/ Gone Home

Don't kill the dogs

"Everybody wants to kill the fucking dogs," Vella said. "Everybody who plays the game, they think everything is an enemy, but the bats are just bothering you, the dogs are just hanging out. They might catch your scent and they might want to follow you, but they're not really going to mess with you."

Don't kill the dogs in Below | Joystiq

There's a whole thing in indie games and the coverage of indie games, where people make a big deal about how players who are familiar with standard gameplay tropes and conventions tend to assume those are in place when they play a new game. It's getting a little old.

Subverting established player expectations is good, if done well. But chastising people for playing a game in a way they have been acculturated to play games is obnoxious, and pretending that a player assuming conventional gameplay in the absence of clues to the contrary somehow reveals something about the nature of people, games, or media generally, is obtuse.

It's like handing someone a novel and then going "Aha!" when they don't open to the middle of the book. There's no reason people shouldn't, and you can make cool books that are non-linear, but you're a dick if you pretend to expect people shouldnt act like they don't know books normally start somewhere near the front.

(Gone Home is a good example of how to mess with player expectations -- it presents as a horror game, and throughout it builds on that deceptive first impression. It succeeds because it's signaling the player with a ton of information (some of it false) about what kind of game it is and leads the player into thinking and re-thinking what those signals mean.)

(I knock Gone Home for other stuff, but in this aspect, it's excellent.)