Choosing the game of the month is never an easy process, but August proved to be particularly interesting. This is partially due to the fact that there were plenty of great games to consider. Azure Striker: Gunvolt delivered fast-paced action and an inventive twist on the classic run-n-gun model. Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair pleased us with its crafty investigatory gameplay and humorous quips. We also loved Counterspy, primarily for its eye-catching visuals and enjoyable, cover-based shooting mechanics. Those games were worthy contenders for Game of the Month award, to be sure, but that prize ultimately goes to Kojima Production's surprising horror game, P.T.. For many of us at GameSpot, it was the best gaming experience of the month. It was also the most unusual.
During our deliberations, we were on the fence about P.T.'s eligibility for the award. The self-proclaimed teaser is considered by some to be a demo, possibly because it's relatively brief and doesn't cost any money. However, as the adage goes, "time is money," and we think P.T. is well worth the time it takes to resolve its obtuse puzzles and make it to the light at the end of the tunnel. Were it in fact a demo or a slice of gameplay taken directly from the other game teased at the end, Silent Hills, then we'd have to exclude it from the running; but it's neither of those. At the end of P.T., it's made perfectly clear: "This game is a teaser. It has no direct relation to the main title." Teaser or not P.T. has a distinct beginning, middle, and end. Regardless of what its ties are to Silent Hills, P.T. can be taken as a singular whole. It might skate that fine line between "demo" and "full product", but we believe it's a prime example of the ever-evolving state of games and the terms used to define them.
Is the odd and somewhat convoluted nature of the game safe from criticism? Certainly not, but it's at the heart of what makes P.T. so intriguing. With nary a direct prompt or hint in sight, its overarching puzzle asks more from us than most games. Players have to decipher unusual clues while repeatedly exploring a single, evolving setting: a looping hallway in a suburban home that becomes increasingly tainted as the protagonist's madness blossoms. P.T. requires a heightened level of awareness and abstract problem-solving skills, and at the same time, it disturbs your focus with horrors such as tormented fetuses, blood-engorged refrigerators, and horribly haunting figures. One must overcome their own fears in order to find a solution, which is easier said than done.
It's at times unnerving and confusing, but the combination of these two qualities brought players together. Lots of people, including our own Mary Kish and Rob Handlery, spent hours streaming their progress or lack thereof, hoping to crowdsource solutions while putting on a brave face in front of P.T.'s jump-scares and eerie audio clips. Comrades both physical and virtual made the frightening moments easier to face, and the seemingly impossible, possible.
Forget that P.T.'s the work of Hideo Kojima and Guillermo del Toro; it was its pairing of hardcore puzzle solving and scare-tactics, and its subtle nudge to play together near and far that made it our favorite gaming experience during the month of August.