I read a post over at Man Bytes Blog today about themes of isolation, how they’re so popular in movies and such these days, and how not enough games intentionally exploit said themes, even despite the fact that games are inherently isolating. And then I felt really really good about myself because lo and behold, my most recent games actually do deal quite a bit with isolation in their subject matter. Of course, being a little indie designer whose work attracts a niche audience the size of a protozoa, no one really cares all that much. Still, maybe that Corvus Elrod dude might get a kick out of the fact that hey, not all proponents of “games as art” lie purely on the side of theory. Some of them, you know, actually make stuff.
Yeah. Anywho. For one thing, ever since I was a teenager, it always struck me how all those adventure games I played involved a protagonist who was so… solitary. I mean, yes, most games in general feature a character who goes around and does his or her own thing, but for some reason, it stuck out a lot more in adventure games because they’re so much closer to what people do in their everyday lives. And when you’re a teenager, and everyone around you is doing things in packs, sometimes it just becomes a breath of fresh air to discover how much fun it is to wander around your world alone to your leisure. Yes, you have the occasional social contact in the form of in-game dialogues, but you’re still an autonomous entity. After the conversation is over, you go off and do your own thing.
The observation that my life sometimes feels like an adventure game was sort of the basis behind The Game That Takes Place on a Cruise Ship. There’s this character who’s a lot like me, walking around, exploring, comfortable with her aloneness. Then, she meets this sheltered prince who’s also alone, but depressed and suicidal because of it. He’s stuck and he needs adventure, and then winds up latching on to the girl, who sort of “saves” him in a way.
In Chivalry is Not Dead, Phlegmwad has his aloneness forced upon him by dint of being born an ugly monster, but he’s grown used to it, and has developed a healthy dose of sarcasm about it as a result. He meets the Queen of Everything, who (depending on how you approach her) reveals herself to be just as lonely, even despite the fact that she’s beautiful and powerful. She masks such insecurities in snottiness, and most players, I’ve found, end up not liking her all that much as a result. Rather like how I feel people tend to perceive me at times, I have to say.
Pigeons in the Park lacks any kind of autonomous wandering around in a physical space; its entirety is a conversation, perhaps the least isolating thing I’ve done, gameplay-wise. And yet, the two protagonists spend a lot of time talking about how out-of-step they feel in relation to the rest of the world. No surprise, really, given that it’s my life in a nutshell.
And finally, there’s When We Were Kids, which is about dealing with the school bully and the cold, harsh reality that you can only do it yourself, that no adult is going to help you. If that’s not about isolation, I don’t have any idea what is.
So, there you have it! If you want to explore the theme of isolation in game form, look no further, because there are at least four games out there that have just what you’re looking for. Isn’t that amazing or what?