Thursday, 18 August 2011

There's something special happening in the PS3 store

I like the occasional computer game. Not as a hardcore gamer - more as somebody who likes to drop in and be entertained now and again for an hour.

With that in mind, it's been a gripe for a while that there's very little originality in console gaming. Games are such huge investments now that they retail for £40+ and like Hollywood blockbusters, studios aren't willing to risk multi-million pound budgets on weird ideas.

In film, we have indie studios and I've been wondering where the indie game studios are? Where's the weirdness?

Just another great looking first person shooter or just another driving game seems a waste when you have an entire world to manipulate. It's a console - you can create any world you like, free even from the constraints of film - and with that freedom, doesn't creating a faithful reproduction of a Porsche seem a little, well, unimaginative?

There is an undercurrent of strange and occasionally brilliant flash-based games but they're far from well known. Try Today I Die as an example. Better with sound, so if you're at work - dig out some headphones.

The online Playstation 3 store is giving smaller developers a route to market, with products that typically cost £7-8 rather than £40 and something rather special has happened.

A series of games like Flower and Limbo provide experiences beyond frenetic arcade action that are geared to an emotional response. They're strange, surreal and feel more like art than what we're used to as games. They have a common theme with the flash games in that they usually don't come with instructions. They drop you into an unfamiliar world and then draw you further in, by making you work out their rules without help.

I think we could be looking at the creativity that will lift games to a new level and to a new audience. The most popular of these smaller low priced games will be re-made with bigger budgets in the same way that Hollywood has aped indie successes like The Blair Witch Project.

You'll also see some of their creativity and themes 'borrowed' into online marketing campaigns.

For now, I'm just enjoying the diversion. If you own a PS3 and you haven't tried Flower or Limbo yet, give them a go. Give them to somebody who doesn't 'do' gaming to play and see how they react. It's a world away from lapping the Nurburgring with slightly improved graphics in a slightly more realistic Porsche in yet another driving game.

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