Games recommendations from the Experts

There is indeed a game for everyone.

When pressed for recommendations game makers caution that endorsing a game is akin to recommending a book, a movie or a favourite holiday destination. Everyone’s tastes are different and, as with other forms of entertainment and creative inspirations, tastes develop and can change over time.

Clara Reeves, President of Melbourne-based games development agency Hipster Whale, also noted that people often experience cycles of interest in a genre or style – such as crime or romance – and might binge on them once in a while, only to return to another genre when sated.

“I personally love a good horror experience from time-to-time and believe that games do horror better than anything else, better than books and better than movies,” she said.

What is clear talking to those who make games, teach with games and who have played games for decades, is that what games offer far exceeds a commonly held, and limiting belief that games are made for teenage boys. Or, that the good ones require quick reflex or ‘twitch’ skills which are a common element of shooting, racing or sports game design.

In fact, there are thousands of different games styles and value propositions that provide ‘big-feelings’ both though design and narrative – and through multiple-player or solitary experiences.

There is indeed a game for everyone.

Below is a selected teaser list of game experiences, ranging from indie titles through to triple AAA (blockbusters), chosen for their popularity, curiousity and their ability to produce ‘big feelings’ (and even tears) in a player.

Thanks to Matthew Clark, Co-founder The Voxel Agents; Trent Kusters, Co-Founder and Director The League of Geeks; Katherine Nix-Carnell, Games Programmer Mighty Games Group; Clara Reeves, President Hipster Whale; Anthony Reed, CEO Game Developers’ Association of Australia; and Vincent Trundle, Digital Education Producer ACMI, for their thoughts and recommendations.

Crossy Road was launched in 2011 by Melbourne-based Hipster Whale; conceptualised from the joke ‘Why did the chicken cross the road?’ The game’s simple objective is to get as far as possible without being killed. The game became an instant success garnering 50 million downloads on iOS, Android and Amazon in the first 90 days, post-release. Today, it remains hugely popular with a global audience and is played by 70-year olds and 7-year old fans alike.

Crossy Road

Crossy Road by Hipster Whale

Depression Quest by Zoe Quinn is an interactive fiction, narrative game which falls under the ‘serious games’ genre. In Depression Quest you play as a character living with depression. You are given a series of everyday life events and have to attempt to manage your illness, relationships, job and possible treatment etc. The game was created to spread awareness of depression with a portion of proceeds pledged to the National Suicide Prevention Hotline (USA). While it’s a recommended, empathetic games experience, note that it also can be very challenging to play, especially if you have currently, or have previously struggled with mental health issues.

Dungeons and Dragons ‘D&D’ is a legendary and popular game that can be played on or offline. It is commonly recognised as the foundation game in the role-playing genre. It’s a multi-player fantasy game, in which characters embark on evolving adventures, moderated by a Games (or Dungeon) Master. It’s a fantastic game for those who enjoy being able to craft a character’s story as it progresses. The push and pull between players and their GM is also endlessly entertaining for all involved! It’s a game that can go on and on for days – you can also explore the D&D worlds in book and movies created by its fantasy authors.

Fallout 3 by Bethesda Game Studios is a role-playing, open-world, adventure game set in a post-apocalyptic environment. This game has been created with supportive mechanics (not just a degree of difficulty settings) to help non- ‘twitchy’ players navigate combat scenarios. Players can also choose to play a large amount of the story completely without combat by using stealth and/or conversation options – however, it has been said that exploding ghouls can be a lot of fun!

Firewatch is a first-person mystery adventure game developed by Campo Santo. This is a game that doesn’t require a lot of dexterity, twitch-reactions or controller knowledge. However, it does a fantastic job of immersing you in the life of the main character Henry, a park ranger, and an ‘edge of your seat mystery’. The story is based on the Yellowstone National Park fires of 1988. It has original music by Chris Remo, is beautifully conceived and designed, and has won multiple awards.

Gone Home by Fullbright is a cleverly crafted first-person adventure exploration, which won the British Academy Games Awards for best ‘Debut Game’ in 2013. Set in the mid-90s the plot focuses on a household in Portland, Oregon. Common household objects unlock journal entries and bring to light recent events and family secrets. It’s a game you can play entirely at your leisure, it has plenty of red herrings and the ending will surprise even the most seasoned game player – and possibly induce tears.

Gone Home

Gone Home by The Fullbright Company

Journey is an indie adventure game developed by thatgamecompany. Journey is set in a vast desert in which the player controls a character traveling towards a mountain in the distance. Other players on the same journey can be discovered, and two players can meet and assist each other in their quest, but they cannot communicate via speech or text – the only form of communication between players is a musical chime. The Journey game design experience has been described as moving, even religious, and that playing with unnamed second characters is an emotional master stroke. It was released in 2013 and received critical and commercial success worldwide, becoming the fastest-selling game in the PlayStation Store in both North America and Europe.

The Last of Us by Naughty Dog is a multi-award winning action adventure game, with survival and horror themes. Published by Sony it’s considered by many to be one of the greatest video games of all time and has won over 240 international Game of the Year Awards. Players control Joel, a smuggler tasked with escorting a teenage girl across a post-apocalyptic United States. From the opening scene, the relationships with the characters and their decisions is a key part of the game design experience (and some of the decisions they have to make are very emotional). It is a beautiful example of storytelling in games.

Last Of Us

The Last of Us by Naughty Dog

Machinarium by Amanita Design is a beautiful-looking game which revolves around a series of puzzles and brain teasers, linked together by an adventure story. It is notable in that it contains no dialogue (neither spoken or written). The game instead uses a system of animated thought bubbles which influence the game experience. It has garnered a host of awards for design, art direction and score.

Minecraft by game designer Markus Persson, has been praised for its distinctive  graphics and the creative freedom it gives players, as well as the ease of emergent gameplay – a term used to describe when simple game mechanics enable more complex game situations. In Minecraft the player is tasked with building 3D worlds out of blocks. Multiple game modes are offered including an adventure mode, a survival mode and a creative mode. Its game design is also known as a ‘sandbox’ game, which provides players an almost a limitless scope to build within. Minecraft has introduced millions of children to the digital world, and has become very popular in schools. Recently MinecraftEdu was launched and many teachers, committed to using games technologies in education practice, create and share lesson plans online.

Monument Valley is an indie game developed and published by Ustwo Games. The player leads a princess through mazes of optical illusions and impossible objects.  It has been described as a beautiful Zen-like adventure and its visual style was inspired by Japanese prints and minimalist sculpture and was designed so that each frame would be worthy of public display. While it has been criticised for its lack of difficulty and its short length, it was named Apple’s best iPad game of 2014 and a sequel, Monument Valley 2, was released in June 2017.

Push Me Pull You was developed in Melbourne by House House. Named after the two-headed ‘pushmi-pullyu’ character in Doctor Dolittle, two or four players control one character with a single worm-like body. Teams then wrestle for the control of a ball. Its website describes the experience as being “a bit like a big hug, or playing soccer with your small intestines!”

image from game Push Me Pull You

Push Me Pull You by House House

The Resistance designed by Don Eskridge is a digital board game, described as AMAZING by a local games developer. At the start of the game, one third of the players are randomly and secretly chosen to be government spies infiltrating the rest of the group (the Resistance). One of the players is selected to be the Mission Leader. The government group members are made aware of each other without the Resistance knowing – the only thing the Resistance knows is how many government members exist, but not who they are. “It’s a great game for a good group of friends to play with a few bottles of wine. It’s social deception at its finest!” she said.

Solitaire In the Microsoft Klondike version of the game solitaire, seven piles of cards are laid from left to right with one card turned up. From left to right, each pile contains one more card than the last. The aim of the game is to build up a stack of cards starting with two and ending with King, all of the same suit. Once this is accomplished, the goal is to move this to a foundation, where the player has previously placed the Ace of that suit. Once the player has done this, they will have ‘finished’ that suit and when all suits are finished the player would have won. There are many variants of the solitaire game (not just the Klondike variant made popular by Microsoft) and there are many games you can play with a pack of playing cards, providing hours and hours – in fact years – of fun!

For more games information, recommendations and opportunities to meet like-minded game players and makers be sure to check out the MIGW program details.

Melbourne International Games Week 2017 runs from 22–29 October 2017 in venues across Melbourne.

Note to parents and carers: games classification in Australia is largely governed by a distributor classification process in combination with the Interactive Games and Entertainment Association (IGEA). We advise reading game reviews and engaging with the digital games your children play to better assist them to navigate complex visual and narrative material.