On Further Reflection

Rilla and I played through Machinarium over the last couple of days, rekindling our joy in adventure games as a kind of TV replacement. I don’t think I can recommend Machinarium strongly enough. It’s a wonderful game on many, many levels, from the graphical style to the character to the adorable cuteness of every single moment of play. Go play it if you haven’t, is what I’m saying.

One reason that we’re able to enjoy it as much as I do is that Machinarium, like other adventure/puzzle games, is full of time for reflection. When you walk into a new screen you can literally sit there observing, thinking about what it all means, without taking any action. That’s a great feature for a game to have, in complete opposition to the usual situation, which is a requirement for an ever-vigilant gaze and twitchy fingers.

When you can reflect on what’s happening in a game you can also develop a different relationship with it, too. The immediacy of most games gives a kind of intensity and presence in the world which is great, but it’s also nice to be sitting back from the world a bit. For one thing, you can appreciate the world as a world. You can admire where you are in a special way. This also happens on occasion in real-time games when you come across beautiful scenery, say, but it’s usually pretty short-lived (you tend to get attacked by a scorpion or something).

The other genre that does this kind of thing is, unsurprisingly, the turn-based strategy game. In those games you’re given time to reflect in order to consider all the little things you need to do and how they’ll add up to larger effects. In games like Machinarium you’re given time more to understand the current environment and what you could plausibly do to progress the game along. In both cases, you achieve that distance from the game that perhaps detracts from immersion, but enhances a kind of appreciation for the intricacies and meanings present.

In short, I like games when I get a chance to sit back in my chair, rather than hunch forward, filled with urgency about my current task. For one thing, they allow a particularly nice organic co-op play, where you can apply as many brains as you like to contemplating what to do next. For another, they’re soothing in a way that so many games are not.

In conclusion, play Machinarium. Play it with a friend. And take as long as you like.

19 December 2010
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