from the norm. But the strangest and best was still to come…

Friday, 8 July 2011

A resurgence of retro?

Is the games industry having a bit of a retro revival, or is it just maturing and diversifying?

I’ve decided to look at the popularity of newer retro-styled games like Braid, Galaxy Wars, and the latest incarnations of old staples, like Space Invaders Infinity Gene, Pac-Man Championship Edition, or Sonic 4. 
These are just the tip of the ice-burg as far as retro-type games are concerned nowadays. Look through Xbox Live or PSN and you are sure to dig up numerous examples of both new games based on retro gaming styles and concepts, and re-released or new versions of the well-known older franchises. But this isn’t a new thing. One of the first types of software released for practically any of the new platforms are the retro-compilations.

My first question was, “why are they being made?” And the rather obvious answer was, “because they are still commercially viable and popular.”
But why are they popular?
And who is buying them?

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

When is a game not a game?

I think the so-called backlash of Alternate Gaming is a natural outcome of today’s commercialised mainstream gaming industry.
Which begs the obvious question, an alternative to what? 

Back in the boom-time of the mid-eighties to late-nineties there was no such thing as alternate gaming, mainly because at least every second game was completely different from the first. There were definitely some very weird games produced, but nothing was ever really seen as truly alternative, because there was no standard to be alternate from.
That all started to change as the market grew, and the standardisation began to draw all the creativity into the safe middle-ground of 3D platforms and First Person Shooters. With the advent of the ‘SONY Playstation’, 3D, and birth of ‘modern gaming’ the big players became predominantly market driven, and the market was growing at an expediential rate.

So the coining of the Alternate Gaming market is a relatively modern invention. But still, what exactly qualifies as an alternate game? In some cases it can be seen as something with a slightly edgy or underground quality to its game-play. In others the game-play can be a derivative of a much older style of game brought up-to-date for today’s technology. But there is another, artier, form of entertainment program evolving, and this type forms the main body of the controversy…