Amid the dazzling, spectacle-driven PlayStation VR launch this month, a collection of developers have already harnessed the power of virtual reality to do more than freak you out or put you in the Batsuit. They’re doing something different: trying to tell intimate and human stories. For gaming, this is on-trend; over the past five years, some of the most important independent games have come from – and even defined – a genre known as “walking simulators,” games where the simple act of soaking up narrative details from the environment constitute the bulk of your experience.

Influential titles like Dear Esther, Gone Home and the recent Firewatch have made millions and won awards by replacing standard run-and-gun action with first-person perspective exploration and investigation, often at a snail’s pace. These games set the player loose in evocative locations, with few goals beyond deciphering character insights from Post-it notes, old letters and abandoned campsites, the forgotten flotsam of people’s lives. Walking simulators offer an intentionally languid experience and the gentle pace and strong narratives offer a refreshing counterpoint to the usual blockbuster bombast. Read More...