After nearly two decades of scouring invading species, ‘safeguarding’ our world from terrorist organisations and employing ‘negotiating’ tactics with a series of grunts and quips, I think I’m retiring from shooter games.
The reality we’ve found ourselves in today seems to be descending into more transparent chaos. To describe it as ‘more chaotic’ might not be totally accurate. Western civilization has always been hegemonizing and violent, it just adapted to be less culpable as the years progressed; especially now with a nefarious ego-maniac leading a global superpower.
But this is not to say that games that use guns to interact with their worlds are bad. DOOM was one of my favourite gaming experiences last year. But at the risk of being a millennial snowflake, I’m laying down my arms in pursuit of more engaging, emotional and comforting encounters with digital worlds this year.
My years of multiplayer gaming enabled the adrenaline-addled and hyper-aggressive version of myself. Late nights of sputtering expletives and vice-gripping a controller was not conducive to a healthy gaming habit.
Gaming is a platform I take great joy in championing as a vanguard for interactive self-exploration. Take your pick from last year’s That Dragon, Cancer, The Witness, Virginia, Grow Up or Stardew Valley (just to name a few). These titles ushered us into worlds and states of minds previously unknown and gifted the opportunity to enjoy interactive experiences with patience, imagination and compassion.
The types of games that make you think and feel aren’’t explicitly gun-free. In fact, I found the albeit brief Gears Of War 4 campaign to be a really honest and stimulating dissection of family.
However, I want to shed some light on the games coming out this year that you might find significant as negative ideals of corruption, egoism and injustice start to integrate moreso into your life, if they haven’t already.
Writing for the Guardian, Kate Gray said of this wave of new indie game development, “developers couldn’t see their lives, selves or experiences reflected in mainstream games, and so created them themselves. In turn, that inspires others to do the same.”
This high-regard for creating alternative perspectives and the people that live them every day is something I look forward to exploring in 2017. Be it for political, self-care or entertaining purposes, it’s time to create. We’ve had enough loss recently.
Gnog Release: TBC
A colourful, surreal 3D puzzle-adventure set within the heads of Maya Art-influenced robotic monsters which you control by altering your camera perspective. Gnog has you interacting with a series of set levels to solve puzzles, unlock secrets and create stories. It taps into the instinctive satisfaction we experience when things fit together well. It also boasts a playful and whimsical electronic soundtrack from Marskye.
Home Free Release: TBC
Beg! Forage! Steal! Live your best life as a dog. Games allow you to explore lofty fantasies but never before has the medium appealed to the dogspotting demographic so pointedly. Home Free is an open-world, procedurally generated stray-dog sim that veers away from the wackiness of Goat Simulator and aims for more grounded and autonomous exploration.
Knights and Bikes Release: Spring
Incorporating the unyielding ideals of friendship and weighty nostalgia of SNES era adventure games like Earthbound and Chrono Trigger with beautiful hand-drawn, 3D graphics, Knights and Bikes looks to be an emotionally challenging, endearing ‘Over The Garden Wall’ style game.
Night In The Woods Release: February 21st
Boasting wry-humour, gorgeous scenery and anthropomorphic animal characters that possess an unique humanity – this could be the closest thing to ‘Wes Anderson: The Video Game’ we’ll ever get. It’s a hotly anticipated narrative adventure that we can’t wait to shed some tears over.
In a world where everyday objects can spring to life, it’s refreshing to be able to exorcise your destructive tendencies without the implied guilt. And sometimes it’s just fun to eat your donut friends and poop them out. Wattam creates an hallucinogenic, interactive world that harks back to other far-out Japanese puzzle-exploration games like Katamari Damacy or Noby Noby Boy.
A hand-drawn story unfurling as you solve it’s illustrative puzzles. Gorogoa’s narrative is navigated by manipulating, stacking and combining a series of panels to build a complete and contextually relevant image. While The Witness stole the show in 2016 with it’s stunning visuals and perfectly tuned teaching mechanics, Gorogoa is taking the puzzle route of giving players the chance to exercise their spacial imagination.
Hidden Folks Release: February
A ‘Where’s Wally’ style puzzle game that has you scouring charming, monochrome landscapes looking for specific characters. It’s soundtracked by human sound effects making for this really intimate, novel cerebral experience. Imagine working on an 1,000 piece puzzle using the point-and-click mechanics of Samorost and you’re not far off this game.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild
Nintendo are looking to the future with the release of their much talked about Switch. The only concern people seem to be having is that Nintendo are going ‘all-in’ on the new Zelda game being a smash-success (mainly because the other five or six day-one releases look middling). I for one was convinced immediately by Breath Of The Wild’s gorgeous vistas and promises of a truly open-world Zelda experience.
For a comfortable gaming experience, I look for games that are happy to loosen up on the reigns and encourage me to fiddle around with the world at my pace. I don’t want to be distracted by HUD notifications or tutoria reminders. I think Breath Of The Wild understands this desire for freedom since the build-up to this game has focused primarily on its explorable and non-linear nature.
Hyrule has always been mapped as this diverse terrain with numerous biomes. Combine that with a smart survival system and the ability to tame a hundred horses just to call them all ‘Epona’ and you’re onto a Game Of The Year contender. Hopefully the world will be engaging enough to keep me turning over every stone looking for my next fix of Hyrulian enchantment until Mario Odyssey comes out at the end of the year.
What unique and gun free gaming experiences are you looking forward to playing this year? Is there any you think deserve a spot in our list? Let us know in the comments. Will Butler | @QuesaWilla
Will is a music journalist by day and a bleeding-heart Nintendo shill by night. He possesses a passion for video games that was forged by years of Pokémon marathons by lamplight. These days Will loses sleep over the lore of Kingdom Hearts and does his best to write shorter sentences.