Culture Jam: Walking Simulator or Walk Home
They’ve always existed, but in recent years the ‘walking simulator’ has finally breached mainstream gaming, with critically lauded games like Firewatch bringing public attention to a niche genre. This has, of course, incited controversy, and sparked debate on the nature of games themselves.
In this week’s CultureJam, Blair and Brian discuss walking simulators.
Walking Simulator seems to have become a pejorative term for the genre, by fans and opponents alike. Sure sure some people use it like fanboy as a positive, but most don’t. This has always confounded me as it’s a useful descriptor. When I hear “Walking Simulator” I think of a first person game, that has slow and methodical speed, and limited interactions.
But on to the points I want to make.
I have a soft spot for walking simulators, ever since playing Gone Home. Gone Home is a game that has you walking around a house looking for what happened, and you find so much ominous information, that keeps leading you to a jump scare that never happens. The walking helps limit you and make you feel restricted, which only ramps the tension up.
But it has to be used correctly, and I have to be in the right mood.
Despite many hours of Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture and Ether One, I found both overstayed their welcomes, and despite getting close, I never beat either of them. Based on the games receptions, I accept it’s a fault with me and not the game, but still.
Either way it’s a genre I am glad exists, as every genre only strengthen the medium on the whole. You don’t have to like them.
So here’s the thing: Blair and I aren’t too far apart on this one. I loved Gone Home, even getting that ridiculous trophy for completing it in under a minute. I also like… um… no, wait, that’s it.
It’s not that the genre can’t be done right. As I said, I really enjoyed Gone Home (even the jump scare), Firewatch is a thing of absolute beauty, and while I’d hesitate to call something like What Remains of Edith Finch a walking sim, it too is excellent.
But then we have games like Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, which was free on PS Plus and I still feel like I overpaid. There was just nothing there. I was interested in the plot, but it was absolutely glacial. And the lack of run functionality, combined with having to stay nearby to actually hear the plot? C’mon, if you need to pad something out like that, it’s not a fun thing (Edit: I am told there is a way to run, but I don’t believe it).
My point is, slower-paced, story-driven adventure games have a place at the table, no doubt, and can be truly magnificent. But there are also failures, some so forgettable that I can’t even remember their names. Lumping them all together is like calling every game with a gun a shooter… Which I know a ton of people do, but it doesn’t make it right.
If your game is just someone walking and nothing else, I’ll be honest, I don’t think it’s something I’ll go near.
BTW the best walking simulator in the world is QWOP; fight me.