Take a trip into Early Access, where baby games go to grow up
BUYING AN EARLY ACCESS GAME on Steam seems like a gamble. You want us to pay money for something that’s not finished, and will be full of bugs and empty of content? Yet, when you consider the popularity of Kickstarter, where people put down money on the basis of an idea alone, Valve’s system starts to look less problematic. You get the game, in whatever state it’s in, you get the chance to play it early, and feed back information about bugs and problems to the developer, and you get to keep it when it’s finished.
A lot of these aren’t expensive games, and many have simple graphics and low system requirements, but Early Access is the home of the sort of title that might not get made any other way. Thoughtful games, slow games, miles away from the shock and awe of big-budget development. They’re being shaped by their players as much as their makers, who are more likely to be indie studios or even bedroom coders than massive game factories.
That’s the joy of Early Access games—the feeling that you’re in on something from the start, and that you could help shape the final product. It may be buggy or even unplayable at the beginning, but it gives you a sense of investment that you just don’t get from a corporate creation. Here, then, is a selection of what’s out there.