Monday, February 6, 2006

Game Reflections - Solitude

Walking among remnants. Mingle with silent relics and memories. Alone. Unaccompanied. You are the only movement in a frozen world. You stand out like a fire in the night. The lack of others and the conventional interaction they usually brings can enhance the experience of your presence in the world. Your awareness of self is increased. Intrigued by the scenario of being singled out and placed in a world that has moved on, fascinated of being an observer, eventually after a time in this environment you might start question your own existence. After all, aren’t we caught, objectified, only by confrontation with others? Aren’t we taking form only when we are being looked upon?

Solitude can be an exceptional powerful experience.

Metroid Prime. Brilliant for the immersion of for the first time seeing the world through Samus eyes, of becoming her by making it an FPS. But also brilliant for defying genre-conventions and turn it into an FPA (A for adventure). This way the game could stay true to its world exploration roots but also deliver a more intimate, immersive and secluded experience. There are moments when you examine temples and shrines of lost civilizations, their artefacts and scriptures, when you read their ancient ghostly words that you become increasingly self-conscious. And the feeling of true solitude forces itself upon you.

Shadow of the Colossus. You are never really all alone. You have your horse. Your sense of loneliness is not the issue here. It’s the eerie emptiness of the vast and isolated land you’re exploring. It’s the reclusiveness of the disturbingly beautiful land and its lack of life (forms) that gets to you. As you ride at the edge of a valley you can see for miles in any direction but there isn’t a single indication of anything living. Anywhere. There once were, judging by the monuments and architectural landmarks that are left behind. You´ve entered a arcane and holy land, a land in peaceful and rightfully earned slumber. Your presence in it is not welcomed and you know in your heart that it should be left alone.

Solitude might not be a theme or emotion developers want or can pursue these days when multiplayer and social networking games quickly is gaining more ground. And as an emotion it might not rank that high compared to fast excitement and cheap thrills. Perhaps you see loneliness as something bad and not a suitable ingredient for entertainment. But aren’t all emotions worth exploring, worth understanding, worth experiencing? Even the ones you shy away from and avoid?