I’m coming up on the end of Winter Voices: Avalanche, but I’ve decided that I’m done. I’m just done. “There is victory in defeat,” reads the only victory condition in this battle against my own grief — an obscure objective, but so cleverly simple in its true meaning: lose. Lose the fight to win. Easier said than done, or should I say, easier said than tolerated.
You see, the battle isn’t a battle at all — it’s a metaphor. It’s a metaphor for my grief over the loss of my father, for my troubled childhood, for my cold relationship with my parents, for my fears about the world, for my struggle to find my identity, my voice. Losing, in this case, isn’t losing. I don’t know what losing is, honestly, as I never did successfully fail — maybe losing represents opening myself up to my repressed memories rather than blocking them off, as I had been?
Oh, dear reader, I’m sorry. I see that look on your face, that twisted knot of one raised eyebrow, scrunched nose bridge, flared nostrils and asymmetrical smirk. Don’t worry your gnarled little face — all will make sense in time.
I know that it sounds like I’m coming down on Winter Voices — and rather harshly, at that — for being smart. And I know that makes me look like a bully, mussing its hair and pushing it into lockers in order to mask my own insecurities. But the game’s cleverness isn’t what caused me to abandon it. It’s its awareness, its forcefulness, its inflated confidence that just makes it… well… boring. For such a clever concept, its execution inspires little more than apathy.
I get it. I get what it’s trying to do. It just does it so boringly, as it pumps its plot and mechanics along like a handcar train on an elliptical track. It has a clear point to make and it makes it from the get-go, but it takes me around so many times that by the third or fourth go-around, I just want to turn it off and play an art game on Kongregate — something that’s just as contemplative, just as clever, but can be finished in about 1/100th of the time.
Because I am, like the game, a nerd who likes deconstructing things, and because Winter Voices is, as mentioned, a terribly clever game that deserves deconstruction, I’m going to take a few days to break it down into component bits and investigate why, exactly, it left me so laden with heavy sighs and rolling eyes; why its wonderful and clever concept manifests as such an utter disappointment; and why we need more games like it, for better or worse. Truthfully, it deserves at least that much respect. So check back on Wednesday and Friday as I dig into Winter Voices’ primary mechanics: its character-building, role-playing, and — for lack of a better term — combat.
Originaly published at Digital Hippos