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Finally, the ICO giveaway contest

by nickmamatas

Well, we had a great time at Worldcon. We did not win the Hugo, but we met lots of great people, had two wonderful panels on Japanese and cross-cultural science fiction, and made novelist N.K. Jemisin jump up and down and glee by presenting her with a copy of ICO: Castle in the Mist by Miyuki Miyabe.

The new hotness.

And now it’s your turn to jump up and down! We’re giving away four copies of ICO, to the readers with the best answer to this question:

What makes ICO such a great videogame anyway. Describe why it stands out from the pack to someone not familiar with modern gaming.

Of course, we’ll take answers in English, Spanish, German, Japanese, Greek, or French. You have till Friday at noon, Pacific, to post your answer as a comment to this blog post. Then we will select four winners and send those free copies out immediately. You don’t need to be in the US to play—we ship everywhere!

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16 Responses to “Finally, the ICO giveaway contest”

  1. Niko Silvester says:

    ICO is a great videogame because it shows how a game can tell a rich, engaging story with deceptively simple ingredients. It’s so difficult to describe, though, that one almost has to play it to understand it at all. The environments are simple, the path though the game is linear, and obvious conflict is minimal, which should add up to a mediocre experience, yet somehow, ICO adds up to far more than the sum of its parts.

  2. Eduardo mesquita says:

    I have the game is one Thea I play and I love the mostorry and the action around,they way was made if passion of a kid be don’t know what was going? Why he was look and later find a girl around and he try to find way out. They game is all ages, give different means of see the story line.

  3. Sara Breidenbach says:

    What I think makes ICO stand out from most video games is its unique story and how Team ICO presents it. Although not all of the details are entirely explained, they purposely leave out those tidbits for us, the players, to think of, as if to make this game our own. In other words, it’s very fan friendly when it comes to the story and it makes us think and wonder and use our imaginations for the things the game didn’t explain.

  4. JibaraRukyasu says:

    My mother tongue is Polish so I may wrap my ideas in unintelligible words. I’m also not able to write a dissertation here, but that wouldn’t even seem right considering the humble nature of ICO’s own narration.

    ICO hit gamers in a very peculiar way – it hit them silently and without even trying. The game was made by a small team of previously unheard people working for Sony Computer Entertainment Japan, with a duo of Fumito Ueda & Kenji Kaido as the main designers. It was one of the early games for the PlayStation 2, it was a new IP and its gameplay was nothing hit titles from that gaming era. Few people cared about the faith of this title. Then came the day when ICO hit the stores and… nothing happened. The game wasn’t selling. All seemed lost and yet, there was light in the tunnel. ICO started to be renowned by some gaming sites as a title unlike any other and many gamers were intrigued by it.

    ICO is a simple story about a boy challenged by Fate to fight for survival. The boy meets a girl and thus the journey begins. Seems like a cliché – hearing about it made people think “How can this even work?”, but it worked in a beautiful way.

    What made ICO so special were its spiritual vibes and its visual style. Fumito Ueda and his team proved that great programming alone is not enough to make a legendary game. Creating games, just like any other form of creation, requires deep emotions, requires one’s very soul to be poured into it. Ueda, a video game designer that graduated from the Osaka University of Arts, showed the world that a small team of devoted and artistic people can make a cult game even with a small budget.

    When you play this game, you feel a special kind of bond with the character you’re controlling and what’s even more intriguing is the bond between the player and the girl character that must be protected.

    Even though the game tells its story in a very specific way, relying on emotions instead of verbal narration, the player sinks into the game world. It is possible because the art design is phenomenal and it makes your imagination work in the accelerated mode. You want to know more about the beautiful – and ominous – world that you’re exploring, especially that the game itself tells you so little about it. This is why a book based on ICO was such a great idea.

  5. Nathan Ho says:

    ICO is an amazing game for its ability to create an emotional connection with players. You gain a genuine attachment to the titular character as well as with Yorda. It’s a feat few other games manages to achieve. Also, every aspect of the game’s design is well realized, making the journey to save Yorda ever so memorable.

  6. Kermit says:

    In the ongoing “debate” over whether or not video games can qualify as art, ICO is one of the games that get mentioned repeatedly as an example of how they can, and in fact, do qualify.

    First, ICO closely follows the old literary adage “Show don’t tell”, in that it has very little exposition or dialogue. Instead it relies upon the dynamic real-time interactions of its two main characters, Ico and Yorda, who, unable to speak each other’s language, have to communicate mostly through body language and intuition. That a video game can convey this subtle sort of relationship is nothing short of amazing.

    Over time players get to see the two characters develop in their own right, and with respect to their relationship to one another: Ico more boldly facing the shadow creatures trying to capture Yorda, and Yorda less apprehensive in putting her faith in Ico.

    Unlike other video games which resort to elaborate CG effects, Hollywood-style cinematics, or even gratuitous use of sex or violence, ICO rests comfortably on its artistic merits, from the “washed out” water color aesthetic to its use of silence to convey the vastness of Ico and Yorda’s castle prison, and an extreme sense of isolation. This isolation only makes the bond between the two characters more powerful.

    The castle prison itself functions as a character in its own right, an omniscient overseer that revels in each obstacle it places before Ico and Yorda. Not so much out of malice as out of its own need for human interaction apart from its sole occupant, the Queen, who has only ever provided centuries of neglect.

    Finally, instead of forcing players to slowly acclimate themselves to a complicated control scheme, players master a few basic commands right from the start, and learn to use them in an increasing variety of ways. Simple controls mean the challenge always lies in navigating ICO’s contextual puzzles, rather than being frustrated by difficult button-pressing combinations.

    From the opening cut scene, ICO takes hold of the player’s emotions, and doesn’t let go until the closing credits, if at all. It is also a game that one could enjoy as a bystander, for how seamlessly the interactive portions mesh with the overall narrative.

    It is, in every sense, a modern masterpiece.

  7. Matt G says:

    No game has made me feel what I felt when I first played Ico.

  8. Tom A. says:

    Ico is the perfect example of “less is more” that is so lacking in all types of media, much less games. It also gives the player a “why” that they can connect to on an emotional level. They can see not only that Yorda needs the player’s help in order to survive, but that Ico himself is also vulnerable. The bond that forms between the two characters is so significant because it is created between the player and the characters as well. There is beauty in the game design on all levels. From the music to the environment to the very core concepts of the game, there is a depth that is absent from most games.

  9. Crispin T. says:

    ICO is a game that in many ways defines the way a story is told. There are countless things about the game that have it stand out, such as it’s genuine artistry, wonderful story, or how they leave parts out just to have the player wanting to think about whats been happening and trying to set their imagination in gear. Of course the game has more attributes, but those are 3 off the top of my head. Really, the overall simple yet complicated feel of the game is what gave me the satisfaction while playing it.

  10. Nick F. says:

    For me, Ico was a game that filled a void that so many game companies fail. Ico was simply saying ‘Sit down and let me tell you a great story!’

  11. Carly says:

    ICO is a great game because it focused so much on narrative, and the move toward minimalism as a game concept was so bold, particularly as we increasingly expect games, and game systems to “do more” and “be more,” ICO demonstrated that less can actually be more.

  12. Ben says:

    Most games are power fantasies, and the functions assigned to the buttons on the controller reflect that. The buttons are to *accelerate* or *fire* or *jump* or *punch*.

    ICO has a button to hold hands. That’s my abiding memory of the time I spent in those sunny ruins. My girlfriend at the time and I played it together, taking turns at the controller.

    If you’re a non-gamer, it must seem strange that a game can be so celebrated for reducing something so intimate and human to the press of a button, but before ICO the archetypal videogame relationship was between Mario and Princess Peach.

    In the Mario games, Peach is an absence, a cipher, a reward that Mario receives after navigating crazy worlds full of abhuman opponents. In ICO, Yorda is there in the ruins with you, and she needs your help.

    I don’t think we ever finished ICO. I don’t remember why not. I know that if you completed the singleplayer mode, you could plug in a second controller so that one of you could control Yorda and then you would really be playing it together, but we never got that far.

  13. Henry P. says:

    Ico is a game that does everything it needs to do without being overly eleberate. It’s simplicity at its best from the story to characters, making use of the base elements to their maxium potential.

    Ico is a character who isn’t equiped to fight monsters or protect someone, but that’s what the game has you do anyway because it’s what anyone might do in the same situation: protect someone you know can’t hold their own and help them get out of there with you.

    The game is about the story you want to see where it goes and characters you want to see succeed after the injustice to befall them each.

  14. Motion says:

    ICO is a great game because it doesn’t pretend to be anything. ICO is ICO, the simplicity of the game itself belies a simple truth. Games can, and are, art.

  15. Carrie Marchlewski says:

    Ico is a game that has much to do with being young and feeling somewhat alone, the value of our companions, and the wonder of exploration. There is a vagueness that adds a beautiful mystery to the game. These themes are typical of Team Ico, but the way they are conveyed in this game makes it unique.

    The game play has much to do with searching for a safe exit from an imprisonment in a castle. While exploring, there is only a little action to distract you. I fell in love with the setting, the soft light soaked, dilapidated castle and grounds. Though one wants very much to find their way out of the setting Ico is trapped in, each new area brought back a slightly giddy feeling I rarely feel as an adult, the feeling you have when you’ve found a secret, magical place. I think that feeling has occurred more in my dreams since playing this. I found myself extremely fascinated with strange rooms when I didn’t yet fully understand their purpose. I wondered, had any living people resided and lived normal lives here? These questions tickled my obsession with old places. This almost eerie beauty and mystery of the game made this game delicious for me.

    If I were in Ico’s position, I would not mind trying to live (or end up starving) in this place if fair and strange Yorda were not in her own bad situation. While I sometimes felt a little frustrated with Yorda, her simplicity is endearing. If you are playing with a heart, your feeling of friendship will deepen through your adventures and troubles together. Though there is very little dialog in the game, you cannot help but feel a bond with Yorda. She is a very weak and helpless ally, but possibly your only one.

    After finishing this game, enduring the credits and what came after, I was glad I finished the game while home alone. I am not sure if another game has ever left me in such a state. Ico is one of my favorite tales, for the visual beauty of it, and the story contained within.

  16. David H. says:

    Even with its surprising lack of gaming features, one wonders how ICO can do so much with so little. The secret is that while other games are made around the idea of “experience”, ICO was done thinking on “feelings”. There is not huge dragons to slay nor vast fields to explore, but one can also find quite an enormous adventure inside the walls of this “castle in the mist”.

    The minimalistic setting turns to be rather susprising, instead of boring as one could initially think. Indeed, the so celebrated story relies just on three characters, that keep however a truly great potential. Ico and Yorda does not even speak the same languaje, yet they form an extremely strong bond to flee from the castle and ultimately from their dreadful destiny. The queen is also such an amazing oponent, not just as an object of hate because of her actions, but as a very fascinating character on design and personality. Once the quest is finished, the player has established such a bond with them that it seems hard to believe one has shared just a few hours with this little world of the game.

    ICO is art, and no more words are necesary to describe it. Videogames are closing themselves in the very same patterns that companies use again and again, but ICO stands out as a really nice tale of tenderness and emotions that only other games from the same studio (such as Shadow of the Colossus and the long waited The Last Guardian) can match.

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