Polaco Yunque Hi, sorry for taking a few days to reply to this.
Yes! The Pathologic games seem like excellent examples of what I’m going for. From your description, I think I really need to play Pathologic 2. Weird and dark fits perfectly with my concept of what a communication game is. It’s good that you suggested this game, since up until most of the games we’ve thought of have been light and cutesy, which is definitely not the only sort of experience that works with this.
I would love to play some more “literary” communication games. What I’m thinking of is games that have very complicated characters that describe themselves in ambiguous ways, where the “gameplay” is all about carefully trying to comprehend what you’re given and try to understand the mental states of different characters. I feel like it might sound like I’m just describing Ace Attorney or Danganronpa, but I guess I’d like it all to be tied into less clear cut objectives? And I’d like more complicated themes? And to be able to freely move my character around, instead of just being locked into a visual novel style system.
So, essentially, I want to play an Animal Crossing-style clock-based game that has just enough small tasks to make me turn the game on each day and bump into the different characters inhabiting that world, with all the characters having interlocking Ace Attorney style micro-stories – and I’d like it all to be written by a master novelist who’s trying to do a little bit more than just entertain me.
I just remembered the game Swery is working on right now, “The Good Life”. Maybe that’s a step towards what I’m looking for?
One of my favorite novels of all time is Rulin Waishi/The Scholars, by Wu Jingzi. It’s just dozens of tiny interconnected stories about scholars and wannabe-scholars, trying to make their way through the imperial exam system, and doing all sorts of terrible things. I’ll have to read through the book a dozen times if I’m ever going to understand some of what’s in there. There’s all sorts poems interspersed throughout the pages since, you know, scholars like to while their days away composing poetry.
I remember when I was reading that book for the first time, it felt just like playing Animal Crossing, if Animal Crossing were about something. Before bed each night I’d check in on what the characters were doing now, peak in on what they were talking about, slowly watch as characters disappear and are replaced by other characters, only for the old characters to appear again dozens of chapters later.
I felt the same with Dream of the Red Chamber – leisurely paced fragments of characters changing so slowly that you only notice after they’ve already turned into someone else, all leading up to something big, sad, and terrible.
So I’d like it if there were a game like that. There probably will be eventually! A lot of people have clearly tried similar things. Making a game is just such a big and complicated ordeal though. It’ll probably be awhile until I have exactly what I want. Though I think with games like Disco Elysium and Pathologic 2, people might be getting better at making these sorts of games.
I’m glad I made this thread! It’s given me a good list of games to play as research, since, I might as well admit that I am slowly working on my own communication game, though it will be years until it will be anything worth showing to people, and there’s no way it’s ever going to get close to being what I truly want to play. Oh well!