I've covered several games of late that that could easily be cited when making the case that our beloved medium is an art form. This is a debate that is still going on. With rise of independent games designers, there's a whole breadth of subject matters being tackled and The Kite, a freeware game by Anate Studios, takes on a topic very few would choose to cover: abuse.
For the most part, games evoke positive emotions. You're happy when you've saved the princess, satisfied when you find the solution to a puzzle or even relieved that you survived that zombie attack. You feel satisfied after your play-through.
But real life isn't like that. Other media tackles the uglier side of life with phrases like "social realism", "kitchen sink drama" and "tragedies" being used to describe film, novels and theatre for some time now. There is not an equivalent in video games, which are often categorised by their mechanics rather than their content.
Horror is represented, but it offers the same cathartic escapism of their movie counterparts. There's also a large number of war games, but none of them spark debate over the loss of life and the turmoil it causes at both a political and personal level. Schindler's List can sit along side The Great Escape as an example of great cinema but while many games are inspired by the Steve McQueen classic, there's no game that tackles the tough subject matter of the former.
The Kite is different. Throughout its short running time and simple story ark, it brings the forefront the troubles of a lower class, poor family living in the slums of the Ukraine. It doesn't hide the patriarch's abusive drunken nature literally holding no punches. It makes you worry about the effect his will have on their child. It has been created by an amateur yet talented group of Ukrainians who've chosen to represent a section of their society which is rife with crime and violence, harbouring a male-centric mindset that subjugates women and marginalises children.
You play as Masha, wife to Oleh and mother to Andrew living in what should be a condemned apartment building. They are so poor that there's little food to feed her son let alone herself. Her husband returns from a bad day at another new job and begins to drink, blaming his wife for his unhappiness. During this violent fight, Andrew runs away and the rest of the game sees Masha frantically searching for her child.
The artwork is beautifully drawn, depicting a dull and harsh urban world. The black and grey drawings through most of the game evoke the depressed mindset of every character. A vibrant and contradictory red is suddenly added to the colour pallet later on in the game, be it from a traffic light when you venture outside or other tragic events, it signals change in our heroine - for good or bad.
At it's heart, The Kite is a point-and-click adventure. It won't take long for players of any experience to complete, taking me about 30 minutes. The very affecting story will stick with you far longer than its play time.
To download the game, follow the link below. This is a custom installer exclusive to The Collection Chamber will run natively on modern systems. Tested on Windows 7.
The Kite is © Anate Studios
Review, Cover Design and Installer created by me