With all of the talk about violent videogames and if they possibly are harmful to children or cause certain people to be aggressive, I think that now is as good of a time as ever to maybe slow things down a bit and take a look at the other side of gaming. You know the side, the side that isn’t based on space marines, realistic military-grade weapons and vendettas. The stuff that brings you to another place entirely and makes you feel like a kid again. Some people spend their lives running away from this whole thing, in some vain attempt at remaining “adult” and “grown up.”
Oddly enough, we saw two great games that highlight this kind of fantastical journey released on the same exact day, and those were; Ni No Kuni and The Cave. Both games took the focus away from the usual kind of game narrative and pulled the player into fantasy worlds where the rules of reality didn’t seem to matter as much. For Japanese RPGs this might seem like standard fare, but Ni No Kuni has that distinctive and very much-beloved Studio Ghibli touch to it. The only way to really describe Studio Ghibli is with one word; wonder. Studio Ghibli bring the concept of wonder into any project that they do, and Ni No Kuni was no different. It was a very personal game that yes, did get serious at times, but the game itself was still just full of wonder.
The Cave brings the same element of wonder into gaming, but does so with a bit more whimsy and less of the Japanese mysticism inherent in anything Studio Ghibli produce. I mean, the concept alone of a talking cave is kind of ridiculous, obviously, especially one that is narrating all of the action that goes on while trying to explain the past history of the Cave and comically failing to instill a sense of dread. It is the kind of stuff we’ve grown to expect from Ron Gilbert and Tim Schafer and a welcome departure from the very serious world of gaming.
Both games were able to transport you into their worlds and suck you away from the heavy realities that we all face on a daily basis, which is important for a game to do. There weren’t those moments where you felt overwhelmed by the dreary dread that comes with a lot of games and instead the sense of adventure and discovery were paramount. Even if things were serious at times in both games, both games found a way to make you feel like a kid again, when anything was possible and fear was something to be laughed at. The crushing weight of the world seemed to melt away thanks to both games; there were no bills, no cars that need to be fixed, no babies crying and no phone ringing.
This once again feels like something that is screaming out to us as a society to slow down every once in a while and appreciate the little things in life. We were all children once and know what it felt like, why not revisit that place and maybe clear your mind?