Paul Barnett, since he's the creative director and all, and I have gotten into many discussions about video games, video game trends, video game designers, philosophies, etc. And they all usually end with me in tears, sometimes metaphorically, sometimes not.
Today we opt for not. Paul, while simultaneously ribbing me about my new game purchases, showed me Passage.
Now, in order to even remotely simulate the experience that I had today, I want you to stop reading, download that game, and play it. It only lasts five minutes long. I don't want you to look it up or read any further until you've played one five minute game of Passage. If you don't, then you will ruin the experience.
Read this when you come back.
When I started playing Passage, I began moving around with my character. I was attempting to find the bounding boxes of the playspace, I went all the way up, all the way down, and I began heading right. It seemed that right was the best way to go since there was so many different things ahead (even though they were fuzzy).
Once I discovered the boxes with the stars in them, I became obsessed with the stars. I looked for every box I could find, sometimes even going backwards, searching every nook in cranny. I wasn't quite paying attention to anything but the star hunt and my point total, which climbed up to 1300-some points until I finally became a gravestone. It felt so unfinished.
Then Paul assumed control of the computer and said he'll play it for me and narrarate.
And he began...
"When you start life, you can't see very much behind you. There is a lot ahead of you, but it is fuzzy."
He walked right and instantly bumped into a little girl sprite.
"You may meet someone and fall in love."
I had missed her! At this point the female sprite attached herself to his character permanently, making him, effectively, two people wide.
"Your companion will stick by your side, but her being with you closes off some routes to you."
He attempts to go down into a single-person wide passage and the female blocks his movement. So he kept plugging along.
"And so you go and progress through life. As you go on, some things may become more clear. Your past will seem very clear, but the future is still fuzzy. And so you continue along."
He began picking up the boxes and deducing which ones had stars and which one had nothing but dust. At this point I realized that the character was beginning to age. And he continued to narrarate, pointing out the metaphors of life, the clarity of perspective, the pros and cons of having a constant companion, life goals and objectives, and then his female companion died.
"And when she dies, you are crippled, nothing but a shell, and you move slowly toward the end."
By the time he turned into a gravestone himself, I was in tears. I hadn't even found my companion, I had just obsessed over exploration and point totals. It was scary, it was heartbreaking, and it was poignant.
And he turned to me and said "and that's why I have no time for Gears of War. I want to make games that matter."
And so do I.