The strengths of computer gaming are found at the extremes. It does two things very well: It enables hardcore users to get the best possible performance out of high-end games, and it allows small developers to deliver individualistic and quirky projects direct to users.
Both of these qualities are important, but the future of PC gaming as a unique platform is found in the latter rather than the former.
Slender may not be the greatest game ever, but it's a true PC experience, nonetheless.
"Unique platform” is the operative phrase there. The console tail is wagging the design dog, and as even consoles gets battered by mobile gaming and the economy, we can expect further shifts.
People played PC games because they weren’t console games. They were different, mature, sophisticated, fresh. You cannot measure the level of my indifference to the idea of yet another Call of Duty game, but show me a rough freebie like Slender and I get excited.
Is Slender any good? By most traditional standards, probably not, but it works because it does what it sets out to do. A slight game element provides some drive, but it’s really just a mood piece. Its goal is to create mounting tension and then scare the hell out of you. And it does that in spades. It’s uneven and flawed and brilliant at what it does, like the best kind of indie horror movie.
Gone Home is a uniquely PC game.
PC gaming is overflowing with this kind of small greatness. Monster Loves You is a charming interactive story-cum-adventure game that is unlike anything I’ve seen. Reus performs a dandy mashup of side-scroller, puzzler, and god game. And can you imagine the design-by-committee process of a big publisher turning out the kind of dazzling and detailed personal vision found in Monaco, the best game of the year so far?
Antichamber, Dust, Night of the Rabbit: All of them have flaws, yet all of them have something else: a unique and personal way of looking at the world, a different design sensibility, a pulse. It’s what PCs do best.