Kentucky Route Zero
Last night I got round to finishing Kentucky Route Zero, and the whole experience was quite unlike any other I’d played. I originally brought the game back in 2018 after going to an exhbition at the V&A about video games that featured it, but I didn’t start playing it until I got to London, largely because I knew it had heavily inspired Disco Elysium. KR0 is a point-and-click adventure with relatively simple graphics and a lot of reading, and perhaps it’s a sign that I’m getting old, but I loved that. The story is profound and compelling, and its no-frills gameplay allows that story to shine, giving the player ample time to think about the world they’re inhabiting. Despite the surreal, quasi-fantastical setting, the tragedy of the game is clearly rooted in the real world, with its themes of loss, loneliness and struggling to belong likely being relatable for many.
There are a million great things I could say about this game - playing it had a significant impact on me, and I’m sure I’ll continue to mull its storyline over for days, if not weeks to come. I think too many people think of video games and instantly think of Fortnite, Clash of Clans or Call of Duty, all games with mass appeal, obnoxious fans and predatory tactics to get (young) players to spend large amounts of time and money on them. But video games don’t have to be like that - they can be like Kentucky Route Zero, labours of love focussed on telling a story that’s worth telling, rather than making money. Games can truly be art, and having finally played through KR0, now I can fully appreciate that it earned its place in that V&A exhibition.