Sunday, May 30, 2010

Let your arms enfold us

If you recognize the lyric in the title to this post, you've probably spent some time playing the venerable Wii game Endless Ocean. It was one of the first games we go (on the recommendation of friends and acquaintances) when we purchased our Wii. For awhile it languished as we knocked ourselves out on Mario games, but in the last month or two it's been on heavy rotation after Cady Gray decided she would begin playing. And her enthusiasm for the game has infected Archer, too, who has become almost as interested as she in collecting new species and filling in the blank spots on the map of Manoa Lai Sea.

I'm fascinated by this development, because all of Archer's gaming obsessions to date have been centered around scoring. There's no scoring in Endless Ocean -- only exploration. The game moves slowly, only advancing in terms of a plot when you decide to take its increasingly gentle hints about where to dive. But Cady Gray's delight in identifying seadwellers and unlocking new areas is infectious. Archer now exhibits the same reaction, exclaiming "I got the Parade Float Sea Slug!" with as much excitement as he reports a new high score in pinball or his current monetary total in Monopoly.

A sequel to Endless Ocean, Blue World, was released recently. I hadn't been giving it much thought because the AV Club review was negative (of course, they didn't like the first one either), and at that time the game was languishing in our cabinet. But now I'm thinking that it might encourage Archer's openness to less structured narratives. Do you know of other games that might offer similar experiences?

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