“It’s a watershed moment until now, games were their gameplay”

My very first compulsion after finishing The Vanishing of Ethan Carter was to recommend it to people. It was only then, when I started searching around for reasons to play it while in mid-conversation, that I realised I didn't like the game very much.

As a puzzle game it’s poorly signposted, superficial, and the uI has a whiff of the Murdered: Soul Suspects. however, I rate the experience of playing it among my highlights of 2014, solely because of its incredible environment. To me, being taken to that impossibly scenic place and drinking in the atmosphere completely makes up for all its shortcomings as a traditional game.

I’m not sure I’ve felt like that before. I’m still not able to decant the Twin Peaks charm away from the mechanical mess of Deadly Premonition, for example. To me it seems to indicate a watershed moment for the medium before this, games weretheir gameplay. now the world-building is so strong in certain titles that it’s possible to hate all their silly systems and still consider them pleasurable.

Even as I play alien: Isolation (another game at the absolute apex of 2014’s crop: just take a look at our Game Of The year feature), I wonder if it’s the stealth mechanics and crafting I’m enjoying so much the crouching, the waiting or whether it’s actually the magnetic sense of place, the fanatical detail everywhere. Proteus, Dear Esther and Gone home have started something big, and it’s seeping into the wider medium.

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