17 March 2023

Returning to games

Viking Raiders was a long time ago. That wonderful, innocent age of gameplay alone, and writing games in Basic, is what gave me the career I have today. A few forays into PC gaming followed: Civilization, one of the Star Wars ones, Myst (completed), and Riven (incomplete) were followed by years of nothing, until a little phone gaming (well, really an extension of my middle-aged enthusiasm for pool by way of 8 Ball).

The gift from a very kind colleague of an XBox One opened the door a crack. Leaving others to their Roblox, I started out with Red Dead Redemption, which had intrigued me since finding out about it when it launched during my non-gaming years.

Red Dead Redemption is simply miraculous. It was my first experience of a game both vast in scale and minute in detail. The realism of the trackways through a turn-of-the-century Western landscape join with a tangible plot and rendering which is good enough to create a reality which compels. I’m only at the start, but I could watch it for hours.

Red Dead Redemption

Red Dead Redemption is hardly suitable fayre for the brood, however. By chance, my youngest and I stumbled on Unravel. This game is a natural successor to Myst in its beautiful rendering, disguising simple physical gameplay. Four factors elevate it way beyond its precursor.

The visuals are simply beautiful: lush, detailed, small in scale but big in realization. The real-world physics remind me of the peerless Thrust. The complexity of the puzzles verges on the fiendish.


But everything is trumped by the profoundly evocative atmosphere. Scandi hygge pairs with a gently compelling soundtrack to tell an achingly nostalgic story, almost melancholic in its depiction of past childhood.

So that’s me, at least for the moment. I can’t see myself wanting any other games until I’ve completed these two. While each has a sequel, only Red Dead 2 seems to have a decent reputation. So I think I’ll be set for some time. Though the lure of Hadrian’s Wall in Assassin’s Creed is beguiling.