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Adventure Games: A Brief Status Report

/ Jan 18th, 2013 No Comments

The Curse of Monkey Island
The Curse of Monkey Island

The Curse of Monkey Island

Adventure games appear to be in a slump. The genre which is famous for its story and puzzle driven games is seemingly adrift in an industry that prides itself on pushing the boundaries of entertainment and constantly moving forward. Games like Day of the Tentacle, King’s Quest and Monkey Island are treated more as museum pieces by people who are quick to point to them saying that, though still entertaining, the genre they represent has long since stopped being important. Some are even blunter saying that adventure games are dead.

The claim that the adventure genre is no longer relevant and is even dead would be true except such statements are based on assumption, not fact. The truth is that adventure games are not dead in the least. For in order for something to no longer be relevant then it must not have any importance and in order for something to be dead it must cease to continue existing. These reasons disqualify adventure games from being dead. But why exactly is it surviving?

The biggest criticism that is brought up regarding adventure games is that they have not really evolved the way other genres have. They have c0me a long way from their days as simple text adventures, which underwent a gradual shift before settling on the simple point and click style of play that’s remained constant to this day.

Other genres has evolved continuously. Compare an adventure game with a role playing game such as The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim. The difference is pretty staggering. The things gamers are able to do are almost endless. The controls are more in depth giving them great control of their character in a world that is huge, full of possibility and a story that is just engrossing as one they’d play in an adventure game. The game is evidence of how far RPGs have come.

Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers

Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers

Adventure games definitely have lagged behind. Though adventure games have come far, they more often tend to use 3D graphics and are still a powerful medium to use to tell stories that are advanced not through brawn but by brain. The gameplay still remains the same with much of the actions of the characters being controlled via a mouse which does practically everything from walking, talking and using objects. It’s this constant style that is so common and unchanging, which often draws complaints of the genre not changing from gamers. However, maybe there is a reason why. After all, if isn’t broken why fix it? Many gamers enjoy the simple controls and formulas adventure games use because there’s no hassle involved.

Games like Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers work because of this simplicity, which makes it easier to advance in its engrossing story and the intellectual challenges it gives to players. The last thing many players want is to be burdened by complexity. Adventure games offer the kind of simplicity many desire through its point and click mechanics. It works well and what works well shouldn’t be considered outdated but applauded.

That doesn’t mean it shouldn’t still be improved upon because it mostly definitely can be done in adventure games.  Resonance by Wadjet Games is a good example that proves this. It does initially feel like an ordinary adventure game but playing more proves that the old saying about never judging a book by its cover is true. The game uses a unique game mechanic letting players to switch instantaneously between four different characters, each having their own unique abilities that must all be used to advance the game. To top that off there is the use of a highly unique memory system that makes the game unique in solving puzzles and talking to characters. It’s an inventive feature that shows that adventure games can still offer surprises and spice up the traditional formula adventure games use.

The Dig

The Dig

Despite its capability to evolve into something greater, mainstream gaming companies still seem adverse to the genre, which is the biggest reason why adventure games have been in something of a slump. The industry just doesn’t seem to see the appeal of making them as much as they used to anymore instead grasping onto other genres of games.

First-person shooters in particular have been noticeably increasing because of how action packed they are. Many gamers (not all thankfully) seem to be more inclined to action. After all why play a game when the gamer has to use logic to unlock a door when they can shoot it open instead? Action and excitement: these are the main factors that seem to drive sales of games more so than logic. This certainly explains why the exploits of Master Chief still remain as popular as when he started in 2001.

If the mainstream gaming companies are dropping the ball on adventure games then others are gleefully picking it up. The genre has been happily embraced mainly by independent gaming developers and publishers. Recent adventure games like Chaos on Deponia and Resonance are products not of the mainstream gaming world but from companies who are much smaller and less noteworthy than them. Companies such as Wadjet Eye games have been founded especially for the purpose of making adventure games. The company’s catalog of games which includes the Shivahthe Blackwell Legacy and Gemini Rue are all adventure games that have not only been well received and innovative but have made the company successful both critically and financially proving that there is still an interest in adventure games.

Not just independent companies have taken advantage of the mainstream gaming companies. Amateur game makers often dabble in making games themselves which are most often released for free. A good example would be Francisco Gonzalez who is an amateur game designer who has become a something of a household name in the amateur adventure scene because of his games that make up the supernatural adventure series Ben Jordan: Paranormal Investigator. The series, lasting a total of eight separate games and which has recently come to an end, is entirely free. No money is being made off of them. The only money Gonzalez makes comes from people who donate to him voluntarily. If cost equals quality then the games prove that something free is an indication of high quality as the games are challenging, well told, fun and a testament to the love Gonzelez has for adventure games.

Dreamfall: The Longest Journey

Dreamfall: The Longest Journey

It’s because of the enjoyment gamers like him still have for gamers that has fully prevented big gaming companies from abandoning the genre. Though not frequent, they still do make games and are daring enough to create them. For example, last November,  Funcom announced they had begun pre-production on the third game in their critically acclaimed The Longest Journey franchise, which has excited many fans who are still disappointed with the cliffhanger ending of Dreamfall: The Longest Journey. In the same month French gaming publisher Anuman Interactive also announced that they will be publishing two games under development by game developer Microids: Syberia 3 and Dracula: The Shadow of the Dragon. Both games are continuations of two of the developer’s most popular adventure game franchises.

Such announcements show that adventure games are far from being finished as do the evidence of their lingering interest and appeal. The claims that there are dead should be ignored as mere cynicism without merit and a foolhardy conclusion. Not only is the fact that they are still being made a testament to the genre’s tough resilience but there are still frontiers that the genre is capable of going to. If the mainstream gaming companies still refuse to take them there then it will be more assuredly arrive there thanks to the independent game makers and players who still appreciate them.

Jonathan Anson

Jonathan Anson

A resident of Southern California, Jonathan Anson has been a lover of games ever since his father brought home a Windows 95 computer where he was first introduced to his first games. He previously worked for The Gamer Studio before jumping ship to Gaming Illustrated where he can be found showcasing his other love: writing. He is also in the process of attempting to acquire an AA degree in Journalism from Saddleback College.
Jonathan Anson

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