Friday 24 August 2012

Acclaimed Browser Games by Jordan Magnuson

Loneliness, Freedom Bridge, and The Killer

Loneliness, Freedom Bridge, and the Killer are three browser games by Jordan Magnuson. He has made other games to be downloaded and played on a PC, but let's focus on the web platform.The  Loneliness browser game has been featured on the acclaimed gaming vlog Extra Credits, as an example of using game mechanics as narrative and metaphor.

Right away, let me laud that effort to use the interactivity so specific to games to tell a story, rather than trying to ape other mediums; the gaming community has a lot to learn from other forms of entertainment, yes, but we should not blindly follow the leader. Moreover, all three games succeed in telling a story through mechanics. Gameplay is very simple, a couple of buttons at most, and the interaction with each game world just enough to convey the message.
This has the best graphics of all three games

Some commenters have complain either about the kindergarten level of the graphics or the « emo » music. To me, the piano sadly chiming out its notes showcases perfectly the tough issues at hand. As for the graphics, well, M. Magnuson is a programmer AND a game designer, not an artist; besides, the simplicity only makes the point of each game more potent. And boy, are those points hard truths. They do need to be put out there.

So overall, yes, they are great “games” or apps that you can play in a couple minutes each and that are eye-openers. I still have to pick some bones with them. To me, they felt far too long. Yes the slow pacing is supposed to confer gravitas and prepare you for the end screens. ; the end result was that when I got to the point of each game, I was bored out of my mind, didn't really feel the emotional pull that was intended, and had only “all that for that?” reaction.

Ok, so having first heard of the game Loneliness through Extra Credits, I may have started the game with heightened expectations and thus was bound to be disappointed. Maybe our culture of quickly flitting between interests has irremediably damaged my attention span; maybe I'm that egocentric that I can't spare a few minutes for something that I know matters, or maybe I just wasn't in the right frame of mind. But how many people are going to “suffer” from similar dispositions? Keep short and sweet would be my advice, especially for something with so little interactions, such simplistic graphics and sad music: there already isn't that much to hold people's attention, don't risk impatience cutting the message short.

Again, these Jordan Magnuson games games are worth the time. As drawn-out as it felt to me, this may just be my very personal reaction. And the fact that everyone will have a different reaction to them is perhaps the greatest strength of all: they let the play interactively and yet almost-subconsciously crafted his own story out of each game. If you have maybe 15 minutes, you can try all three and have spare time to ponder over them.

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