Games reinvent the road trip for a modern era
So nothing like it By the road. With the exception of one key aspect of Road to Guangdong This is how you travel, in a rusty car named Sandy, which you drive and maintain with fuel and parts. âSunny regards Sandy – her father’s old car – as her connection to her parents,â Ooi says, âto her childhood and to visiting families. Sandy brings longing and solace in a time of turmoil for Sunny, while being the silent member of their family. The last fragile remnant of the old world in a terrible new reality.
Equally important for Road to Guangdong themes are the narrative choices you make, which ask you to consider what others want or expect. âLife, family and the way we live and manage our relationships are not clearly divided between the right and wrong answers,â Ooi explains. “The choices we present in the game are more aligned with ethical and moral considerations, taking into account the background of the characters and the story presented.” Like taking care of Sandy, these choices are a way to reconnect with those around us.
This tension between alienation and human connection is also at the heart of the game’s most enduring road trip of late. Kentucky Route Zero, released in five acts over seven years, is most striking for its eerie rendering of a modern America in ruins and its disenfranchised citizens. Game creators Jake Elliott, Tamas Kemenczy and Ben Babbitt of Cardboard Computer see the 1980s film True stories as a source of inspiration, for its slow pace and its clichÃ©s lingering on background details that underline the strangeness of everyday life. âThese are important parts of a road trip,â they say, âstop somewhere for a moment to check the map and see something weird.â
But Kentucky Route Zero explores both this social disconnection and our desire for enterprise and community, using limited forms of interaction, notably while driving. “We were trying to make the player feel like they were lost on the road,” Elliott, Kemenczy and Babbitt explain in a group email interview. âYou work directly with a map, which should make it easier to find things, but then you have to follow the directions given by the people you meet. In the game’s fourth act, you board a steamboat, and the developers explain that this switch, along with the in-game dialogue options, highlights another crucial aspect of a road trip: be a passenger. âAt the very least, the driver needs someone to keep him awake,â they say. âThat’s what dialogue choices are for, whether you think of the player as a driver or a passenger. “
Kentucky Route Zero thus reflects a real social decline. âA lot of the social crises reflected in the game have been happening for a long time; call them patterns, strategies or chronic symptoms, âsay Elliott, Kemenczy and Babbitt. But in the last episode, your group of misfit travelers form a kind of full-fledged family and find a haven where they can start from scratch. If the true “chronic symptoms” are at the origin of the fiction of the road trip, the hope to overcome them is also.
It’s the same even in the post-apocalyptic By the road. In some ways, her world resembles a reality in which cities are already invaded and abandoned. âThe places I grew up are in slideshows on the Internet ‘abandoned construction porn’,â says Saltsman. Yet even on a road trip to oblivion, there is a hint of new beginnings. âI strongly subscribe to Ursula Le Guin’s idea that dystopias and utopias are inextricably linked,â he says. âThat utopias for some are dystopias for others, and vice versa. “