First person exploration games: a subgenre on the rise

Who said playing video games was stressful? It can be a nice, relaxing time for exploration.

Who said playing video games was stressful? It can be a nice, relaxing time for exploration.

Being a huge fan of RPG (Role-Playing Games), but sometimes feeling too lazy to deal with the violence of games such as The Elder Scroll’s Skyrim, Borderlands or Fallout, I like to turn to FPEG (First-Person Exploration Games).

Sometimes, I just feel like going out to explore the open-world map without needing to stop to beat someone up (because no one fights with the Dovahkiin and wins). 

That’s where FPEG comes in. Although not a brand new subgenre, I have noticed that it is on the rise. It has become popular in the past few years through games like Ether One, Gone Home, Amnesia: The Dark Descent, Dear Esther, MystJourney

The concept is simple: travel, explore, discover. Sometimes, the only way to complete the map is to turn over every rock you find, and snoop through every nook and cranny you stumble upon. It’s great for curious people, really. 

Creeping up the ladder

If anything, this subgenre has been growing slowly but surely through the indie scene. It takes courage for someone to decide “Hey, I’m going to make Fallout, but without the action,” and actually develop the game for an audience to see and experience. 

Gone Home, developed by The Fullbright Company, has players explore a house in order to find out more about the people living in it. The Chinese Room’s Dear Esther is a little different, setting the character on an island and off you go to explore. 

Gone Home by The Fullbright Company

A screenshot from Gone Home by The Fullbright Company

When non-gamers think about video games, they imagine action, violence, blood, shootings, GTA… Or maybe a racing game, or maybe Super Mario – everybody knows Mario. Pretty much, it boils to: there’s a goal and you have to get through bad guys to make it to that goal.

Nobody imagines a game that resembles real life, where you need to figure everything out on your own, and nothing ever happens. 

A bright future for FPEG?

Right now, it feels like this subgenre is popular. Loved. People are digging it. Gone Home and Dear Esther both received awards for best debut and excellence in visual arts. 

Dear Esther by The Chinese Room

Dear Esther… you’re beautiful. 

When you take a look at all of the upcoming games, among Metal Gear Solid V and Fallout 4, you can find Adr1ft, a game where you float about in the wreckage of a destroyed space station. There’s Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, from The Chinese Room, where your goal is to explore a town and connect with people. The game has already been tested and received first impressions. Then there’s Allison Road, a spiritual successor to the cancelled Silent Hills project. 

There are so many more upcoming games for this indie subgenre, and FPEG is beginning to find its comfortable place in the big bad world of “hardcore” FPS/RPG gaming. 

However, this does not mean that FPEG is perfect. Giant Sparrow Games creative director Ian Dallas spoke to GameInformer about the misconceptions surrounding What Remains of Edith Finch

“For us, the challenge going forward [is] how do we get people that may have written it off interested, because there’s a perceived walking simulator genre. I think that’s something tha tour game is so far away from, so I’m not too worried about it.” 

FPEG is just beginning its climb, and it already has developed an audience. Only time will tell how this subgenre will evolve in the future. 

About the author

Charly Mottet

Avid console gamer and spirited writer.