As I am preparing to leave the UK for at least a few years (fortunately to a place where it is still possible to buy Edge), my life has been rather busy lately. Because I’ve been running around like a headless chicken in the real world for the past few weeks, my carefully ring-fenced gaming time has been even more critical to my sanity than usual. So when I read Przemek Marszal saying in E279 that “games do not need to offer escapism”, I beg to differ. It is of course a matter of definition, and I think what he meant was that they do not need to let us flee the harsh realities of the real world and take us to La La Land. But if escapism is a taste (or need) for spending time in a rich imaginary universe that distracts us from the all-too-often meaningless chores of our daily lives, then I’d say that it is still games’ chief appeal, at least for me.
It is the type of escapism that is, perhaps, changing. There was a time when all games had to have one quality: they needed to be exciting, putting us in the shoes of space pilots, combatants, racing drivers, and so on. This is arguably still true of most genres (I’m talking about you, FPS) and major franchises today, but a strong underground movement challenging this view is slowly becoming mainstream.
Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture is the perfect example. Here is a game that looks absolutely fantastic, is as engaging and immersive as any title I’ve played recently, and yet is the very opposite of exciting. I mean, anyone who gets an adrenaline rush wandering about in a postcard English countryside village listening to ghostly conversations between the local priest and his flock needs to have their head examined! And it’s not the only recent game of its kind: this sort of almost contemplative experience is arguably also at the heart of
The Long Dark. And for all its reported gameplay shortcomings (I chose not to buy it after reading E284’ s review, so haven’t played it), Submerged at least deserves credit for daring to proudly proclaim itself a “combat-free” exploration game.
I believe this goes far beyond the old debate about what constitutes a ‘non-game’. As the entertainment media matures alongside its audience comes the need for experiences that are more subtle and multifaceted than being the strongest or fastest kid in the schoolyard. Nothing wrong with occasionally indulging in these primitive emotions, of course (I bought Forza 6 on release day in order to get high on pure speed), but I’m old enough to realise they’re not the only ones worth having. I have little doubt that, as I’m settling down in a more arid landscape, I will spend quiet hours in Yaughton, fondly reminiscing about England’s green and pleasant land.
Happy trails, Fabrice. It seems that you’ve already got this covered, but if not – ahem – an affordable overseas subscription would be the perfect option for your time away.
I recently returned to the UK after three or so years in New Zealand. I was a little disappointed that my family wasn’t able to meet me at the airport, but it didn’t matter. She would be there.
And she was, exactly where we said we’d meet, in WH Smiths. Sat on a shelf, calling to me… Edge 283.
She was still as gorgeous as I remember, and had all the features one could want. Great reviews, interesting articles, and the only letters page in publishing history that doesn’t make me want to gnaw my own arm off, just for something less painful to do.
“She would be there. And she was, exactly where we said we’d meet, in WH Smiths”