The Indiebox, Humble Bundle, Desura, there are oodles of ways in which gamers can purchase indie games and support their local, GMO-free game developer. To take a break from the size and scope of a triple-A game, and possibly find a new niche to indulge in, indie games offer a differ variety in both content and price to the consumer compared to bigger games. However, this is where problems arise, as looking at the Steam reviews of the more popular independently-developed games reveals a vast amount of gamers feeling as they have been cheated by the developer. This feeling stems from indie games which are much shorter than the average big-budget game, but can cost more than some feel they are actually worth. While some argue that this “high” price point that is still under the standard $60 is being greedy, others argue that without the help of publishers, or if the game sends a distinct message out, the price is more than worth it. So, this editorial will cover a multitude, of video games that have been accused of such greed.
The leader of the bunch, gamers know it well, and it is finally back, to disappoint people, it is G-H, Go-ne Home. Hilarious introduction aside, Gone Home is a walking simulator in which the protagonist walks around her families home only to find it desolate for multiple reasons that all add up to equal one dysfunctional family. The art style itself is ok, and the voice acting was fine, same with the story and overall design. To put it simply, Gone Home is a very adequate walking simulator and those who enjoy the genre would probably enjoy this. The problem, is that the game costs $20, can be completed in two hours or less (Adeki impressively finished the whole thing in 59 minutes), and went on to receive rave reviews including a 10/10 from Polygon and was also awarded their GOTY 2013 award. Not that this could mean much as Polygon also felt the need to give Bayonetta 2 a 7.5/10 for too much sexualization, not that anyone is bitter about this.
Why did Gone Home receive such great reviews and had reviewers overlook its ridiculous price? Lesbians. No really, the main “twist” of the game is that the protagonist’s sister ended up being a lesbian. By the end the player also finds out the parents were having marital issues as well, but divorce is so last decade at this point. Now, nothing is wrong with lesbians in video games, people love Lily Tomlin, and would surely love to play a game as her! What is wrong though, is for reviewers to boost the game’s score up because of the inclusion of a character in the LGBTQ+ community, when if the game was actually reviewed for its content the score probably would not be looking so hot. Speaking of which, it has been rumored that Lusipurr’s Fountain of Perpetual Disappointment will actually include two lesbians to beat Gone Home on the lesbian counter. This rumor probably is not true as it was started by an illiterate, but dreams can be dreams.
Second in the food chain is The Beginner’s Guide, which was created by Davey Wreden, co-creator of The Stanley Parable, which will be discussed next. WARNING: This editorial will go into spoiler territory, since the game is less than a year old at the time of this editorial’s publication it felt fair to give the reader a heads up. The game itself is actually a collection of games with commentary of Wreden as he explains that these games were all made by a developer under the name of Coda. These games are all very small in scope and are presented chronologically from the time Wreden met Coda to the time in which Coda stopped making games. Some of the games had to be modified by Wreden in order to show off their hidden content, while others are playable on their own within the context of The Beginner’s Guide. The full experience is only about an hour and a half, and plays out much more like an interactive documentary than a video game as while there are a few option audio bits for if the player gets stuck, an overwhelmingly large majority of the game is scripted in terms of how it flows, while the player can still move how they want to to an extent. This alone can make the price point of $10 on Steam questionable, but where the actual controversy has come from is the fact that at the end of the game Wreden admits that due to his own selfish actions, Coda stopped associating with him completely.
So, Wreden decided to compile all the games Coda sent him, record commentary, and then package it as The Beginner’s Guide in order to hopefully find Coda. Whether or not this story is true is completely up to interpretation, as others interpret it as Coda actually being a past version of Wreden, reflecting on his own personal struggles. Although, if the player is to take the Wreden’s statements inside the game as fact, the idea of paying money for what is largely someone else’s content, suddenly feels suspicious. Is it illegal to take someone’s un-copyrighted games and package them as a complete product because they have slight modifications and commentary? Who knows, the editorialist in question is not a lawyer. But is it crooked? Probably. Now, this is again only if rgw player takes the game’s message as face value, otherwise it is still a “game” that is $10 for less than two hours worth of content, which is another can of worms in terms of what a player is willing to pay for based upon content and playtime. But even then, would players be comfortable in paying $10 for content that largely is not the property of Wreden for the story and experience?
Threepence none the richer (that is the saying, just trust the editorial on this), the next game to look at is The Stanley Parable. Originally released as an Half-Life 2 mod in 2011, The Stanley Parable was later released in 2013 when it received critical acclaim from fans and critics alike. The reason being is that the game itself is laugh out loud hilarious, while also offering an excessive amount of endings and choice to the player. This is done in part to entertain as well, but also as a way to look at the ways in which stories are told in video games and how limitations can affect story-telling. While the game has received an astonishing amount of positive reception, it is obviously not without negative reception as well. Unsurprisingly, the common complaint the game receives is that it is too much money, clocking in at $15 full price for a varying amount of playtime averaging anywhere from 2-10 hours. This in part due to if the player wants to actually fully explore all the game has to offer in terms of achievements and content, and also if they find the game to be repetitive. What is interesting is that although there was a fair amount of reviews that looked negatively upon the game, a good amount of those who reviewed it actually liked the game, but gave it a negative review because they felt as if it was overcharging. This then raises the question of it is “fair” to review a game based on its price if the player actually enjoys the game. This can lead to a very weird area as different people have different comfort zones in terms of price points, some could find a deeper meaning in a game, others could be stingy, or the developers could actually just be overcharging.
Fourth but no cigar, Shovel Knight is next on the chopping block and resides somewhere within the same area of The Stanley Parable. While most seem to very much enjoy the game, they also feel the need to leave negative reviews based on its length vs its price point. In Shovel Knight‘s case, the game takes about six hours or more to complete, but it differs from The Stanley Parable as it is actually a full video game with stages and bosses. Not to say that The Stanley Parable is not a game because it does not include those components, but there is an obvious difference in terms of design between the two games and what they deliver. While The Stanley Parable is made to satisfy a smaller audience of those seeking hilarious games with little actual “gameplay” aside from walking and interacting, Shovel Knight is very much for fans of platformers and NES games. This then complicates the argument of a game being too much money for too little gameplay, for as where those who are against walking simulators and games that are meant to be “experiences,” Shovel Knight is an extremely well made game throughout and offers varying gameplay that is much more than walking and interacting, as is meant to be much more fun than just a solitary experience.
Last, yes, thank God, last (try to add more commas there, guy), is Cave Story. As many may or may not know, Cave Story was originally released in 2004 as freeware, and took five years to develop by Daisuke “Pixel” Amaya in his spare time. Offering about seven hours of gameplay for free is a deal almost everyone can agree is acceptable, but obviously it would be unrealistic to just expect every game to be free. Freebies do feel nice once in a while though, and Cave Story is a fan favorite in the indie-gaming scene, as despite the game being available for free download, many buy the ports anyway, either to experience the added content or just to support the developer and give back for enjoying the game so thoroughly. This then eliminates the idea of reviewing a game based on price whatsoever, as it is free! Now the game, unless it has lesbians, can be reviewed with more objectivity from fans rather than complaints about price. Not to say that it is wrong to complain about a game’s price point in comparison to its content, but there is yet to be a set of rules or guidelines to measure this. Not even a line to draw in the sand in order to justify what is fair on the developer’s part, and what is not. While some may want to only pay $1 for each hour of gameplay, others are happy with paying $5 for an hour if the game is good enough. Thus, creating a debate within the gaming scene of how much is too much.
That is officially it for this editorial. Apologies that it is not the SacAnime write-up which is due next week Friday, but Adeki had a busy week and felt a rush of inspiration after playing The Beginner’s Guide for himself just a couple days ago, which explains the length of this editorial in particular. Aside from that though, please leave a comment below letting us know where you stand on the issue of price point versus amount of content. Let us know what you think of walking simulators and games that are classified as “experiences,” and how you feel about their price point. Is this editorial just the biggest bull you have ever read? Make your opinion known in the comments below!