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Indie Rock: Auti-Sim
- Updated: March 6, 2013
I’d forgive thinking this column is getting formulaic. Every week I’m seemingly picking games to talk about that although they’re excellent, mostly they’re all stressing the importance of interactivity being used as a way to better empathise. That’s happening because games which focus on that concept are great and if you aren’t into them then you’re clearly not cool enough yet. Come back when you’ve bought a pair of aviator sunglasses and a leather jacket, loser.
I actually didn’t set out with that intention this week. I wanted to talk about an idea that I’m not going to spoil because I’m just going to do it in next week’s column instead. That other idea was all set up to go until someone forwarded me Auti-Sim. Lemme tell you, other games that purport to put you in someone else’s shoes so you can better understand them don’t have anything on Auti-Sim.
It’s a brief test that’s still currently in development. The version online serves mostly as a proof of concept, but it’s already as effective as any of the other games I’ve talked about here in giving you context for a life that you’re likely not already experiencing.
Auti-Sim establishes you as a young child with an extreme hypersensitivity to social contact. You’re in a playground. It’s loud. It’s filled with other kids. If you walk anywhere near them their dialogue gets too loud to bear, the sound blowing out and getting distorted as your vision is filled with pixelation. Just being near anyone, not even necessarily being directly interacted with, is too much for you to cope with as a character and as a player too.
That distress, that discomfort, it’s not a direct comparison of how someone suffering with an inability to socialise feels, but it’s a start. It makes just the act of being near another human completely unenjoyable and impossible.
Though it’s clearly a side effect of the game not being done yet, all of the models for the other children in the game don’t have anything that differentiates them. It’s the same character dotted around the map. They also don’t move and they don’t have faces either. This actually works to the game’s benefit. If we imagine that the world takes place from within this child’s perspective then character traits from other people aren’t important. Everyone might as well all look the same, not be differentiated by their appearance or their expressions. The only thing relevant about them is that their presence and the sound they’re shouting is making you uncomfortable to the point of panic.
I was curious about what would happen if I tried to leave the playground. I searched around for a small gap in the fence. There’s a part that’s just a bit smaller than everywhere else and you’re able to jump out of it and run away. The world hasn’t been populated by anything else other than the area. There’s just grass for miles and miles around. Perspective when you’re in the playground is hidden by hills all around, but if you run far enough to traverse over one you seem empty green land forever.
There was no way that this was added on purpose, but from it being possible to do in the game I was able to attribute my own meaning to this. All the child would have wanted to do would be to escape whatever’s going to stress them out. They’d run away and totally ignore anything else happening around them. The world around would be tranquil, unoccupied and unimportant as long as they weren’t being actively harassed.
By finding a way to remove myself, I found a way for the child to have peace, even if in real life they would surely be putting themselves in considerable danger.
Drop A Beat, Giuseppe! might be the first of what I’d call “Post-Frog Fractions” games. You’ll know what I mean after you’ve seen it, know that it doesn’t go quite as far as Frog Fractions does, but it’s still a section of the game that’s neatly hidden and you’d easily miss.
The surface game is a lot better than Frog Fractions. You’re a terrible piano player, but you’re performing a recital. People will continually throw things at you to try and get you to stop. You need to bounce those back to score points.
Mashing keys on each side of the keyboard will move you left and right, but they’ll also produce pleasant but poor piano mashing.
It’s silly, it’s fun, it’s basically the opposite of Auti-Sim. Play it to unwind after.