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Industry changing moment: The Path released

By on March 23, 2009
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Last Friday marked the international release of Tale of TalesThe Path – a game where the player guides one of six girls (at varying stages of growing up) through a dark retelling of Little Red Riding Hood. It’s a date for the history books because The Path is the world’s first truly commercial and potentially mainstream ‘art game’.

That probably needs a little explanation. ‘Art game’ isn’t a term I’m overly enamored with, but just like ‘Smart Cinema’, we’re stuck with it for now. Art games are scary things that started cropping up over the last few years, as gaming finally matured to a place where gib modelling was no longer the be all and end all. There’s been a slew of cult indie successes, including Passage, most of Cactus Games’ back catalogue, and The Graveyard – the latter being Belgian duo Tale of Tales’ previous (free[ish]) release.

Art games are exactly what you’d think – obscure, not much fun, but thematically exuberant. There are exceptions, of which The Path is a partial one – but you can find out more in my impressions post.

What’s arguably more interesting than The Path’s critical and subjective success is its commercial performance. That’s more of a Nicholas thing to say than a Tom thing, but I think it’s justified. It’s true that arguably similar products like Braid and Rez have seen commercial release in the past – both of which touch on ‘artistic’ notes, but never really leave the confines of their respectively excellent, yet in many ways very traditional gameplay. The Path is, however, the first true game of its ilk to see a full release – and it’s a challenging and unique introduction.

For years we’ve seen literary fiction (as opposed to the genre fiction of crime novels and pink covers) succeed commercially, and something similar can be said of film and music. The point is that sidelining that page-turner mentality in favour of artistic pursuits doesn’t prevent (though it may distance) commercial success in other media.

Regardless of whether or not The Path is a ‘good’ piece of interactive entertainment, regardless of whether it sells 100 copies or 100,000, its commercial release marks a milestone for our industry. That’s something that ought to be celebrated.

You can support the developers by buying The Path straight from the official website. Alternatively you can pick it up on Steam and a number of other digital distributors now. Before you do so, you might like to read my write up.

The Path $10 – Developer’s site

The Path Trailer

The Path: Impressions

About Tom Jubert

Tom Jubert is a freelance games writer / narrative designer, best known for his work on the Penumbra series, for which he was nominated for a Writers' Guild Award. His upcoming releases include Lost Horizon and Driver: San Francisco. He was previously the Managing Editor at GameShadow.com, and has also spent time in production.