Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture was a hotly anticipated game, winner of Gamespot’s Best of E3 2014 award. Yet it’s not what an older generation would associate with video games – instead, it’s part of a growing trend in story-driven, mature content.
The game – in which a village has been abandoned, leaving only glowing ghosts of former residents to tell you their stories – is certainly not for children. It’s fragmented and slow, like reading a series of vignettes. After half an hour I was so intrigued I wanted to bust out the diagrams, noting everyone’s relationships to each other.
And though like me you may loathe such distinctions, the creative talent behind the game elevates it to a kind of “high art”. The music in the game has even entered the official classical charts, a sign of just how masterful the creators of this game are.
Undoubtedly the developers at The Chinese Room are innovators, and no strangers to challenging gamers’ expectations. But developers like them would simply go bankrupt without one salient fact: More and more people want video games they can justify playing as grown ups.
For the same reason, comic books have become noticeably more mature over the years. Zombie apocalypse series The Walking Dead consistently tops the comic charts, creator-owned comics have flooded the market and even Superman has swapped wholesome Americana for existential fears. Now the video game medium is shifting towards adults as their largest audience grows older.
What’s so fantastic about this is that we’re starting to see video games of previously unimaginable depth and complexity. Granted, technological innovations are also responsible for this, but if you briefly survey the video game landscape we’re increasingly seeing art instead of whimsy.
The Last of Us, a horror game, won countless awards for its immersive, emotional narrative; Batman Arkham Knight carried a mature rating, despite featuring a superhero associated with children’s comics; Grand Theft Auto 5, a brilliant satire of Western culture, has shipped 54 million copies to date. This all forces the media, critics and academics to take video games seriously as an art form.
Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture is a prime example of this new wave of interactive storytelling – there’s arguably no “game” element to it. It’s perhaps better described as virtual-reality promenade theatre, though I doubt that’d be good for the marketing campaign.
Image Credit – Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture by The Chinese Room and Santa Monica Studios