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The 6 Most “Artcore” Games of E3 2015

As a gamer, E3 is my favorite moment of the year. For almost a week, Los Angeles hosts the biggest gaming convention in the world, where all kinds of games are revealed. This year’s E3 has been pretty much full of surprises. Apart from all the hype that E3 usually generates, there were some games which I thought had a really interesting artistic potential. Here are 6 games that caught my attention, and which I believe might be representative of how video games can be considered as an art form.

ReCore (Xbox One, 2016)

The first announcement that intrigued me was a mysterious game called ReCore. In the reveal trailer of this Xbox Exclusive game, a female protagonist wanders through the desert, along with what seems to be her robot dog. It looks like they’re all alone there, in the middle of nowhere – until they get ambushed by a group of aggressive robots. After a short – but intense – fight, the heroine’s robot dog appears to be making the ultimate sacrifice to save her. All robots are killed in an explosion, and the only thing that remains of the dog is this blue “ball” apparently containing his “soul”. The protagonist inserts the ball into an inanimate robot that was laying there, and the robot comes to life, awaken by this mysterious soul-in-a-ball. Here’s the trailer if you’re still feeling like watching it, now that I’ve spoiled it all: 😛

Unfortunately, no gameplay was shown for this game, then there’s no way to know what it will actually consist in. Yet this game, which is developed by Keji Inafune and by the studio that brought us Metroid Prime, looks definitely promising. The style and mood of the CGI trailer are beyond amazing. A woman and a robot dog all alone in the desert, an apparently devasted world. To me, it felt a little like a mix betweeen Beyond Good & Evil and Journey – I’ve even read some journalists comparing it to the Pixar movie Wall-E. The idea of this “transportable soul” is also really intriguing – it raises questions related to immortality and artificial intelligence. The future will tell us how this game’s scenario intends to deal with these issues, and what kind of game it actually is, but based on this trailer, I think Recore might be a really interesting game.

Horizon Zero Dawn (PS4, 2016)

Xbox has Recore, PlayStation has Horizon Zero Dawn. Both games look similar: they both feature a woman as a protagonist, they both seem to raise philosophical questions, and they are both set in what looks like a post-apocalyptic world.

In terms of gameplay, Horizon Zero Dawn reminded me a little of Team Ico’s Shadow of the Colossus. The titanesque machines that the heroine has to battle are quite impressive indeed, and the game promises to be filled with epic, stylish fights against gigantic robots. While I was really impressed by the game itself, its story also intrigued me a lot. In the world of Horizon Zero Dawn, men used to live in huge cities, filled with buildings that reached the skies and equipped with the most advanced technologies – a world that looks just like ours. But then a mysterious event happened, ending this glorious age and forcing mankind to flee those cities. Now, nature has reclaimed the Earth (or whatever this planet may be), and machines have taken their independence. Once again, questions about our current society are raised – regarding artificial intelligence and society’s dependence on technology. I don’t know how important these questions will be in the final game, but I will definitely stay tuned for more information about it.

Beyond Eyes (Xbox One, PC, 2015)

Beyond Eyes is an independent title that was announced during the Xbox briefing as “coming first on Xbox and PC” – which probably means it will also be released on PS4 in the future. The idea behind this game is, once again, really intriguing and kind of new. The protagonist is a little blind girl who has lost her cat. Being unable to see with her eyes, she has to find out other ways to “see”, or at least feel the world around her, in order to find her cat again.

The way the gameplay develops on that idea is quite fascinating. The game setting is blank, and only bits of the world reveal themselves as the little girl progresses. It seems as though gameplay and scenario are really complementary here – and I believe this game might be interesting in terms of gameplay, and in terms of the subject it deals with.

The Last Guardian (PS4, 2016)

Finally! Nearly 7 years have passed since The Last Guardian was first revealed to the world. After years of troublesome development, and several rumours claiming that the game had been cancelled, the PlayStation exclusive was eventually re-revealed during Sony’s E3 briefing. It is set for release on PS4 (instead of PS3), with Fumito Ueda directing the game. Ueda and his team are behind two masterpieces that have played a huge part in transforming video games into an art form: Ico and Shadow of the Colossus. 

Much like Ico, The Last Guardian is about the relationship between two opposite beings – here, a little boy and a mysterious, griffin-like creature. In spite of their differences and of their unability to speak the same language, they will have to cooperate and help each other. The game’s emphasis on emotion, its minimal gameplay and its uncluttered graphics are good indicators that Fumito Ueda’s third game will most likely be another poetic and artistic experience. And we sure have waited long enough.

Dreams (PS4, release date TBA)

Media Molecule is a studio that shares a really inspiring vision of video games. In both Little Big Planet and Tearaway, they have proved that games, being an interactive medium, aren’t just about what the developers are creating, they’re also about what the gamers can createDreams is still in development, and I had the feeling that Media Molecule wasn’t sure what the final game would look like, in terms of gameplay at least. But what they did have to show was enough to get all excited.

Little Big Planet was about creating your own levels, and Tearaway about letting you shatter the fourth wall between the game-world and the real world. Dreams – as the title implies – is meant to be a dream creator. You get to transform your dreams into a video game, and to play other people’s dreams. Media Molecule only gives you the tools, and you get to create everything, from the characters to the setting. While still looking like an early prototype, this PS4 exclusive definitely looks wonderful – and I can’t wait to see how Media Molecule will manage, once again, to amaze us with their (and our) creativity.

Unravel (Xbox One, PS4, PC, release date TBA)

Unravel might be the cutest game of this year’s E3 – and it’s also the one that has moved me the most. Unravel is published by EA, and developed by a small studio from Sweden, named Coldwood Interactive. The hero is this little puppet guy called Yarny – as in “yarn”, a word which is both a synonym for wool and for “long story”. Yarny represents the two meanings of the word, actually: he’s made of yarn, and his body unravels as he progresses; but he also represents love, and his adventure is like the metaphor of the long journey towards the people you love, and how you have to overcome all kinds of obstacles to connect with them. The red string that unravels behind Yarny represents the bond that connects us all. The idea behind the game is already powerful enough to make me eager to play it – but what moved me the most was Martin Sahlin’s announcement speech. He is the creative director of Unravel, and here is what he had to say about video games during the conference:

I think that games are really powerful things. They have the ability to grab you and move you in a way that few other art forms can. And that gives us, as game makers, a certain responsibility, I think. We should try to do more than to just entertain. And Unravel was created in that spirit. It was born out of the need to make something more personal. Something with a heart.

Needless to say, I can totally relate to his idea of what video games are, and the fact that he calls them an “art form” was enough for me to love the guy. He makes a similar statement on Unravel‘s official website:

I wanted to make something more personal, something with more impact. The game didn’t have to change the world, or even try, but it had to be genuine, it had to have a deeper meaning. It had to have heart.

I don’t know about the rest of the team at Coldwood Interactive, but Martin Sahlin seems to be a really fascinating and hard-working guy, who pours his very heart into his creation. I was absolutely moved by the way he proudly talked about his game, and the way he laughed when revealing Yarny, and his anxiety of introducing the world to his project, too. The guy is clearly passionate about video games, and about his game – and passionate people are, quite often, the most talented. Thanks, Martin, the gaming industry needs more people like you.

Now, what about you? What games did you get excited about at E3, and why? Share your thoughts on the briefings and anouncements made this week in the comments below! 🙂

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