As technology moves further along, we see video games move along with it. Massive, sprawling worlds with fantastic graphics and encompassing gameplay are signs that gaming isn't just moving along technologically, but rather they are becoming more expensive to make. Even though the fantastic set pieces and battles in Battlefield may catch our eyes, or the lands found in The Elder Scrolls series may snag our imaginations, it's important to take a look back and acknowledge the titles that shot for the high mark with far less resources.
With independent game developers on the rise, alongside crowd-funding, it seems as though almost anyone with an idea and a bit of technical knowhow can make a video game. Though these endeavors might end up with either not enough funding or too much, it is integral that as consumers of media, we appreciate the efforts of those who made games with far less expenses. It is these groups and individuals that had ideas and dreams, and chose to make them realities regardless of the critical reception they might face.
The poster child for this kind of game over the last generation is Access Games' Deadly Premonition, which was released initially on Xbox 360 and later on Playstation 3 and PC. Rightfully praised for its interesting, borderline ridiculous characters and scenarios, and similarly panned for poor gameplay and outdated graphics, the game is easy to pass off as something of the Rocky Horror Picture Show of video games. It is even featured in the Guinness World Records Gamer's Edition for "Most Critically Polarizing Survival Horror Game". Despite its short comings, it became a cult classic that eventually spawned an improved upon Director's Cut version.
What is important to take from this particularly strange video game is that it accomplished what it set to do with far less means. It tells a story of crime woven with supernatural, with the seams hemmed by characters that are lovably quirky and unapologetically bizarre. The game's protagonist, Agent Francis York Morgan (But you can call him York, that's what everyone calls him) is such a strange personality to follow that it makes the surrounding world seem somewhat normal, and even that might be stretching it. It is aspects like that which show that the game came from love of what was being made, rather than trying to ensure a mega-hit that would sell millions.
One significantly outlandish aspect of the game is the driving. The vehicle handling and physics are weak to say in the least. That said, once you find yourself driving down one of the game's seemingly endless highways, everything changes. As York starts talking to his imaginary friend Zach, you become engrossed in their conversations. Cartoons, film, music, social norms; there isn't a subject that is brought up without impeccable relevance and outstanding factuality.
Looking further in to the protagonist, it becomes apparent that the player is meant to be a representation of the hidden companion Zach. York asks Zach questions that the player should feel inclined to answer, through gameplay or otherwise. York makes a point of including you in almost every scenario, telling you how he feels about the predicament and ensuring that you're up to date with the case. It is a kind of peculiarly heart-warming feeling that isn't often found in video games.
With a larger budget, it would become easier to wash these feelings out with "stellar" gameplay, or "high quality" cutscenes. The problem with high budgets is the need to have returns and profit, ensuring more money could be made from possible future installments and downloadable content. Instead, what happens with a game like Deadly Premonition is that a game is crafted with what was available, free from the desire of sequel opportunities. Given, no developer should want to make a game knowing that it will not sell. With that said, it is refreshing to see that a developer would make a game knowing that on the surface, it doesn't measure up to its competition.
Games like this are a boon to the industry, games that come from an idea born from expression rather than want. For all intents and purposes, a game like Deadly Premonition didn't have to be made. The medium would move forward, with blockbusters and failures going on as they would. What Deadly Premonition excels in doing is creating a middle ground. It refuses to pay attention to its shortcomings, instead engrossing the player in a world they can enjoy at their own pace, seeing and doing what they choose as they like. Regardless of the stiff combat and imperfect graphics and textures, Deadly Premonition proves itself a game that doesn't cater and instead invites itself to be experienced.