I Wish Steam’s Films Were Games

Steam has been a source of crushing disappointment for me ever since it started selling movies too. When I’m poking through the list of new releases and see intriguing names like ‘In Search of the Most Dangerous Town on the Internet’ or ‘How We Got Away With It’, I get excited. Then I read descriptions like “Râmnicu Vâlcea, Romania has only 120,000 residents, but among law enforcement experts, it has a nickname: Hackerville” and get jazzed. Then I see screenshots and think “It’s an FMV game too!” Five second later, I realise what’s going on.

I wish they were games though. For five seconds, they’re the greatest game I’ve heard of all day.

Their names and story summaries are much more interesting than most games, and heck, half of them are about murder anyway. I have no idea how these movies, short films, and documentaries actually are, but I do enjoy those five magical seconds where they exist as games inside my head.

A Survey of Open Space [Steam Page]

“A pair of urbanites embark on a 4000-mile bicycle ride in search of the last wild place in America; to their dismay they find it.”

Co-op bicycling walking simulator down surreal procedurally-generated American roads and highways – grand forests, wide plains, and bizarre roadside attractions. Touches of Glitchhikers, Sam & Max Hit the Road, and The Long Way.

Or maybe it’s just Bernband chap Tom van den Boogaart’s Bird Snapper (free on Game Jolt).

Coffee, Kill Boss [Steam page]

“When ten executives secretly meet to sell off their company, they’re murdered one by one in this darkly comedic romp through the halls of corporate America.”

First-person stealth social RPG – alliances, double-crossing, and trying to make murders look like accidents.

Faraway [Steam page]

“Audrey arrives in the Philippines with a mysterious mission. She enlists the help of two locals, Hazel and Rey, and an American, Nick. They must cross 300 miles, ward off a local motorcycle gang, and keep from killing each other.”

Open-world RPG with no going back.

Feeding Mr. Baldwin [Steam page]

“A house sitter bites off more than he can chew when a corpse shows up at the estate he’s watching. Desperate to make a good impression, he convinces an old friend to help clean up the mess but the body count quickly increases.”

Viscera Cleanup Detail meets reverse-Hotline Miami. Messy kills are easier but take more work to clean up, and when nosy neighbours come peering through the windows…

How We Got Away With It [Steam page]

“Returning home from jail just before the arrival of his friends for their annual reunion weekend, Henry discovers a shocking tragedy. His rash and unpredictable response sets in motion a chain of events of secrets, revenge and murder that will forever change the course of everyone’s lives.”

Like Indigo Prophecy’s opening, but continuing to be like that – no fistfight with the Internet.

In Search of the Most Dangerous Town on the Internet [Steam page]

“Râmnicu Vâlcea, Romania has only 120,000 residents, but among law enforcement experts around the world, it has a nickname: Hackerville. In the last year alone, $1 billion was stolen in the U.S. by Romanian hackers. Convicted criminals with nicknames like Guccifer and Iceman have been caught breaking into the email accounts of NASA, Hillary Clinton and George W. Bush—but that’s just the beginning. The world is finally waking up to the realities of cybercrime and the threats that it poses to our society. Is there anything we can do to stop these individuals and protect ourselves from the most dangerous town on the internet.”

First-person open-world RPG with Uplink-style hackery to track people down. Mistrust, language barriers. Then you realise they’re watching you back. Rare melee combat, rarer guns.

See You Next Tuesday [Steam page]

“An odd pregnant girl disrupts the lives of her campy recovering alcoholic mother and vulgar lesbian sister during a nervous breakdown.”

Man, whatever, I just want this.

53 Comments

  1. Premium User Badge

    Harlander says:

    Wait, when did Steam start selling movies!?

    • Saarlaender39 says:

      I’m pretty sure they started it shortly (aka: a few months) after GOG started selling movies.
      You can’t leave a market to the competitor alone, huh?!

    • Jenks says:

      June 2012

    • welverin says:

      with the release of Indie Game the Movie.

  2. GameCat says:

    “Open-world RPG with no going back.”

    Yes. The Dark Tower RPG, please.

  3. Pulstar says:

    Even more hipster content?
    (Disclaimer: Likes non-hipster indie films)

    • Paxeh says:

      I support this post.

      Even though some of these movies are good, I don’t want to see quirky non-conformist hipster content on my RPS please.

      Also, how would you envisage a game with the premise:
      “An odd pregnant girl disrupts the lives of her campy recovering alcoholic mother and vulgar lesbian sister during a nervous breakdown.”

      (Disclaimer: Likes non-hipster indie everything)

      • Alice O'Connor says:

        Y’all really need to learn what “hipster” means.

        • Turkey says:

          Everybody knows what a hipster is. It’s like a person who floats if you toss them in water or something.

        • aleander says:

          It’s a kind of underpants.

        • Chaz says:

          You’re right; none of those women had beards.

        • Capt. Bumchum McMerryweather says:

          I agree with this. The rampant misuse of the words hipster, literally and irony has got to stop.

          • Low Life says:

            It’s a bit ironic you should say that, as literally no one but hipsters would care about the misuse of these words.

          • Barberetti says:

            Add pretentious to that list.

          • gunny1993 says:

            Train robot nubile chicken hippie, rodent it is long longer tree nubile train echo and love robot electric.

            ^^ a salient point on why the definitions of words matter

          • sweenish says:

            To counter gunny1993, not accepting that the definitions of words shift is just as ignorant.

            Awful, addict, and bimbo are my counter-examples.

          • Capt. Bumchum McMerryweather says:

            Shift definitions may, but it’s worth bearing in mind that things like that happened a long time ago, when things like dictionaries and Google weren’t readily available. Besides, if you use the word ironic to mean ‘hey isn’t that craycray’, then you’ll always be an idiot in my book, regardless of the great definition shift of the 2000s.

      • Jeroen D Stout says:

        Also, how would you envisage a game with the premise:
        “An odd pregnant girl disrupts the lives of her campy recovering alcoholic mother and vulgar lesbian sister during a nervous breakdown.”

        How couldn’t you envisage it?

        • Premium User Badge

          Harlander says:

          Disrupting their lives is the point?

          It’s like Stair Dismount, but the injuries are real?

      • Kala says:

        “Even though some of these movies are good, I don’t want to see quirky non-conformist hipster content on my RPS please.”

        Alternatively, I wouldn’t mind seeing more quirky non-conformist content on my RPS. Ontop of the quirky non-conformist content that is *already* widely explored, endorsed and written about on RPS, ofc…

        (Just seems like RPS is the weirdest possible choice for a site to say this about; so it may possibly be your definitions vary widely from mine)

    • Orazio Zorzotto says:

      Wow, it’s amazing how your use of the word hipster makes you seem so intelligent and above everything in this article.

      Oh wait.

    • Premium User Badge

      yhancik says:

      If I stick to your definition of “hipster content” (whatever it is), yes please, more of that!

    • rondertaker says:

      ^ check out this wiener

  4. Shinan says:

    What this really shows is how lacking the one-liner pitches are for video games. All of these really spark your imagination in one way or another. While game descriptions are just so… regular.

    • Pink Gregory says:

      Anyone who writes a game description that doesn’t begin with “x is a y-genre game where you” deserves a big, shiny medal at this point.

      Also it’s ‘in which you’. Charlatans.

      • phlebas says:

        Yes and no. When I look up a game’s description on a store site, I would certainly like what I find to evoke some sense of the game’s world and what it’s about – but I would also like an idea of how it plays. A well-written description of an exciting mystery adventure is all very well, but if it tricks me into buying a hidden object game I won’t be best pleased.

    • Ross Angus says:

      Exactly. One could argue that such stories are much easier to tell in a linear fashion, but this article beautifully highlights the paucity of ambition* of games.

      There was a brief period when people like (sigh) David Cage and Tale of Tales excited me, when they seemed to be pushing the medium out of it’s comfort zone. Long may it continue.

      * (c) Richard Herring

  5. Paul Dean says:

    Alice is a treasure.

    • Runty McTall says:

      Oh for goodness sake, please see my post below that was intended to be in reply to yours :(

  6. Runty McTall says:

    *The* Paul Dean?

    If so, big fan.

    If not, don’t know you yet but I’m sure you’re lovely.

    Also, I concur, Alice is indeed a treasure and we’re luck to have her here on RPS.

    As for movies on Steam, I’ve only watched Free to Play and a bit of Kung Fury (ran out of time and haven’t got around to watching the rest of it yet) but the system seemed to work pretty well. Never bought a movie there, though.

  7. Klydefrog says:

    This demonstrates a really interesting difference between the focus of indie movies and indie games. I assume it’s because the focus of a game almost always has to be, at least to some extent, that it’s enjoyable to play as well as experience the story. I’d love to see more games with descriptions like this though rather than just information on the genre.

    • Premium User Badge

      yhancik says:

      To have more games with descriptions like this we need more games with contents like this. It’s kinda hard (although not impossible) to write such intriguing descriptions for Manshooter 2016 : Operation Nemesis.

      (but we also need more documentary games to be something else than tedious ” serious ‘games’ “)

  8. mewse says:

    I had exactly this reaction to at least two of the mentioned movies.

    Maybe someday!

    • wu wei says:

      Me too, I was heavily disappointed that Feeding Mr Baldwin wasn’t a game.

    • J. Cosmo Cohen says:

      Count me amongst those duped by the incredible descriptions.

  9. aoanla says:

    Well, I think this is partly where our vexed use of the term “game” to refer to all interactive digital experiences causes issues? There’s something to be said for semi-passive experiences in digital media, but the expectations of “game” mean that they get less shrift.

    (Plus, content creation is also a thing which differs significantly for indie film v “games” – the easiest things to do with indie film involve small sets with actual actors acting (as opposed to effects-based stuff). For indie games, any semi-realistic setting requires a bunch of art and design work just to make the set and actors, so the focus of indie games tends to often be on mechanics, or lo-fi experiences, as they can be more easily attained by a single developer.)

    • aoanla says:

      that last post by me was supposed to be a reply to Klydefrog’s. Can someone fix replies?

    • Premium User Badge

      yhancik says:

      Actually there’s a large part of interactive digital experiences that we don’t refer to as “games”, in the field of digital art, and (working in that latter field) it’s pretty sad those two worlds are so separated. There are some connections, Auriea & Michael from Tale of Tales were formerly digital artists, and I think the Computer Cardboard guys have some digital art connections too. “Games” remains, in some cases, a pretty problematic word that introduces, as you said, expectations. “Interactive Digital Experience” is more broad (but maybe less catchy :p) – just like ToT’s “Realtime 3D Art”

      • aoanla says:

        Sure, and that’s really what I’m getting at – I’ve talked about this before with things like Mountain (where the dev actually wrote an essay complaining that people kept saying it wasn’t a game), which is clearly not a game in the conventional sense, but is still a worthwhile digital experience which might be compared to interactive artforms in other media (for example, promenade theatre like Sleep No More). I suspect that some of the hostility from parts of the video games community (self-defined) at attempts at curtailing the ever expanding (and thus decreasing utility) of the “game” term is partly due to a certain ignorance of the community of the existence of interactive art in other media, maybe?

        • Nasarius says:

          the ever expanding (and thus decreasing utility) of the “game” term

          Indeed. Also, I’m pretty sure “roguelike” would now apply to various arcade games from the 80s.

          I’m all for a big tent, one big community where everything is welcome. But words do have meaning, and when there are enormous fundamental differences between two things in the same category, then that category is almost meaningless.

        • phlebas says:

          People have mostly given up complaining that ‘comics’ is often used to describe works that aren’t funny at all. They also cope pretty well with ‘poetry’ that doesn’t rhyme, though they sometimes moan about what does and doesn’t constitute ‘music’. I’m sure most of them can learn to deal with ‘game’ being used for the medium rather than a specific type of example.

          • aoanla says:

            Sure, phlebas, words changed over time (even before comic meant “engendering laughter generally”, it referred to a specific kind of work in Greek theatre, not all amusing kinds of utterance). I’m concerned about the specific instance of “video game” because I don’t think that many of the people trying to extend its meaning are actually benefitting their work as a result. The word “game”, outside of “video game” has a bunch of assumptions about competition, rules and such like, which still adhere somewhat to “video game” in most people’s minds. Trying to shove, say, Mountain, into that concept is doing Mountain a disservice, since its worth is clearly little to do with competition, rules and those things. (It’s particularly vexing because it feels like this is due to people just assuming that interactive things on computers must be “games”, rather than “art” or “toys” (remember when Maxis marketed all their software as “software toys”, because unlike a game, a toy is open-ended?). I’d be marginally happier if there was a critical and specialist language to describe differences within the “video games” noun, as Emeraude suggests, but the evidence suggests that this doesn’t exist as yet.)

        • Emeraude says:

          I think the big question is going to be, is playfulness a sufficient quality to define a game ?

          If there is play, is this a game ?

          *I* would tend to say yes. But then that’s when we need better descriptors for sub-categories of games. And that’s where we need proper critical tools to have solid frames for precise specialist artificial vocabularies to complement the necessarily less precise naturally enfolding one.

          • aoanla says:

            Is a toy a “game”? (It used to be, and still is in critical theory for non-video-games, the case that “toys” and “games” were different, overlapping, things – the critical theory version is that a “toy” doesn’t have rules or structure attached (you can attach a context of rules to a toy, which makes the combination into a game). )

  10. PancakeWizard says:

    I wish Steam films were games too, but mainly because I see zero point in Steam Films being a thing, and Steam should be just for games/game-related software.

    If it’s not highly produced enough to go on Neflix, there’s YouTube and vice versa. Who exactly is this for?

    Instead of Steam films they could’ve taken some time to have their own game recording service built into Steam instead of the community hub being a bunch of embedded YT videos.

    • Sarfrin says:

      It’s for all the people who have already used it, for a start.

  11. Carlos Danger says:

    This thread needs more Diet Coke.

    • TheAngriestHobo says:

      After reading twenty-odd posts above yours debating the semantics of the word “game”, this post speaks to me.

  12. Gordon Shock says:

    As a up and coming filmmaker with my first short film ready in a few months I am psyched about Steam having a place for movies, it is a HUGE audience that never existed before.

    When you’ll see a movie called “Blind Date” on Steam, that’s gonna be mine!

  13. racccoon says:

    Steam needs to Vaporize I’m only on it for ADVENTURE CAPITALIST! lol otherise it may as well float away and dissapear. its a monopoly and I do see why as its just using PC players to take for its stolen coded console.

  14. ExitDose says:

    I think Ken Levine nailed it when he said the issue in the games industry is that everyone has the same three points of reference: Star Wars, Aliens, and Die Hard. I’ll grant that this thankfully seems to be changing in the indie space, but with the added difficulty of having to merry these things with mechanics, I can’t imagine it being anything but slow grinding progress towards that destination. Sadly, board games seem to be moving the opposite direction, these days.

  15. statistx says:

    Thank you!
    I have the same issue. I always get excited when i read titles or see coverart and then … movie. (or hidden object games, which i despise but always have flashy titles and coverartwork)