Cool Games Without Guns
Give these lead-free titles a try!
Guns are back on the agenda in the US, where the National Rifle Association has tried to lay the blame of the latest school shooting tragedy at the feet of the games industry. Although claiming games are more dangerous than guns is a laughable stance to take, maybe we do have to take stock of the type of entertainment our industry churns out. Sometimes, I get tired of just killing stuff and our in-game preoccupation with destroying 'the other.' This and the launch of Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch has got me thinking about games without guns.
A quick look at this week's games charts reveals that Ni No Kuni is number one, a welcome change from the usual gun-toting AAA title that occupies that position. This week, whimsy rules the roost, in the UK at least. In the US, Ni No Kuni has failed to knock Call of Duty: Black Ops II off the top spot and sits in second. A scan down the top ten games in both countries shows that guns and violence dominate. Just three out of the top ten titles don't involve guns or in the case of Skyrim, limb-lopping sword swinging.
In contrast, the UK box office chart offers us Les Miserables at number one, and then we have a few dramas, including magical realism with Life of Pi, a screwball comedy, a Tarantino movie and a Stallone movie. That's a pretty nice mix of genres. If the film industry was anything like the games industry, the chart would feature three Stallone movies, at least two Tarantino movies and maybe something starring Vin Diesel, every single week, to the exclusion of almost anything else. Yeesh, how boring would that be? Oh, wait...
So in the name of proving that there is more to gaming than just shooting stuff, I've compiled a list of the best games without guns. Some are old, some are new, but all of them are gun-free. The omission of sword-play games is intentional, as they serve the same purpose as a gun game ie. to kill, maim and throw blood at the screen.
Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch
I have to start with this fairytale masterpiece from LEVEL 5 and Japanese animation heroes, Studio Ghibli because it's a breath of fresh air in the sweaty locker room of the space marine obsessed games industry. Here we have a game that focuses on capturing enthusiasm from the hearts of willing NPCs and sharing it with those who have had their hearts broken to return happiness to the land and defeat the White Witch. Awww. Now doesn't that just make you smile and feel all happy? As you would expect of Studio Ghibli, we get to play in a world of tree giants, cat kingdoms and Welsh fairy kings with lanterns hanging off their noses. Surely that's what gaming should be all about way more often.
Enter a mysterious desert world and start your journey. You are a robed figure, whose only power is a mystical scarf that somehow helps your travel. As you walk across sand dunes, you come across the ruins of what look like once great civilizations. Sometimes you meet another player, but with no world chat, you can only communicate through playing together. You don't play against each other. You don't have to kill to proceed; you don't even have to acknowledge them. The choice is yours. This is a game where emotional connections are made and then you move on. It's like a metaphor for life and Journey's quiet power should not be overlooked ' this is meditative, contemplative gaming at its best.
This is another one of those little indie titles that appear on download and succeed in taking us to new and interesting places. It's visually striking, as you play a little silhouette boy walking through a side-scrolling, monochrome, misty forest. With only a jump and action button, you must traverse a variety of puzzles, accompanied by a sense of unease in this land inhabited by giant spiders and bear traps laid by an unknown hunter. Limbo is a quiet puzzle game that unsettles and amuses with its quirky play on our fears of being lost in the woods.
This is the third game in my list that comes as a download only, which only serves to highlight that indie is where it's at for games that try something new and awe-inspiring. You play a little boy enters a magical kingdom that is completely white. By throwing black paint, the environment is slowly revealed to you. A splash of black may reveal a set of steps or a doorway and you must follow the golden footsteps of the eponymous swan to find the ruler of the kingdom. Once again, this is a game that puts all its eggs in the simplicity basket and creates an absolute delight, as you slowly discover the world around you. Who needs guns?
Beyond Good and Evil
Our hero is Jade and she's armed, not with a gun, but with a camera. These two things alone make Beyond Good and Evil ahead of its time. Not only does violence play second fiddle to story, but the female lead is dressed in jeans and a t-shirt and doesn't feature on the cover in a highly sexualized pose. Ubisoft has confirmed that the long-awaited sequel is still on the cards. I'm just hoping that they won't replace the camera for a gun, in a misguided attempt to update it and thus strip all charm out of the game. BGE is a romping adventure that balances great characters, story and action set pieces. And that's why it's still a cult favorite.
I could have picked any number of point-and-clicks, but Broken Sword is one of the best. From the witty dialogue to the well-drawn characters of Nico and George Stobbart, the squabbling on-off lovers, the Broken Sword games have longevity for very good reason. Fortunately for us, Charles Cecil reached his Kickstarter target last summer, so the fifth game in the series should be coming our way soon, dishing up more humor, excitement, adventure and puzzles that err on just the right side of obscure.
We're back to the world of Japanese whimsy for a stroll around the village that's inhabited by pigs, owls and talking cats. Ah, Animal Crossing. It's like gaming therapy. Come home from a stressful day at work and spend a few hours checking your letter box for messages from your animal pals. Then it's time to do a spot of fishing to populate the town aquarium or dig for fossils. And when you've finished weeding and digging for treasure, why not attend the full moon festival? Go on, this is no stress gaming to make the world a better place.
Okay, so in Ico you are armed with a little sword, but the main aim of the game is to escape from the castle and protect Yorda, the delicate girl who seems to glow white in the dark shadow of the tower. Playing as the little horned boy, your sandals slap against the stone steps that lead you along precipitous walkways that stretch as far as the eye can see and huge towers overlooking the sea. To escape the castle you must solve the puzzles, turning huge cogs and opening gateways, without letting Yorda get caught by the dark shadowy forces that keep trying to pull her back. And the best bit is, it's all played in a fictional language, so much like Journey it relies on conveying emotion to engage you. I've yet to play a game that has touched me like this one did. Do yourself a favor and down load the HD pack with Shadow of the Colossus now.
With so many great games without guns to choose from, maybe it's a good excuse to have a break from killing things in our spare time. As gamers, we know that there's more to gaming than just shooting stuff. However, we seem to struggle to spread the word about all the non-violent games we enjoy. We're not all gun-crazed kill-porn addicts, we also spend an awful lot of time talking to cats who can talk back and collecting magic coins. Now where's the harm in that?
Most played: Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch (PS3)
Most wanted: The Last Guardian
Tell Chella what you think! Email her at : Chella@gameindustry.com.