Shoot this, jump on that, collect the other... Computer games may be the media of the 21st Century but players have been pursuing the same objectives since Pong and Pac-Man.
On the very periphery of the industry are some pioneers though - developers attempting to move beyond the Pavlovian paradigm of simple goal pursuit. Some tell stories, others deliberately set out to bewilder, but all make you question what constitutes a computer game. We've picked ten of the best for your PC.
Get it here: www.moddb.com/mods/nestlings/
A gentle introduction into the world of interactive fiction, Nestlings is Lewis Denby's second foray into the genre. The first of four Half Life 2 mods in this run down, it's a short and creep story.
Though thematically slight, it's a brave mod that challenges your preconceptions. You can't shake the fear that NPC foes will emerge at any turn, pulse rifles blazing, but the final pay off is far more subtle.
Get it here: blurst.com/minotaur-china-shop/
Games are all about following rules, aren't they? In most, a failure to stick to them results in one of two outcomes; death or a distinct lack of response. Minotaur in a China Shop plays with that assumption. You're a bullish shop assistant tasked with looking after an antique pottery emporium.
And, though you can amass rewards by sticking to the rules, quietly selling crockery to customers while avoiding breakages, it soon gets boring. Start smashing the place up instead though, and suddenly you're in a different game...
Get it here: www.armorgames.com/play/764/coil
You begin Coil as a single sperm trying to fertilise an ovum. We're not in Super Mario World any more, that's for certain. Coil describes itself as a game "without instructions or directions". There are objectives though, which are revealed through playing and experimenting with simple controls through a series of short levels. Finishing each unlocks a new section of a parallel story.
Get it here: www.armorgames.com/play/4850/small-worlds
Deceptively uncomplicated, Small Worlds takes the exploration component of the common or garden platformer and makes that the entire point. A unique game dynamic enables the world you explore to be revealed one piece at a time, until you can see the entire map. It doesn't look like much and, with nothing to collect and no points to score, it seems curiously aimless, but it's every bit as addictive as playing Tetris on six espressos.
Get it here: www.molleindustria.org/everydaythesamedream/
Get up, get dressed, drive to work, sit at your desk. Repeat forever... In Every Day the Same Dream you're locked in an eternal cycle, with no escape. Or are you? What happens if you turn left instead of right? What will the boss think if you arrive at the office in your underpants? What if you walk straight past your cubicle and keep going? Again, there's nothing to collect or shoot - but there's a story that reveals itself through a persistent breaking of the rules.
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