The public perception of video games has not been what one would call ‘positive’ the past two decades. More often than not, the media will play up the graphic images and violence that are in a relatively small proportion of popular Triple-A games with massive budgets and widespread advertising.
As a result of this, the general public’s attitude towards video games is less than favorable. Especially when the ideas of video games as an art form or sophisticated storytelling mechanism are tossed around. But change is in the air, as within the last five to ten years, independent game developers have been leading the charge to change the public perception of video games.
One such example is Night in the Woods. After a successful Kickstarter campaign, the three-person team of Infinite Falls released Night in the Woods in early 2017. Night in the Woods tells the story of Mae Borowski, a 20-year-old anthropomorphic cat who has just returned to her hometown of Possum Springs after dropping out of college.
The game has been celebrated for its organic storytelling, with the developers and writers tackling issues such as mental health, small town economics, sexuality, friendships, religion, and family. The plot takes its time to unfold, but as a result, the characters feel like real people that you might have met. Especially Mae, a young woman whose plan to aimlessly drift through life is halted upon returning home and realizing that her town and her friends have changed in her absence.
An excellent game for hardcore gamers and casual gamers alike, Night in the Woods has won multiple awards, including “Excellence in Narrative” and the “Seamus McNally Grand Prize” at the 2018 Independent Games Festival Competition Awards, in addition to the prize for best narrative at the 14th British Academy Games Awards.
As a result of the developers of Night in the Woods prioritizing storytelling mechanisms, they joined the ranks of independent game developers who have recently achieved critical and commercial success through their compelling narratives. I believe that independent games will only continue to gain popularity, especially as access to them becomes more feasible and a more diverse crowd enters the game development scene.
Night in the Woods is currently available to download on Steam, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and (soon) mobile iOS/Android devices.
Girl Museum Inc.