An alternative to "Walking Simulator"?


Walk’em Ups.

But in all seriousness, my vote’s for First Person Exploration game. I know “game” is a bit contentious as a term but I think it’s acceptable for any sort of entertainment software.


I’d call Oxenfree or Night In The Woods continuations of the classic (point and click/graphic) adventure games.

There’s deep cross-pollination between this genre and that but they do come from distinct origins and so aren’t just two perspectives of the same genre. Maybe they share an umbrella genre but as sub-genres I think they need different names to make it clear they’re not really the same thing coming from the same assumed knowledge and canon (as much as Gone Home might be related to pixel-hunting games, it’s more parallel evolution that got that there vs games that directly evolved out of graphic adventures and are now 3D games that include pixel-hunting elements).


I just call them narrative adventure games. Saying “first person” is a bit weird because I would put Firewatch and Night in the Woods in similar camps, for example.

Walking Simulator has always been shitty. Most games simulate walking.

Half Life is a walking simulator. Nier is a walking simulator.


I think exploration game alone should be a perfectly fine title? Right?

I mean, a good majority of these games are first person, but I wouldn’t call the perspective the defining trait of most of these games. That Dragon Cancer, for example, has a number of sections that directly break from the first person. Meanwhile, I’d say something like Night in the Woods has more in common with a lot of these games than folks attribute to it.

Maybe I’m alone in this, I just feel like we’re getting too caught up on the narrative perspective of these games.


Technically by this standard, BotW is a climbing simulator


I haven’t played it, but sure!


Hmmm… I have a really hard time seeing this. Point-and-click adventure games are more or less the genre that introduced me to non-console gaming as a kid (I’m in my 30s), so I know that genre inside and out. The reason why I can’t accept Oxenfree or NITW as “adventure games” or even as anything more than “interactive fiction” is because there are no actual puzzles. You only make choices, of which there aren’t necessarily right or wrong answers (you won’t be stuck or shown a Game Over screen), and those choices keep the narrative in motion.

Mostly it’s because I never find myself stumped as to how to progress—it’s all more or less in front of you whenever you’re ready to pick it up. There are very, VERY light puzzles aspects or mini-games, but I’ve never once spent hours upon hours hoping to figure out a solution to a problem in order to push the game forward (as anyone who has played a Double Fine/LucasArts adventure knows all too well). This isn’t because I’m good at figuring out games like Oxenfree and NITW, it’s because the games don’t ask to be figured out. They are simply interactive narratives that can be experienced at your own leisure.

I think the presentation of those games comes from point-and-click adventure games, but the gameplay and storytelling methods are completely different. So despite not sharing an identical aesthetic with first-person/3D games, what they aim to accomplish in the experience is really not different at all.


But TTG moved away from puzzles/fail states (something not all P&C games even focused on in the old days) within the genre. It seems like that’s a movement of that genre towards an experience that’s less about roadblocks and move about just offing choice. Life is Strange isn’t about a game over, it’s just making choices which you are free to change (up to a point where they get fixed) but it’s clearly a continuation of that genre.

Everything mixed into everything else (Life is Strange: not a million miles from a classic RPG with the stats removed) but we can look for the main through-lines to look at genres evolving.

I can’t play Gone Home or Dear Esther or Everyone’s Gone to the Rapture or The Stanley Parable without soaking in the FPS/immersive sim roots of those games. A grounding that’s far more than just using the same camera view of the world. There’s a heritage, a continuity of designers and ideas there.


I still don’t agree with your viewpoint, but I do appreciate the openness to genre change and influence. I guess I can’t think of the point-and-click games you are referring to that DON’T have puzzles/roadblocks (I’d love to learn about them), and even more than that, I can think of any recent point-and-click games that don’t have those classic characteristics.

I think you and I are both looking at those “main throughlines”, but we’re placing value on different aspects. I absolutely find non-first-person games as immersive—sometimes, far more immersive—as any other FP/3D game. And in the case of interactive narratives, my point of view in the world doesn’t matter so much when I’m already playing a character that is expressly not of my own design. I also think that seeing something from outside of a singular/personal point of view can offer a different understanding of the story being told. Like in any novel itself, there’s no one right way to present your narrative.


Super Mario Bros is a walking simulator


Hells yeah it is!


I’m thinking hidden object adventures and detective stories. Collect the clues and progress, maybe make some narrative choices in the dialogue (with maybe a few loops if you don’t say the right thing) but basically a state machine that can only go forward towards the conclusion of the story.

In the mainstream (thinking detective stories) then choosing your path through The Last Express, the crime scenes and interviews in LA Noire, the recent Sherlock Holmes stuff (Crime and Punishment), and Her Story unpacking the footage (bit of an unconventional one there with clicks replaced with text searches). A lot of the “lost” lineage of graphical adventure games seems to have worked away from fail states and blocking puzzles into being more about exploring and progressing once you’d found the items required without needing to puzzle them into some “do X on Y” verbage (is that not where P&C and hidden object diverges? You remove the verbs). The stuff that seemed to leave the male gamer audience entirely and be sold as pixel-hunters for women (after Manny said goodbye to the mainstream stuff in 1998 and before TTG came back or even some of the indie/European P&C stuff). It’s exploring scenes, collecting items, and using them (often automatically) very much as P&C classics but it’s not making a moustache out of cat-hair. Even outside of hidden object style, the verbs started to go away. “Look” and a context sensitive “Do” are the most common vestigial remains a lot of the time.

I find Life is Strange very much took from that model (building soft-ends in with the rewind concept so you’d just rewind back into the dialogue tree rather than ever being game over’d) with it being a set of places you can explore a lot or a little (much of it is optional content), make some dialogue choices (but none being dead ends that force a reload/game over), and once you’ve clicked on the right key thing then the scene moves on. Some of it had some times constraints, some was more puzzles than others (and they certainly had a few big puzzles in there), but the point of the game was making choices and progress and being immersed in the story told.

It’s clearly related to “Walking Simulators”, and Gone Home prevents your progress with several literal locked doors and small puzzles. You can see the way everything has come together. But I don’t see it coming from a single strand that is spreading out but several independent strands that are overlapping somewhat in the now.


@NoCoastGaming First Person Narrative
@2Mello Narrative Exploration

I think these are both more accurate descriptions of most games we describe in verbal conversations as “walking sims.” However, I can’t jump on board 100% with either, as they both exclude two edge cases that I personally feel need to be a part of whatever new term folks land on.

Proteus has no interactivity that is not based on your movement or gaze. Mirrormoon EP has enough puzzle/exploration mechanics, obscured as they may be, it could qualify as just a puzzle game. Both work to create a sense of atmosphere more than narrative, but I always think of and refer to them in conversations around Gone Home, Firewatch, Stanley Parable, etc.

If a “walking simulator” doesn’t focus on narrative, is it something else entirely?


Still a fan of Lewis Proctor’s term of Walk em’ Ups. But I also thinks genre definitions need a massive overhaul in games.


I think it is something else entirely, yeah. Case in point: The Witness. By all appearances, that could be called a “walking simulator” (you sure do walk a shitload!), even so much as you trigger little bits of contextual info as you explore. But there’s definitely no narrative and no greater story to even decipher. Just puzzles. So many goddamn puzzles.


Here’s a question that may be relevant: Does the idea of “walking simulator” imply a certain lack of agency in the narrative? In that you’re simply set into an environment and meant to discover certain bits of narrative via exploration? You don’t choose your own adventure, so to speak. In that case, maybe what we’re talking about is more “experiential narrative”? Not a sexy term, that’s for sure.


I think the term might, but I don’t think the genre itself necessarily precludes a lack of agency: just look at Firewatch, definitely a “walking simulator” but also focused intently on giving the player loads of little and big choices as to how they respond to events. And I’m sure that the genre is open to even more stuff in that vein.


This makes the most sense to me. The types of games we call walking simulators often deal with exploring either to find nice environments or discover a story. This covers all these sorts of games and doesn’t have the biased terminology walking simulators implies.


I think we’re kind of brushing up against the political nature of the term “walking simulator” here - The Witness would never be called a walking simulator at least partially because it was made by Jonathan Blow, someone who very much exists on the inside of games and is not interested in pushing the boundaries of what games can do and be. The Witness is very much a game focused on traditional system mastery, no matter how much you get to walk around and look at statues and watch weird pretentious new wave philosophers talk to you in empty rooms next to plants.

On the other hand, Firewatch or Gone Home or the works of Kitty Horrorshow or Strangethink23 or Connor Sherlock are not focused on system mastery and are very interested in expanding the idea of what games can do and be. They’re made by people who either started on the outside of the traditional games industry or voluntarily moved out of that space to try and experiment.

In this view, “walking simulators” are more defined by what they aren’t, rather than what they are. People started calling Gone Home a walking simulator because it didn’t resemble the kinds of experiences they were used to seeing in games, and because the developers held political views that clashed with the expectations that gamers had for games to generally be “apolitical” (read: align with their political views in such a way that the politics inherent in every work of art were invisible to them).

I’d argue that “walking simulator” as a genre doesn’t exist. Firewatch and Gone Home are adventure game/immersive sim hybrids, Kitty Horrorshow makes horror games, Connor Sherlock’s games and Proteus are “exploration games”, and people like Strangethink23 and other, more experimental developers are doing things so experimental that they’re difficult to classify. The only thing they have in common is that none of them are what “gamers” expect from video games.


This is so good. That “Like” I just gave you represents the 100 Loves it deserves.

Gonna have to chew on this for a bit. Thanks