Kentucky Route Zero begins with a view of a gorgeous Kentucky sunset as the camera slowly pans downward to the Equus Oils gas station. A delivery truck pulls into a gas station. A man emerges from the delivery truck, followed by an old dog in a straw hat. The interface appears and nothing much happens until the player interacts with the interface. Clouds drift through the sky at a pace so slow they might as well be still. Occasionally a vehicle will travel through the background, apparently along a road which is hardly visible at sunset.
The great mystery of KRZ’s intro is why anyone would actually begin to play after such a dull, uninformative and uninteresting introduction. There is no sense of threat to the player, narrative describing the situation, or anything other than the interface to prompt action from the player. The game’s images are very still after the initial camera pan, and seem very much like a photograph or painting.
The introduction may perhaps be an effort by the developers to remind the player that KRZ is an interactive experience which has departed from traditional constraints imposed by other forms of media like print and film. The introduction therefore reflects the writings of Eskelinen, which state that video games are entirely different from the forms other forms of media. Eskelinen’s opinion is that video games should not be examined from the perspective of other forms of media, but from a perspective unique to video games.
However, once the player begins to play, KRV quickly immerses the player in a slightly eerie world that strongly resembles both print and film media. Other than movement, the options typically offered to the player are observing objects or talking to a non-player character. Both of these options lead to the player reading some text, either describing an observation or the dialogue between the player’s character and an NPC. Like a printed book, KRV unfolds largely through text the player must read. The player’s experience is supplemented by sounds and imagery which create a strangely foreboding atmosphere that seems to encourage the player to take action, even when there is no prompt to take any action.
Once the player beings to interact with the game, KRV’s resemblance to both print and film seems to depart from the views of Eskelinen and begins to resemble the views of Bolter, which state that video games are extensions of various forms of media. Considering that Eskelinen and Bolter seem to have opposing views on video games, KRV seems to at first agree with Eskelinen’s view and thusly disagree with Bolter’s view. Yet, as soon as play begins the table seems to be turned on Eskelinen as the game begins to resemble both a book and film.
If the views of Bolter and Eskelinen are competing, then KRV seems to imply that both views are valid and invalid at the same time. How could this be? Perhaps video games should be considered from both perspectives?