Walking Simulator A Month Club, vol 1
pc/mac/USD$10 (currently $5)
"In far future of the 55th octillionth millennium there is only Walking."
I'm a little late to the party on this one, but it came to my attention this week because it went on sale for $5 and people were sharing that on twitter. I guess the author, Connor Sherlock, is pretty well-known amongst real aficionados of 'walking simulators' (meaning, games which are simply explorable spaces, where your only verbs are 'walk', 'look', 'feel' and 'think'). But I had not heard of his work until now.
Let me try to convince you to buy it: Walking Simulator a Month Club is simply a device which will transport you to sixteen imaginary places, and make you feel sixteen non-imaginary ways. It will remind you of the transportative power of videogames. And that is all it's going to do.
Each of the executables transports you to a large, seemingly endless space in another place and time. Each time, you descend from a crystal, which we might suppose represents your point of entry into the simulated dimension, and you begin to walk around. A beautiful piece of music begins to play, anchoring your mood to the scene, giving you permission to stay and walk around as the song plays out. On a crystalline planet, a Popol Vuh-esque ambience of frequency-modulation synths. In a misty forest, a sombre piano lullaby.
Right now, I'm in the middle of grading a giant pile of student videogames at the end of the academic year. It takes a degree of emotional energy to let soft videogame experiences like this take you somewhere, and I am very low on that energy right now. Still it worked; I think it was the harmony between Sherlock's musical compositions and the thoughtful architecture of these spaces that moved me.
Sherlock has been supporting himself with a Patreon for a couple of years, making a walking simulator every month and sending it out to his patrons, and this package collates a year's worth in one download, situating the collection as a single game. That makes it feel quite different than getting them one-by-one as part of the Patreon.
When you download the giant .zip file, it unspools into 13 different folders with sixteen different executables. A pure walking simulator is a game that asks you to explore a space as much or as little as you want, and does not offer any rewards for doing so, nor does it answer any mysteries. This way of distributing the game expresses the same indifferent ethos: here are some digital spaces. They are not connected except insofar as they are part of the same project, and share some basic structural similarities. You can visit them in any order, for as long or as little as you want. You can walk away and do something else.
To me, this is perhaps the most exciting thing about Walking Simulator a Month Club vol. 1. The folder of executables itself is an imagined history, a simulated world with worlds inside of it, using the familiar structure of your computer's operating system as a frame.