The Rise of "Walking Simulators"

Most new console generation have brought a different type of game style to it, that wasn’t capable on earlier systems. The fifth console generation gave us 3D worlds with the likes of Super Mario 64, Crash Bandicoot, and Virtua Fighter on the Nintendo 64, PlayStation, and Sega Saturn, respectively. These 3D worlds changed gaming, showing us that there’s more to this than side scrolling. These more powerful machines also made creating great stories even more possible for developers.

These 3D worlds kept expanding, eventually turning to online gaming as a way to avoid creating empty, barren worlds. This was most prominent in the seventh console generation, with easily capable internet abilities, with reportedly over 25 BILLION hours spent playing Call of Duty. It’s easy to see just how important this newer type of game has become.

Away from the console space, PC gamers have been creating their own unique form of game: MOBAs. With the current console generation not pushing the envelope of what gaming can be, players have gotten anxious for a new type of game. MOBAs are slowly making their way to console, but seeming to have fairly soft press coverage and attention, with Battleborn being the best example of this.

This is where the “Walking Simulators” come in. With some gamers experiencing “open world fatigue” due to The Witcher: Wild Hunt, Batman: Arkham Knight, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, and Fallout 4 all coming out one after another, it’s easy to see how one could get tired out of massive open world, even if they are spectacular worlds. Another contributing factor to people falling away from these bigger games is just simply a lack of time, whether due to work or family or other hobbies. More and more of these gamers are looking for a short, contained experience that will leave them with a strong, lasting impact.

Gone Home came out in 2013 to immense critical acclaim as well as commercial success. Gone Home started the wave of walking simulators, and with it recently coming to console and making quite a splash. The developers behind Gone Home, Fullbright Studios, have announced a console deal with Microsoft for their new game Tacoma.

Since Gone Home made quite an impression we have seen more of these walking simulators coming out, it’s a possibility these could be the new gaming experience many of us are looking for. The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, Firewatch and more have all been released on console within the past year, garnering some substantial success critically and commercially. Firewatch debuted at number one on the top PSN downloads for it’s release month, showing us that gamers are looking for more and more games like this.

These games are not pushing any envelope of what consoles can do. Most of these could easily run on a PlayStation 2 if the graphics were dumbed down enough. Something else is selling these games, and it isn’t the technical ramifications of what they can do. It’s that they are short, sweet, and most importantly, something different.

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Gamers are constantly looking for the next new thing and since VR is still on the horizon and quite pricey, maybe these walking simulators are exactly what we need to keep the pool from stagnating. It seems clear that they are a hit, amidst more games like this coming out, it is safe to say that we have not seen the last of the walking simulator.

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