The Shivah — For you, a computer game…
February 14, 2007
I am an extremely biased game-blogger. I like strategy games, I like first-person shooters (when they’re made right), and even some role-playing games. But primarily, I like independently-made games. The production values of these games might never match those of the big studios (and they’re getting bigger by the minute), but they display a degree of attention to detail and innovation that far surpasses the efforts of their plutocratic competitors. And if that’s not enough, they’re often free or inexpensive, and if you buy them, you know that you’re helping a developer make ends meet, rather than padding Vivendi or Electronic Arts’ bottom line.
Another reason why I am enthralled by this community of software-bohemians is that they have singlehandedly revived a genre in gaming that many had thought to be defunct, namely, the adventure game. Some of the earliest computer games belonged to this genre, including the classic infocom games, although the adventure games by LucasArts, such as Sam and Max Hit the Road and Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis may represent the classical period of these games, most known to computer users today. These games were great fun, telling a wide variety of stories, and appealed to a much broader audience than other games, as they eschewed twitch-reflexes for problem-solving and character development. Yet, the demographics for computer games did not mature (at least not quickly enough) in the late nineties, and market trends were not in favor of adventure games. They were abandoned by most of the major studios (leading to no small amount of public outcry against LucasArts), and the titles slowly disappeared from store shelves.
That is, until now. The release of Adventure Game Studio (AGS), a utility for creating adventure games, has slowly begun to revitalize the genre. A freeware utility, AGS allows users to create their own adventure games, supplying the interface and much of the background coding. Thus, an aspiring developer only needs to supply the graphics, a good idea for the story, and lots of lots of effort. As such, there aren’t *that* many new adventure games out there, but the pace of development is still quite astounding.
Given that independent developers tend to make games that buck convention, the adventure games market is no exception. Witness The Shivah, a recently-released adventure game that features a Lower-East-Side Rabbi as the protagonist in a murder mystery, with more than a touch of Harry Kemelman novels as inspiration. Though some might be turned off by the game’s simplistic graphics, the storyline and the brio of the game’s voice acting make the Shivah both a unique and thoroughly engrossing experience. And for only $4.99, there has never been a more satisfying way to enjoy an evening of puzzles and support the broadening of a medium at the same time.