PAX East 2014 Games are Art

By Chris

If you ever feel the video game industry is getting stagnant then you are looking in the wrong place. One reason to love indie games is the willingness to push the thematic envelope and stray far from the safety of what the big guys put out. I had a chance to get a closer look at a few titles at PAX East this year that seriously prove a simple video game can be a work of art.

Gods Will Be Watching is at first glance a simple point and click survival themed game, look a little deeper and you will see the weight each decision you make carries. Slowly building tension forces morally ambiguous choices in the name of completing the goal laid before you. An early demo created for the Ludam Dare 26 game jam is available to play on Deconstructeam’s website and the full version is up for pre order now.

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Gods Will Be Watching

Developer Matt Gilgenbach, creator of the incredibly dope arcade shooter Retro/Grade, is taking an entirely different direction with the very personal Neverending Nightmares. Calling it a horror game just doesn’t seem right to me, sure there are moments to make you jump, overall it feels more unsettling. Horrifying is a far better word to describe it than horror. The game doesn’t want to scare you,  it wants to unnerve you. Neverending Nightmares is a visual representation of the creator’s struggles with mental illness and the ability to even express such emotion in this way is amazing on its own. The actual game play is so simple yet the combination of minimalist visuals and haunting sounds sucked me in to the point I honestly felt uncomfortable playing.

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Neverending Nightmares

There is only one way to describe Actual Sunlight; heavy. It is more of an interactive story than a game and holy fuck does it tell a story. I did not enjoy playing at all, but I appreciated the shit out of it. Very few pieces of media in any form will leave me sitting jaw open thinking “What the fuck” in the way Actual Sunlight did. It’s like clicking through a life of soul crushing depression. Don’t let the cute sprites fool you, you will be dragged along through a story of a hopeless existence which every one of us has felt at some point in our life. Like Neverending Nightmares, I felt a deep discomfort throughout as I was forced to take a hard look at my own life.

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Actual Sunlight

You may think Hotline Miami 2 doesn’t fit with the other games listed here but you are dead fucking wrong. I have written previously about the original, and the sequel just builds on that perfect formula of senseless killing, flashing lights, and a feeling of utter emptiness when all the bodies have hit the floor. The disconnect to the pure brutality will be getting amped up even more with the addition  of new characters and weapons. I’m not sure whether we will get any type of conclusion or meaning this round and I’m not sure if I want one. The shifts from visceral violence to casual life with no reason for any of it is what caused Hotline Miami to have such a memorable and emotional impact on me.

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Hotline Miami 2

 

The next time the “Are video games art” debate comes up, anyone who can look at these games and still say no can just fuck right off.

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1 Comment

  • Darryl says:

    I saw a lot of games at PAX East, and the art style of Neverending Nightmares is the one that stuck with me the most after I got home. As you said, it’s completely unnerving. I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on that game.

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