How many times over the past few years have we heard the words “Walking Simulators” thrown about to describe games that allegedly have little to no mechanics in them? That’s not to say that you don’t interact with the environment in those particular titles it’s just that a specific subset of the “gaming community” has used this phrase as, for lack of a better word, a “derogatory” term to describe these games. It implies that all you do in the game is just walk around with little interaction with the game’s environment or characters. While I do understand what they mean by the term it’s starting to sound incredibly petulant and the only word that comes to mind when trying to describe the person who uses it is entitled.
Trying to figure out the exact point in time when the phrase was first coined would be a Herculean undertaking but I imagine it has to be around the time that Dear Esther was released. It was the first game of its kind, at least to more mainstream audiences, and it drew the attention of the majority of people but whether that’s a good thing I’ll leave up to you. It drew battle lines in the sand and people dug their heels in for the longest, coldest war of bullshit to ever hit my timelines, a feat only eclipsed by the gates that followed. Never have I seen so much bellendery on the internet and if it were to happen today it would only add to the large mountain of stupid and pointless things that people will argue about, like framerate.
People spent the better part of their days either defending the game, the developer and attacking any of those who didn’t like the game while the other side spent their time attacking the game, the developer and the people defending the game. It was and still is a load of bollocks! In the words of the great Michael “Air” Jordan: “Stop it. Get some help!”
To those unfamiliar with the game, Dear Esther is the story of a shipwrecked castaway on a remote island where you spent most of your time exploring the area and interacting with its environment though there wasn’t much “gameplay” to be had. Unlike Dear Esther, a game that I have no opinion on at the moment, I have played Firewatch and have noticed that on the Steam store page it’s been tagged with the words “walking simulator” which is like calling Call of Duty a war simulator. It’s bullshit.
If we were to compare aspects of Firewatch that supposedly qualify it as a walking simulator with every point and click adventure then surely they too would fit into that category? In those games, you spent most of your time walking around trying to figure out where to go and spent very little time “playing” the game. Your Sam & Max, Monkey Island and Grim Fandangos would be called walking simulators nowadays and it would do all those games injustice just like it does with Firewatch. Even calling Dear Esther a walking simulator these days is nonsense as well because those words have become meaningless and the people who generally tend to use them are those who continue to play the same types of games while not giving the ones who do something different a chance.
In Firewatch you spend the majority of the game interacting with other characters and having direct input into what your own character says. You don’t spend your time walking around the level(s) while exposition is shot at you audibly but in fact have a direct influence on these events and your choices shape what happens in the game. There is no doubt in my mind that the actual ending of the game is the same regardless of choice but you can’t even use that as a cop-out because there’s been plenty of games that gave you inherent choices to make but the game ends in basically the exact same way anyway. Some of you may put Mass Effect 3 in that category.
The main point of my argument is that there needs to be an end or a tapering at least to the use of the words “walking simulator” because those words are becoming drivel now and are effectively a meme at this point. Like having two graphics cards in your pc and not being able to run game like Dishonored properly or being Joe Biden. The fact of the matter is that while the phrase seemed cool to you when it was first coined it’s become a laughing stock, a way for me to easily find the mong in the crowd so I can point and laugh at them because they’ve clearly lost the meaning of the words.
It’s also an incredibly useless phrase to use when talking about a game because all games are walking simulators, are they not? Instead of jumping ahead and using the term why not take two seconds to think about the game and see if maybe instead of “walking simulator” the word “adventure” can be used? You’re doing the game a disservice and you’re effectively pointing out to the rest of the world that you’re all too happy to jump on a bandwagon so you can be trendy with all the other mongs on that bandwagon. A mongwagon! If you had played the game for more than five minutes you’d realise just how good the game is and how integral the game’s mechanics are in telling a wonderful story.
What pisses me off the most is that phrases like this end up being a trend, like “trigger”, and the overuse of it in situations that it doesn’t actually apply to have made the word into a bloody trope now. Not only that but the people who consistently use it when it doesn’t properly apply are the height of ignorance and asininity.
Play Firewatch, it’s good!