Nothing makes a gamer happier than feeling superior to some other gamer. For some people, this means hours of practice at a game in order to best their friends and rise up the leader boards. However, that can be a ridiculous amount of work; work that I honestly have no desire to put in to any game. Does this mean I must be relegated to obscurity among my friends and bow to their obvious superiority? Hell no! I just buy and play games that show I have better taste than they do.
Believe me, the feeling of superiority you get when you ask your friend ‘Have you played _______? No? That figures. Just as well; I don’t think you would be able to appreciate the social message this game is trying to convey.’ is the sweetest kind of supremacy. Sure, your friends may start to hate you and think of you as a pretentious douche, but who cares? You can find better friends anyway. Some spoilers may occur in this article, but spoiling games is one of the perks of being better than your friends.
5. Machinarium – The adventure game genre has long been on life support since its heyday on the PC. But recently, the formerly vegetative genre has shown signs of life thanks to the success of Back to the Future and the upcoming Jurassic Park game. Machinarium is an adventure game about a small robot on a quest for…something…To be honest, I don’t know exactly what the game is about. What I do know, is that the game looks gorgeous. The animations are hilarious and the characters (despite never speaking) are extremely compelling. Here is what everyone who has ever played an adventure game has thought to themselves while playing.
“I’m stuck. *Click* Cool, I got a bucket of paint! What if I combine it with this? *Click*…Damn. How about this? *Click*…Damn. *Click* Damn. *Click* Damn. *Click* Damn. *Click* Damn. Well, I give up.”
This is the face of superiority
Despite (or perhaps because of) all this, the game sold about 6 copies (I am estimating of course). Most of the people who played it paid about a penny for it in the Humble Indie Bundle (which game with Braid, which makes the list later). Because no one played the game, or at least didn’t pay much for the privilege, the people who did sure love to look down on everyone else.
Machinarium is also one of the few adventure games I have played with an “I am an idiot. Please solve this for me” button. Any time you get stuck you can click the journal in the upper corner to get an illustrated example of exactly how to solve the puzzle. It takes a very pretentious game to assume the people playing it are idiots.
What to say to your friends about Machinarium so they know you’re better than them: “It’s really a game about consumerism. The robot represents our state in a consumerist society. We passively follow orders to a forgone conclusion. It’s too bad the game doesn’t have a button explaining that to the unwashed masses who play the game. Maybe then they would understand the finer points of the narrative.”
4. Braid – The magnum opus created by Jonathan Blow that turned a relatively unknown developer into the alpha and omega of indie game development. Honestly, I couldn’t name a single game Jonathan Blow worked on prior to Braid. But having the ‘it’ person on your game doesn’t make the game a hit within the opinions of the elite of the digital realm. What makes Braid such a pretentious piece of gaming is the story Braid is built around. You play as a character named Tim (it’s like the word Time but without the ‘e’ at the end); that much is true. Beyond that, your guess is a good as mine. There are some illusions to a princess, but it’s never explicitly explained what relationship Tim has to her. Plus, people on forums discuss the story and its metaphors and illusions and ridiculous things such as that. In the end, any game’s story that can be described using the word ‘rhetoric’ seriously earns a place on this list.
*Snort* Rhetoric *Snort*
What to say to your friends about Braid so they know you’re better than them: “I feel the emotions evoked by Braid lead the player open to interpret the meaning. However, I feel the princess may represent the creation of the atomic bomb and Tim is the scientist responsible for her creation, hence him being depicted as the ‘monster’ of the tale during the brilliant end-game sequence”
3. Mirrors Edge – Imagine a world set in the near future where the government has all but abolished free speech and only a small few still fight to keep the first amendment alive. Well, those individuals are known as ‘Runners’ and they inhabit the world of Mirrors Edge. The reasons Mirrors Edge was given the green light are not hard to surmise. EA was in the middle of a major push to create new intellectual properties and Mirrors Edge (alongside Dead Space) was billed as the next great franchise. Mirrors Edge had everything going for it. The graphics and environments were beautiful, the character movements were fluid, and the gameplay was centered around ‘free-running’ (also known as parkour). Simply search for footage of the gameplay online and it is easy to be absorbed in the fast-paced run and jump mechanics of Mirrors Edge. When the demo was released, gamers lost their collective minds. This game entered its release date riding a train of hype that even Denzel Washington may find to be ‘Unstoppable’.
'We need a hot Asian. This baby will sell like hotcakes!'
Then the full game was released and we all learned that the game was far from perfect. The shooting mechanics in the game were…distinctive. Faith, the main character of Mirrors Edge, handles weapons with all the skill and grace of a limbless baby seal. The cutscenes are less fleshed out and look worse than much of the Flash animations that call the internet home. These faults, along with very poor sales numbers, are most likely what led to the cancellation of the planned sequel (creatively titled Mirrors Edge 2). All is not lost however, because nothing increases a games indie credibility more than poor sales and a canned sequel. Mirrors Edge has earned itself cult status, though that does little to ease the pain of not getting a proper sequel.
What to say to your friends about Mirrors Edge so they know you're better than them: “Did you know that parkour isn’t just about running around in urban environments? It’s about more than that. It is about the fluidity of the human form in motion. Still, it isn’t as pure a form of expression as interpretive dance, but I don’t think the unwashed masses are intelligent enough to understand that yet.”
2. Limbo – Heading back to the XBLA marketplace for this game. Limbo is the tale of a young boy. That’s it. That is the entire story, and it can be summed up in eight words. The world of Limbo is never explicitly defined, but from the title it can be inferred that the young boy is dead and in some kind of limbo (lolz, see what they did there?). The world is entirely comprised of shades of black, white, and grey; and it is absolutely stunning to look at. The gameplay revolved around solving physics puzzles and trying to avoid the games numerous traps designed with gruesome murder in mind.
It's like a 'dead baby' joke for a whole new generation
One of the things that can make a game a hit with the indie crowd is to break what has been considered a social taboo. In the case of Limbo, the taboo that is broken comes in being able to gruesomely kill the young protagonist of the game. In most games where death is a constant factor, children can escape the carnage unscathed. Not the case in Limbo, where a decapitation a minute is not an uncommon occurrence (even more so if you are terrible at physics puzzles). Any game with a stark and previously unseen art style that breaks a taboo in gaming firmly belongs on this list.
What to say to your friends about Limbo so they know you're better than them: “The ending of Limbo isn’t vague if you pay attention to the subtle context clues. Obviously the sister is alive and the boy is the one who is dead. Why else would the environment where she is be brighter? It is clear that the game expected too much from the player base, because anyone with a brain should have been able to see that.”
1. Duke Nukem Forever – Visualize the kind of gamer that one could describe as ‘pretentious’. For most of you reading this, the image that popped into your mind was that of your local barista at Starbucks. Multiple piercings, thick-rimmed glasses, maybe a goatee; this is exactly the kind of person who appreciate ‘ironic humor’. Ironic humor to an indie hipster is choosing to partake in something they normally would not enjoy because ‘wouldn’t it be hilarious if I actually played this?’ Secretly, this is just a way for pretentious hipsters to play games such as Madden NFL 10 without having to lose the indie credibility they have worked so very hard to cultivate. No game typifies a chance to evoke the indie law of ‘ironic humor’ more than a game about a chauvinist with gigantic guns and a 15 year (and counting) development cycle.
The key to a woman's heart is dark glasses and cigars
What to say to your friends about Duke Nukem Forever so they know you're better than them: “Of course I wouldn’t play it on purpose. I find the concept of an apish man toting tons of weapons and ammunition to be ludicrous. But isn’t it hilarious that I would even consider buying something like this; let alone actually do it?”