I'M DAHEE SYSTEMS EXPERIENCES RESEARCH CRITIQUES

A SHORT HIKE
It's SHORT.

created by adamgryu

A Short Hike by is an exploratory game about a bird wandering around nature with the hopes of finding cell phone reception. While walking, gliding, flying, running, and falling you encounter fun characters, hidden passages, and lots of activities to unwind and hang around the campsite. The gameview is a 3rd person 3D view. The player can manipulate the view slightly with the mouse, but the majority of the view depends on the direction in which the character is facing.

Overall, the game is atmospheric, relaxing, aesthetically pleasing as an experience and as a work of art. The game uses an impressionistically pixelated art style to convey a sense of hazy warmth, coolness, and atmospheric wind patterns. Everything, however, is still distinguishable ther than abstract. The multiple landscapes, autumn, tundra, scenic waterfalls, canyons, and more, are each uniquely shaped through color scheme, texture, and sound.

There are an array of objects that players can use to their advantage. Objects include a fishing rod, shovel, pickaxe, bucket, and the most essential item is the golden feather. Golden feathers translate to increased stamina, endurance, and power in A Short Hike. The more golden feathers, the higher, longer, and faster one becomes. Actions such as running and climbing become impossible to do without golden feathers. The game space is wide and vast, but access is gained based on the player’s abilities to overcome the natural obstacles such as walls, ice, and rocks. The game mechanics are somewhat unconventional because of the nature of the actions. The gliding and flying are controlled by pressing the letter ‘z’ which can sound easy, but once put into practice proves as a slight challenge. The main hike, Hawk’s Peak, requires a certain level of skill as well as a minimum amount of golden feathers for the players to complete the hike and reach its peak.

Strategy and planning is essential to accomplish the main objective, finding cell phone service, of the game. Climbing is the biggest challenge of this game. Once close enough to the peak of Hawk’s Peak, feathers begin to freeze causing them to hinder climbing capabilities. To maneuver through, around, and on the icy slopes players must strategize on how to conserve golden feathers to optimize the climb to the top. This game has some playspace related challenges. Landscape challenges include reaching certain points of interest such as some hiking paths, waterfalls, and hidden valleys and islands. The game provides no map for players, so players must learn to navigate the gamespace with a compass and memory essentially. With the large playspace available, players have little pressure to make decisions.

The mystery of exploration and discovery along with the lack of pressing tasks allows players to make decisions as they truly wish. Other characters in the game are only prompted to engage in conversation if initiated by the player. Once a player is given a proposition by other characters, the player is presented with the decision to accept or deny. Whether players accept or deny, there is no game-related pressure to complete or follow through with the player’s decision. Players have no decision-related challenges aside from strategy and planning for the big climb, Hawk’s Peak.

*spoiler alert*

The game’s storyline concludes when you climb to the top of Hawk’s peak, a clear climatic point. After the beautiful scenery and dramatic descent back to the ground, the character states “I should take a long nap”. This prompts the player to return back to the starting point, and enter the one building that has been inaccessible throughout the gameplay: the cabin. After you enter, credits begin rolling indicating the end of the narrative. When the credits began to roll, I had an immediate angry reaction. I then proceeded to angrily message my friend group’s group-chat and state “GUYS I FINISHED A SHORT HIKE WTF IT'S ONLY BEEN TWO HOURS AFLJKFADSKLJASDHKLJ”. After some more boisterous venting, my friend calmly responded, “Dahee it’s called a Short hike not a long hike.” This put the game into perspective. I thought about the objective, get cell phone service at the top of Hawk’s Peak, and I thought about the gaming experience. I realized that the objective of this game is a false objective. Going straight to the top of Hawk’s Peak defeats the true purpose of the game: to explore. The true objective is to explore and to enjoy the freedom this game offers. The game has an incredible freedom that’s comparable to that of Animal Crossing. A Short Hike, however, is even more liberating. Most evidently, you have no one to pay mortgage to! Players are completely free to never complete any mini - task or even the main objective if they wish. If you want to get straight to the top, you may do so. If you want to race every camper until you win and do nothing else, you may do so. If you want to make your own path and just fly as you wish, you may do so. A Short Hike paints a beautiful landscape of freedom in games. Although still restrained by gamespace and mechanical challenges, players have the freedom to play as they wish within the few boundaries. This game is an essential to anyone that wishes to explore freedom of choice in the safety of digital nature.