An alternative to "Walking Simulator"?


#1

I think the name “walking simulator” being used to describe such great games like “Gone Home” or “What Remains of Edith Finch” feels so reductive, and hardly even represents what these games actually are. It also feels almost dismissive of these games, which usually deliver on some of the best stories in video games.

Does anybody have any alternative ideas for what this genre could be called? I know it’s sort of already ingrained in the culture as the term that’s used to describe these kinds of things, but I’d honestly love a change.


#2

First person adventure/exploration/puzzle (pick your favourite) games.

I mean, the genre is FPS with exploration rather than shooting (so it’s not a clean subgenre like immersive sim that generally includes the shooting) so we can’t really keep using the ‘S’ bit of FPS. But if we’re going to give up rehabilitation/reclaiming “walking simulator” then we might as well refer to how close to FPS this genre is.


#3

I think First Person Narrative works pretty well?


#4

I’ve seen “First Person Narrative-Driven Game” which is quite a mouthful unfortunately.


#5

First person narrative doesn’t work for me because so many actual Fps have narrative.

I mean personally I’m comfortable just calling them adventure games usually.


#6

“Walking simulator” was originally an insult, and I think there is also a Steam tag for “Not A Game” games applied to many of them. It was made the semi-official genre name by people wanting to claim the title and wear it proudly.

Beyond the fact that people remember how it was created and what games it’s applied to, it’s not that representative of them at all! (Except Dear Esther, swoosh)

Narrative exploration and first-person adventure are the best two I can think of. I like the first one more because a lot of these games feel like they are a story that could just be told to me in a book or movie (narrative), but the fact that I’m controlling the story (exploration) is what makes the games a better way to deliver it.


#7

‘Environmental narrative’ is a term I’ve seen around. I tend to just call them exploration games, since it’s the best way to distinguish them from adventure games without slightly redefining that genre. First-person adventure is an accurate term, but it doesn’t do much to define the difference between Dear Esther and Myst. I also lean against names that use ‘first-person’ in general since it seems unnecessary? I’m not sure we have a good example of a third-person exploration/narrative game yet to make that modifier necessary.


#8

First person adventure fits nice I think, because it can be as mechanical or not as it needs to be. FPA works as an acronym too :stuck_out_tongue:


#9

I would give the note that once you leave first person (and that very specific form of presence in the environment as an entity in the space from only the view of that entity) then you’re just talking adventure (as in action adventure when you also have a gun) or RPGs. (As a side-note, even some of the 3rd person stuff (Resi 4 and children) are kinda trying to build a first person game without being first person and you can absolutely see that in the over-the-shoulder design but also the way they still feel different form any actual FPS.)

To me, this sub-genre feels very much like part of the FPS blob from which we get the more role-play/puzzle edges (immersive sim, FPS which are RPGs eg Morrowind, puzzle games like Antichamber) and stuff like Davey Wreden games being pretty explicit about how they talk about the wider genre they’re inside.

There is something specific about the first-person perspective that evolved that term for “Doom clones”.


#10

If the Telltale games count as adventure games, despite their lack of puzzles, then I would say to group these in that genre as well.


#11

(This is half a joke, if the context isn’t clear:) I mean, TTG games were the adventure genre before games were even really codified into genres thanks to CYOA books.

But that’s not really the same as exploring a space in Gone Home and unravelling a story that’s entirely built around taking the combat out of immersive sims (a sub-genre of FPS). It’s fine to talk about genres as being defined by their contents but it’s not as if the chronology of this sub-genre isn’t pretty well laid out. Hasn’t Dan Pinchbeck been explicit in interviews that Dear Ester (the mod then the game) was designed as an experiment in non-linear narration and removing the combat loop/mechanics from FPSs. So much of this genre is built by FPS veterans and designers who talk about removing the shooting from FPS games.


#12

There’s just something about including the term “exploration” that hangs me up. I don’t feel like exploration is always emphasized, and it would be excluding games like “fitz packerton”, which falls very much in the “walking simulator” slot in my mind, but has fairly little exploration involved.


#13

The thing I would hesitate with in saying “oh, first person narrative doesn’t fit because other first-person games have that” is that most genre groupings have names that capture other things. ‘Role-playing game’ means a pretty particular thing, even though you play a role of some kind in most games that we wouldn’t call ‘RPGs’ (is Crusader Kings II an RPG?), for example. The same could be said about horror, strategy, or action games. Something that captures the essence of the thing is better than trying to find a sufficiently exclusive term.

I like ‘first person narrative’, personally, but am open to alternatives.


#14

Perhaps, although games like Myst still blur the lines a bit for some of the proposed names. I don’t know if immersion is a necessity for these games, though. Fragments of Him is bizarre, ‘you’ exist in a sort of nebulous space and time in relation to the events of the game. Most of the games in this genre offer a sense of environmental immersion, but several of them put the player in a character disconnected from the narrative, so ‘first-person narrative’ seems a bit off, too.

That said, while I can’t think of an example* that quite fits the bill, I don’t know if it’s impossible for a third-person exploration game to work. I think if we see some of that, though, I could be more open to something like ‘first-person exploration’ as a genre name.

[details=* possible exception?]It’s certainly serving a specific purpose, but perhaps Beyond Eyes would count?


#15

This is a fair point. I’m still not too keen on “first person narrative” but I guess I don’t really have a good alternative.


#16

I heard someone call them “wander games” once and I’ve been using it ever since. Works well given how many of these games let you wander around at your own pace.


#17

First Person Narrative game is one I’m okay with but I really like the sound of Rummaging Games. Most of the game is you rummaging around a particular space looking for clues or the next part of the story. It’s not perfect term, but I’m kinda fond of it.


#18

I’m not a huge fan fan of having the word “adventure” in the name, adventure games are already a specific thing and the word carries a lot of specific connotations that don’t necessarily apply to “walking simulator” type games (items and inventories, puzzles, etc.)


#19

I tend to call them “first person exploration games”, but that’s a bit of a mouthful and reminds me of when people tried to get people to call roguelikes “procedural death labyrinths” (lmao)

I think the thing is that a lot of these games don’t really have a ton in common other than being in first person and not involving murdering anyone. Kitty Horrorshow’s games aren’t really much like Fullbright’s games, which aren’t really like Connor Sherlock’s games, but they’re all grouped under “walking simulator” because we have no frame of reference to talk about first person games that aren’t about murder. People had trouble classifying Portal, for christ’s sake, because the fact that it was a puzzle game that was in first person and wasn’t an adventure game was too much for them.

In the taxonomy of animals they tend to call groups like this “paraphyletic”, because they include all things with a certain common ancestor (in this case, the first first-person game), but exclude some that would otherwise be included (in this case, every first person game where you shoot people or stab people or blow people up with your mind or whatever it is we do in video games.)

IMO trying to jam these games into a category like “narrative games” (not all of them have a strong narrative focus) or “exploration games” (not all of them are really about exploration) or “wandering games” (not all of them are about or encourage wandering) misses the point and restricts the genre arbitrarily. That said, I still hate the term “walking simulator” and am desperate for an alternative. I think “first-person adventure game” is closest, but people tend to think “Myst” when you say that and not “Gone Home”.


#20

This is a great topic! I’ve always felt like Walking Simulator was a poor term for something deserving more respect and consideration. I like First-Person Adventure, but that seems like it could encapsulate a lot more than this specific genre. First-Person Narrative makes more sense to me, but it’s not perfect. For instance: Would you put Firewatch in a different category as Oxenfree or Night In The Woods, simply because the latter two aren’t first-person? Seems to me the catchall term would be something along the lines of Interactive Fiction, or maybe Exploratory Fiction?