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.
Nine. In this game you must try to escape Winnemucca, NV. Unfortunately your exit from this virtual rendition of the classic northern Nevada town is barred by constant distraction. It is not so much that you find anything particular in Winnemucca interesting, but rather it’s that everything is bombarding you to be noticed. People come up to you to talk. Cars get in your way to make their presence known. Signs shine and must be confronted. The game is first person and every time there is a distraction, you are forced to engage it and see its response. There are literally thousands of distractions within the game. It is your task to find the quickest way out–by avoiding as much culture as possible.
Ten. A game based on psychosis, as is appropriate in the desert. This game on its surface is quite simple: drive your vehicle and stay within the lines, for an enduring period of time. However, as the terrain drifts past and you find yourself losing intensity on your grip, you’ll notice that breaking the rule of the game (and suffering total point loss) provides an alternative benefit: the emergence of visions. Yes, break away from the structures of humanity and you will see new truths you have never imagined. A game like this borders on simulator and horror. What will you learn, and how much will you sacrifice to learn it?
Eleven. You play as a young female protagonist who has to ride in her vehicle with her parents through the desert to her family’s new home in California. Unfortunately, the mountain valleys haven’t really taken hold and your imagination has had to kick itself into gear to keep you occupied. This game is a platformer that involves watching the horizon’s terrain through a car window. A character (the avatar can be chosen by the player in advance) is guided across mountaintops and fields and high desert terrain. A simple game, it will enchant and remind you of the simple distractions we all create when we’re children.
Twelve. In an alternative reality, a historical fiction, the world never truly advanced through the industrial revolution and wars are still waged on horseback with primitive weaponry. That did not prevent the colonies and the pioneering of North America, however, and the desert remains a space of war and bloodshed. In this game, which is a first person shooter, you are one of hundreds of colonists who have continued to spread into the Western American continent. In what is northern Nevada, the game’s environment features a war against hordes of Native Americans. This game, which promises controversy, racially stereotypes the natives and does not even provide relevant information on who the enemy is; instead, they are mythologized and characterized as evil. Because the game is about the mass casualties of war, there is no way to play a “hero” in the game. You are one of countless; you are an anonymous warrior. You will die. You will get the chance to play many of the battling colonists. The game’s final score is determined by how many lives were lost on your side before you defeated the enemy.
Thirteen. This adventure game takes place on the Eastern coast of Lake Tahoe, which is an alpine lake. The game takes place today. In it there are no other people. Humanity has faced countless crises and you are one of those Americans who fled into the mountains to seek solace and safety and peace. You expected more to be here, at Lake Tahoe, but they are gone. This game is not about horror or fear but about resolve and resolution. In the game, you as protagonist explores freely along the coast and can explore the entirety of it. At various points there are poetic interludes that feature the musings–heartfelt, reminiscent, sorrowful–of the protagonist. There are several endings available, including returning to the road to head to a new destination, taking one’s own life in the serene beauty of the lake, or deciding to create a new, lakeside home to build one’s future in. The game also features an online system for players to create and “post” their own thoughts and musings on the game. The message board derivative is designed to last for years so at various points in actual human history different players can return to this Lake Tahoe simulator with new ideas and reflections on their life.
Fourteen. Based on the classic game of “hide and seek,” this digital game takes place in the high desert during winter, and is slightly darker and more disturbing than the game that inspired it. Lost with several friends, and far from any road or town, you are now out of food and it is getting dark. Your friends, who have all disagreed with one another (including yourself) have since fled the pack and are off on their own. The game starts with you (the player) recovering from a traumatic mental breakdown. Now you are filled with rage and must find at least one of your friends, in order to not starve or freeze to death. This never should have been the situation, but there is no alternative. This game is designed to inspire certain negative emotions within the player, and shed light on what types of decisions are involved in desperate acts. The game should also “fail” in that it does not provide alternative options, and does not justify why it was created.
Fifteen. You have been awarded an enormous sum by an anonymous benefactor, but you can only use it for one thing: to build a new property in the middle of the high desert of Nevada. You must also spend all of the money awarded at once and immediately. The game plays much like the Sims, but with little to no avatar interaction (at least in the first release of the game; it is anticipated that modders will create the necessary extensions for the game to support avatar interaction and potential narratives). How you spend the resources and build up your property is up to you. Will you build a gas station? Will you create a roadside attraction? The game features a “smart review system” which analyzes your end structure by using image search engines and noticing redundancies and unique content. Your structure can be functional or purely aesthetic in nature. Like Minecraft, the Sims, or similar titles, the platform allows for nearly infinite customization. There is an online community accessible in-game that allows for creations to be shared and promoted.
Sixteen. You’re a young person living in a crumbling town. This role playing game explores the brutality of poor desert communities in the United States. The narrative is strong and covers many powerfully bleak topics including drug addiction, lack of resources, tourism, etc. Though the game takes place in a small setting, the sandbox qualities (like Grand Theft Auto) are still present, and there are multiple paths one can take to explore the moral choices so popular in gaming today. As a nod to early generations of role-playing games, this game also features a dynamic multiplayer system that allows for the single-player game to be explored with multiple players (multiple protagonists), a first of its kind in the genre.
Greg Bem is a contributing writer and the current Gaming Editor of QM. He is a librarian, technologist, gamer, and adventurer.