Magically Real Mechanics

To follow on from my previous post on finding that the core of my ‘Magical Friendship’ vibe was a magical realism stint, I decided to take a quick look at some games I’ve played that employ magical realism as part of their story to see how their mechanics imbibe the genre. This is less a comprehensive review of mechanics and more a short brain dump!

Coffee Talk

Coffee Talk on Steam

Which aspect is magically realistic?

Coffee Talk’s world feels rather magically realistic, as the setting is generally realistic and modern, bar the inclusion of fantasy races.

How is this shown through mechanics?

The main mechanic in Coffee Talk is drink making and serving while you listen to the patrons talk about their lives. Drink serving is used as a way to branch the story, and depending on what you serve their stories change. This feels slow and cosy, which brings in the glorification of the everyday element I discussed in my last post.

Life is Strange

Life is Strange (Time Travel, and the Mechanics of Point-and-Click  Adventure Games) | Gaming Backlog

Which aspect is magically realistic?

The world in Life is Strange is the real world, however our main character has time travel powers. These powers are not the focus, rather the focus is on the revival of old friendships and the question about whether you’d change the past if you could. This exploration of human questions though the fantasy element is indicative of the genre.

How is this shown through mechanics?

We traverse environments, picking up clues about the story then later get to use that information to make key decisions regarding characters. At certain points, the player can choose to time travel back to an earlier point, retaining the knowledge gained in order to change dialog options and open up more paths. This is a fairly literal interpretation of regret over the past as a mechanic.

Persona 4

Persona 4 Rainmeter : Rainmeter

Which aspect is magically realistic?

Everything about this game! The way mundane and magical concerns are placed alongside one another, the participation in the mc’s daily life and the TV, something very ordinary, as a vehicle for magical elements all make Persona 4 magically realistic.

How is this shown through mechanics?

We see glorification of the everyday and the elevated status of normal activities to sit alongside the fantasy hero narrative, as the game is split between the daily life and dungeon segments. Players must balance keeping up with school work, maintaining friendships and yearly events with their quest to find the murderer in the TV world. The way that social relationships affect the stats of the personas that are used in the RPG style battles show how the magical and real are intertwined in a way that supports the main themes of friendship, rebellion and longing for escape.

Papers, Please

Immigration as a game: 'Papers, Please' makes you the border guard - The  Verge

This game is not an example of magical realism, however I think the stamping and verifying mechanic is a great way to explore theme. Papers, Please is about the conflict between survival and providing for one’s family vs doing what’s right against an authoritarian state. Your work as a border guard is mundane, but can completely change someone’s life, potentially even dooming them to die by stamping a card one way or another.

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