I consider myself an avid gamer. I play everything from Indie platformers to old school MMO’s. And every once in a while, amongst the torrent of standard games, I encounter a game that rattles my core. It dishevels my expectations and reconfigures the way I experience the world. Multimillion dollar narratives have been the usual culprit; Rapture’s dystopic gardens and Spira’s rampant tragedy represent seismic shifts in my thought processes and imagination. However, I’m not here to praise any triple A titles. Rather, I want to discuss two half-baked games (at least in many gamer’s eyes) called “Lim” and “Dys4ia”.
While I was floored by the lovely simplicity of these interactive experiences, these games were harpooned by other players because they lacked the formal elements we’ve come to expect from games. It wasn’t gamey enough. But that’s the point. They were interactive experiences that are diversifying the game market with caustic, oblique perspectives. And they won’t dilute that experience with health bars and points, nor will they sacrifice their air-tight models for the sake of fun and gamification. Because the ability to “gamify” an experience means you can quantify the message. For those less privileged, a health bar doesn’t apprehend the rampant and varied forces that oppress them, consistently and systematically, on a daily basis.
These two “games” put the player in the shoes of the minority. As you traverse their levels, bereft of feedback and instruction, you are transported, if only for a moment, into an alternate landscape where you are marked, discriminated, and abused. You wander through these worlds, without compass, map, or HUD. Because for those who are missing the key inventory item, say race or class, the world triggers are different. NPCs ignore you- you don’t have the prerequisites. Quests are unavailable to you- maybe you need to “level up”. And that armor? Doesn’t fit. Don’t even try it on, it was forged for someone taller, thinner, more privileged. The metal probably wouldn’t complement your skin anyways.