This article contains spoilers of plot points and gameplay scenarios in Pikmin for the Nintendo Gamecube.
More and more recently, I’ve noticed many of my favorite games tend to communicate something important about human existence to me, whether it be through mechanics, storytelling, visuals, or music (likely a combination of these elements). We often worry about whether or not a game is “fun”, but fun isn’t the only emotion one feels during play; we undergo sadness, pain, frustration, excitement, agitation, anxiety. It’s the entirety of the development team’s job to understand clearly what is to be communicated through play and aesthetics. Indeed, we often postulate of games as art, but really, I think the more worthwhile discussion is games as communication, games as political statements, games as transcendence, games as personality.
When I wrote about Majora’s Mask, I spoke in great detail of a game which had changed in significance for me over a timespan of several years, and discussed the ways in which the game in general was a failure for me as an appropriate means of communicating to the player the things Aonuma and his team were interested in. I lambasted the game, and looked at it from many different angles, as I thought it was a very interesting game, even despite being a failure. Failures tend to be the most interesting prospects for deep criticism, criticism which doesn’t choose to merely wade in the shallow pool but dives in the deep end, wading through the breadth of experience in pursuit of fuller and more profound truths in the world.
The truth of the matter is that it’s simply easier to acquire the necessary level of interest to embark on these adventures when a work seems daring, stepping away from the norm and wandering in the pool of unexplored territory. It becomes easier and more rewarding still when the works holds some significance to you and your past.