I picked up A Story About My Uncle on a whim earlier this week, and have been enjoying it immensely. The gameplay premise is fairly simple: its a first-person platformer where you play as a man equipped with a suit that allows for extra high jumping and grappling with some kind of otherworldly plasma leash. It’s a seemingly original experience, and yet, while playing it I felt like I was experiencing something strangely familiar – like I had played this game in a clunkier, less natural form before.
Then it hit me: this game shares certain similarities with the surf maps that are popular in Counter Strike. Specifically, I remembered a server I used to play on in Counter Strike 1.6 in which you were allowed to use a grappling hook mod with the surf maps. Sure, it took some of the challenge away, but not all of it. In fact, it made it easier for me to enjoy the surf maps at that point, because I hadn’t quite gotten the hang of them yet.
I remember a conversation I had with a friend a few years back about the notion of “meta-modern gaming”. We were trying to figure out what that would entail, and we decided that it would deal with taking a preexisting game, and creating a new method of play within the parameters of the game that was completely unaligned with the original objectives of the game. The most readily available example at the time was Twitch Plays Pokemon, given that it took the original Pokemon game and made it challenging in ways that are almost the exact opposite of those experienced in normal gameplay. I feel that surf maps were a form of meta-modern gaming as well: they took Counter Strike, a military squad-based FPS, and turned it into a kind of high speed platformer.
I bring this up, because it has some interesting implications for how games influence each other in development. What is a meta-modernist reinvention of one game could be the precursor to that same idea being fleshed out as its own game. I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if the developers of A Story About My Uncle were fans of the surf maps, and wanted to make their own game based around a similar concept with their own unique narrative attached to it. I’m eager to see this approach applied more and more as game development and modding become more and more accessible.