The gaming experience is increasingly monetized, but some titles continue to delight.
Every year new and competing demands bring our attention. For many companies, it is no longer enough to hold a person’s attention during a movie or book. The imperative of profit demands greater sacrifice. Enter video games, which are second only to social media in their ability to take up residence in our daily routines.
The business models are obviously different: Facebook, TikTok and Instagram all try to engage us long enough to collect personal information, which can be used to sell us things we might want. Many video games, in contrast, aim to immerse us so deeply in their worlds that we are forced to buy clothes, furniture, weapons and digital subscriptions that allow us to show our tastes and interests online.
The outlet has followed this trajectory for years. But in 2022, the long-term effects have become clearer. In many cases, gaming is no longer a pure distraction mode; they require continuous investments of time, money and attention, which are not only intended to satisfy the player, but also to satisfy the shareholders of the developers. Ideas refined in the gaming industry are usually elsewhere; Some new cars require owners to make a one-time payment, or sign up for a subscription, to unlock features like heated seats, high-beam assist, and color-changing paint (the auto industry’s answer to avatar skins). And yet, amidst this desolation, artists find a way to prioritize craft over bottom line, producing games that enchant, mystify, and delight. Here are, in no particular order, some of the best of the year.
(PC; PlayStation; Xbox)
In the days following the release of Elden Ring, a sprawling and vivid fantasy game directed by the renowned Hidetaka Miyazaki, competitors expressed some bewilderment at its success. Elden Ring’s rules, they said, were too opaque. His world, partly imagined by George R. R. Martin, and full of shimmering streams, bubbling swamps, and gust-sculpted hills, was too confusing and open. And, like much of Miyazaki’s work, the game was absurdly difficult, its challenges capable of discouraging all but the most determined newcomer. It’s true that Elden Ring ignores many of the principles of high-budget game design. And yet there is a powerful magic in his approach. This is not a world built for flatter tourists; it does not guide you by hand through carefully escalating problems of difficulty. Rather, it seems to exist independently of your presence. How you explore is a matter of personal choice, and only you have to deal with the consequences.
(Android; iOS; PC; Xbox)
For the past several years, game designer Sam Barlow has been perfecting a new form of non-linear storytelling that bridges the gap between film and games. In Immortality, watch live-action footage from three previously unseen films, each featuring Marissa Marcel (Manon Gage), a fictional star who has disappeared. Browse through the treasure trove of messy clips through an interface that mimics a Moviola movie editor. Pause the footage, click on any actor or prop of interest, and the camera will transport you to a related image from another clip, whether it’s a scene from one of the films, candid footage from the screen, or snippets of an interview. Gradually, the arc of the films and their creation becomes clear, and you gather the mystery of Marcel’s identity and fate. (Gage delivers a subtle, layered performance.) The effect is both haunting and compelling, marking a new maturity in Barlow’s craft.
(Mac; PC; PlayStation; Xbox)
Norco, awarded the inaugural Video Game Award at the Tribeca Film Festival for its release last year, follows the journey of Kay, a young woman who returns to the Louisiana refinery of her childhood after the death of her mother, who’ t they examined. local oil company. The decline of the titular city reflects Kay’s state of mind: both are untethered from their roots, dragged towards hopelessness. Kay is also looking for her brother, who has disappeared, and the player explores the streets of Norco through a series of pixelated vistas drawn in purple sunset colors. Set in the near future with android housewives, however, the game feels deeply rooted in the current crises: the decline of small towns.
Since 2009’s The Beatles: Rock Band, the once-mighty genre of music games has all but disappeared, leaving plastic guitars and drum controllers in cluttered closets around the world. So it came as a surprise when Trombone Champ, a game where you play as a trombonist, slide your cursor up and down a two-octave staff to work your way through classical pieces, folk songs and traditional songs, a became a viral hit. The game highlights the inherent humor of the instrument, alongside your wild, lunging notes with a flawless backing track. But a clear respect underlines foolishness. The game describes the trumpet as “the coward’s trombone”, and over time it is almost possible to keep a clean melody on Lavallée’s “O Canada”, Rossini’s “William Tell” Overture, or Strauss “Thus Spoke Zarathustra.”
Grand Tourer 7
Since the debut of Gran Turismo in 1997, racer and game designer Kazunori Yamauchi has created an interactive encyclopedia of motorsports. An obsession with the minutiae of car design has driven Yamauchi and his team to preserve everything from the stitching on a leather seat to the exact note of an exhaust pipe on hundreds of car models, and the cars can also be Race on a variety of real -world international tracks, carefully recreated in digital form. Gran Turismo 7 is one of the most successful entries in the series, a unique celebration in what could be the twilight years of fossil fuel vehicles. A wonderful example of the video game as a playable documentary.