The recently-released Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs has confused the industry because people can't tell if it's meant to be a game or interactive fiction. The Amnesia sequel by developer The Chinese Room has a strong narrative, but gives the player less to do than the average game. One review over at The Verge says A Machine for Pigs "feels like it's stuck between being a thing you experience and a thing you play," a sentiment that appears in a number of other reviews.
In a written feature on Edge, The Chinese Room director and composer Jessica Curry wonders why Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs being different is such a problem.
"This question felt valid after we made Dear Esther, as the game (unintentionally) brought something new to the table and as a result raised some interesting debates," says Curry. "Move forward two years and a great deal has changed on the gaming scene. So when Amnesia: A Machine For Pigs was released we were really surprised to still be facing the question (and sometimes naked hostility) as to whether we are aiming to create interactive fiction rather than games."
"This question rests on the idea that games are purely driven by mechanics and goals, and this seems laughably outdated as a concept. Why do we feel the need to classify and name and label before we can enjoy something? Do I need to know whether or not Bach sits in the classical canon before I can appreciate his incredible music? For me, the key is whether it's an engaging experience (or not). The increasing breadth and diversity in games - a medium that ranges from Tetris to Gone Home - is wonderful. Why is difference such an enormously threatening concept?"
Curry would like the audience to determine if Amnesia: A Machine For Pigs is a success or failure on its own merits, not the fact that it might not be as much of a game as other titles out there.
"We care about flow and immersion but the apparatus required to deliver that experience; whether it's story or a traditional mechanic is immaterial," she adds. "You just use the right tools for the job. The Chinese Room is unusual in that a writer and a composer head up the company. This, I hope, brings a fresh perspective."
"Mechanics will probably never be our core focus as they're not the reason we're driven to create. What this focus isn't is: an agenda, a manifesto, a fuck you, a provocation, a purge or a stance. It's simply us being us. We want to make games that we feel utterly passionate about and those games will most likely continue to focus on beauty, narrative, immersion. Basically, good stories told well."
The Chinese Room's next game is Everybody's Gone to the Rapture, a PlayStation 4 exclusive.