From its creation to the present: we review the origin and development of the video game subgenre known as walking simulator.
With the release of the first Paradise Lost gameplay, the latest from PolyAmorous and All in! Games, during the video game streaming presentation called Future Games Show, the eternal debate that usually brings with it any work that fits within the walking simulator subgenre: is it or is it not a video game? Despite the fact that there are not a few years that have passed since it was created, the debate has not yet been settled, because, as a result of the aforementioned case, discussions have been opened on platforms such as Steam to carry it out once more. Therefore, today, we try to shed a little light on this category, reviewing its origin, evolution and the problem itself.
The birth of a new subgenus
The roots of the walking simulator category date back to the 1980s, when freelance programmer Graham Relf developed a game called Explorer for the ZX Spectrum computer. It was a first-person video game full of places that you can visit where, in addition to searching, you could explore. In collaboration with graphic artist Simon Dunstan, he took a step forward towards recreating realistic environments, achieving an impressionistic sense of scale, the use of unusual distance, and high quality in the design of the environments. Despite the technical innovation of the work, it went unnoticed, since titles such as Pac-Man or Contra and companies like Nintendo captured all the attention from both critics and players at that time.
Years later, in 2003, Mary Flanagan developed Domestic, an interactive experience that redefined the scenarios of first-person shooters in order to reconstruct the memory of a childhood fire. It may not be the only one, but it is one of the first examples of digital experiences similar to those offered by games that we today categorize as walking simulators. However, it was not until the end of the first decade of the 21st century that the term appeared.