Games of the decade: Grow Home is a game about space and giving people space

November 28, 2019
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I did a bit of gardening this morning. I didn’t want to. I had been putting it off. So many memories! But then I thought: enough. I got right to it and pulled up all the weeds. It took about two seconds. And on the other side of those two seconds the landscape was transformed.

There are so many reasons to love a game like Grow Home, but one of the greatest is this: here is a game world that I helped to build. Grow Home’s vertical playground – sandy beach reaching upwards via floating boulders to wonderful mini-islands, waterfalls, forests and mountains – is beautifully designed. It’s full of secrets. It’s full of potential for open-ended play, for clear, wholesome distraction, which is just about the best currency video games can trade in. But on top of all that are the vines. Grow Home is a game about coaxing a plant up from the earth and high into the sky, so that the little robot you control can get back to his spaceship. You do this by riding vines off the center of the plant, sending them bucking and twisting through the sky towards the rocks you plug them into. This means that you’re adding as much to the landscape as was already there. You’re putting your touch to it. These vines, which you are sort of in control of, mean you can sort of embellish the world and create new parts of it.

Grow Home is full of this stuff. People think it’s going to be like QWOP, a game about awkwardness, because your little robot is powered by physics and has to climb each surface by gripping and releasing his two hands. But it’s not about awkwardness. It’s about the balance of happy accident and growing mastery. You learn how to be this robot. You learn how much he weighs, how high he can jump, how long he can fall and still be safe when he lands.

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