Since it was announced at E3 2015, my interest in Media Molecule's Dreams had waxed and waned.
Described as a "sketchbook", among many other things, Dreams had always looked promising and somewhat surreal, the ultimate creative platform that seemed potentially too ambitious to succeed. As Dreams began to gather legs and move its way into alpha testing then beta testing, my interest turned from intrigue to awe.
I, like many others, watched the various beautiful creations the community had crafted, from full English breakfasts to sanguine beach settings, and found myself somewhat intimidated by the platform. And that's what Dreams is essentially, it is not a game, it is a creative platform. And I am not a creative. I could never make the things these people were making, so why try?
But here is the key to enjoying Dreams: you don't need to be a creative. You don't even need to be an artist. Dreams is much more than its creative mode, if you just take the time to explore.
We're not all Picasso
It's hard to deny that Dreams' creative mode, or 'Dream Shaping', can take some getting used to. At first sight, it's extremely intimidating, and developer Media Molecule's tutorials are often reminiscent of that time you bought a 'how to draw' book in school and proceeded to just draw lots of circles.
However, the beauty of Dreams is you don't actually have to create anything at all. You can simply enjoy the games, sculptures, music and art that (more talented) others in the community have created.
"It's a place that you can go to consume and just see things that people in the PlayStation community have made," creative director Mark Healey tells me at the Dreams launch event. "Or you go there and join in the fun and start making some stuff yourself.
"I like to compare it to YouTube, that's the best analogy I can think of. A lot of people know what YouTube is and most people go there to watch things. And I think the same happens with Dreams, you go there and play stuff – that might be all you ever do – and that's more than enough."
While I was initially a bit cynical about Healey's comments, the more I 'Dream Surfed' through the community's creations, the more I realized how right he was. I was able to jump in and out of an abundance of varying creations, sampling a taste of someone else's creativity before jumping into something totally different. One second you're watching animals sing Auld Lang Syne and the next you're smashing up an art gallery.
Not everything is the Mona Lisa
"You don't have to create. You can just go and lose yourself searching," Healey enthuses to me. "If you love playing games, you've got such a mad range of things already.
"But the thing that really excites me about it already is, you know obviously some people are really going for epic, releasing their little teaser trailers and things, and some people just make these really silly and wacky things. Yeah, that's the stuff that really turns me on with this."
And this is perhaps what I love about Dreams the most: not everything is perfectly polished. In fact, some of the most enjoyable games that I played were the shoddiest – in the best way.
Take, for example, Witchy Woods. Witchy Woods is a short but memorable game that sees you playing as a Scottish man who needs to cross through a forest invested with witches to get his car, before heading back home again. But this isn't some polished, Blair Witch-style game. Instead imagine a poorly recorded (and hilarious) voice-over, some cone-bodied cartoon witches and a car that rams through a scene that looks like it's been drawn by a child. It was brilliantly rubbish and unlike anything we would likely get to experience otherwise.
As Healey points out, these aren't the types of games we see being funded by studios, but they're nevertheless brilliantly fun. And, through Dreams, we get to experience them.
During my time with Dreams, I did not build one single thing. And I had a blast. Instead I consumed everything I could, from llama platform games to point-and-click adventures, to 3D artwork of mice, I was never at a loss for a game to try or a new piece of art to examine.
And while I was still in awe of these creations, I felt like part of the community rather than an outsider. We can't all be Picasso, but art is nothing without people to consume it.
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