Slivers of Silver is a series of 8 posts exploring various game concepts. It is based on a recent road trip through Nevada, titled Beyond the Neon, taking place in December 2015. You can read all of those currently published on QM here. This series is dedicated to the author’s road trip companions, poets Jason, Libby, and Justine.
One. LOOK: Be Surprised. The screen opens to the parking lot of the Madras Hotel, located in Madras, Oregon. In this game, you are tasked with investigating the newness in the virtual environment. The game developers have identified key points the player can interact with to acknowledge their looking at what is in front of them. The real challenge is by using the autonomous screen capture feature to take shots of the hotel and focus on areas that have not yet been highlighted by the game developers. Playing while logged in with an account will sync the game to a database that connects to all other players who have highlighted various features and corners of the environment. In an unlockable game mode, the player has to achieve the same goal as mentioned while being stalked by a Slender Man-esque figure.
Two. In this game the main protagonist is a writer who visits this historical bridge in Southern Oregon. The character’s history is one of mental illness. The game only lasts for ten minutes, with a countdown timer counting down to 0:00; however, during these ten minutes, the character must fight the urge to jump from the bridge (into the ravine below) by typing as many “new thoughts” as possible into the in-game journal. An algorithm uses several factors to rate the “newness” of the text to determine if it is valid or not. If the player does not type creatively fresh filler for the journal, the character will move slightly forward and ultimately reach the bridge. The game is first person and features a photo-realistic graphic environment.
Three. In this procedurally-generated the game, the player must control their character who is stuck at the bottom of a very large ravine. The ravine is deep at nearly 1,000 feet in depth, and the goal of the game is to escape from the ravine. Built upon the history of survival games, the player must continue to protect the self from the elements, including but not limited to dust storms, snow and severe cold, flash floods, and wild animals. Additionally the character has limited food supply. Many runs through this game will result in failure (death); however, the game is not impossible. Once the character finds an escape route and reaches the top of the ravine, they must then backtrack (or choose to proceed forward) until they find a major highway/state road, all the while surviving from the factors previously mentioned.
Four. In this game the player is a god resting upon a fictional version of the northern Nevada desert. The game features an open world of snowy desert, for the game takes place in December. In this game the player must entertain the god through the act of creation; however, the god is in no way completely all-powerful, and must deal with desert terrain in the winter–so many things will not grow and many living beings will not survive for very long here. As a “concept game” the god will most likely enjoy their exploration in creativity in such a dire landscape; however, the potential for a narrative to unfold through algorithms and “unexpected intelligence” is possible.
Five. Where does the road in the 21st century take you? One part Mad Max, one part Truck Driver Simulator, and one part Fallout, this game explores the emptiness of space and the life waiting within the emptiness. The game is in third person (like Grand Theft Auto) and features all core features of an “open world.” Cars can be stolen. NPCs have lives. Quests can be taken. Unlike most open world games to date, however, this game is very big and very empty. It will take far more patience to find any significant instances/occurrences of life inside it. However, finding the active towns and strange characters and plot lines will only be that much more rewarding after so much sorrowful searching.
Six. In this game, which is more interactive fiction than game, the player takes the role of a cattle farmer who is spending several hours on the ragged stretch of Nevada field with their father. There are many decisions in crafting who the main character, the child, will become, but it all comes out of paying attention (or not) to the father’s stories, wisdom, and questions. Will you be the rebellious, disenchanted future-runaway? Will you craft an obedient, respectful child who will gladly follow in their father’s footsteps? Play this game to find out.
Seven. Similar to above, this is another dialog-rich, “interactive story.” Broken down on the side of the lonely desert highway, you are forced to wait for another vehicle to arrive and then offer you assistance; however, there is survival needs that must be met (coldness, hunger, emotional breakdowns) in order to come off as anything other than a raving lunatic when a car stops to provide help. Will your lack of eating cause you to not request gasoline when the nicest family stops and offers you a ride? Will your incredible cold lead to hypothermia that keeps your teeth chattering so you are unable to speak? What will you do to pass the time before the next vehicle arrives? If you fail at your first few attempts, will you be able to survive a night out there, on that desolate highway? And how would you feel about life the next morning?
Eight. There is a dark secret in Winnemucca, Nevada, and it isn’t the quantity of gamblers at any given point. What is that dark secret and will you discover it? Do you even want to discover it? This survival horror game features a non-combat environment that is very dark and very violent. Considered “intellectual” by all reviewers, the game will provide countless options to identify leads to a definition of what the underlying horror of Winnemucca is, or is not. This game is relatively open and features a handful of beginnings and many more handfuls of endings. It also only takes place at night, takes place in the winter, and features a rotating cast of protagonists (chosen at random or by the player’s decision). Oh, and if the player doesn’t want to find the dark secret, they can spend the evening playing poker or digital slots at one of the many casinos on the main drag.
Greg Bem is a contributing writer and the current “Gaming Editor” of QM. He is a librarian, technologist, gamer, and adventurer.