Here Are Some Fuck This Jam Games I Like

By Nathan Grayson on November 21st, 2012 at 2:00 pm.

Fuck This Jam was a pretty brilliant idea. Conceived by Vlambeer’s Rami Ismail and Panoramical creator Fernando Ramallo, it challenged developers to design games in their most-despised genres. “Through utter ignorance for conventions and hate for the established rules of a genre,” said the jam’s mission statement, “beautiful things will happen.” And they did! I mean, Dear Esteban had a sky whale. But I took a casual, decidedly less narrated stroll through FTJ’s submission section today and came across a few more standouts. Admittedly, there are plenty of other amazing entries that I fully plan on giving more attention to, but for now, here are a few that made me laugh, cry, and stab in the most fascinating of fashions.

52

“I hate ‘games’ in the non-games genre for their ugliness. More often, their visuals make me take the game’s ethics less serious and cause a huge distraction to me and my ability to reflect on what the game is really about.”

52 made me feel physically ill. It will probably have a similar effect on you. The entire “game” part of it simply consists of timed key presses, but wow. Saying anything else at all will spoil it. Just see it through to the end. The bitter, bitter end.

Fuck This Dungeon

“You’re adventuring in a dungeon and have been fatally poisoned and the only thing left to do is kill as many goblin-orcs as you can before you die in this deplorable goblin-orc murder simulator.”

If you’re playing these things in order, you’re probably pancake-flat beneath a boulder of your own self-loathing right now. It’s neat that a game can do that, but probably not very good for you. So here: have some laughter. Fuck This Dungeon is a fast-paced, extremely silly thing that lampoons dungeon-crawlers by pairing them with preposterous amounts of punching. There is, however, a bit of finesse to it. You can slow the poison’s advance by punching “convenient potions of Slow Poison” out of enemies’ surprisingly dainty fingers, so you have to strike a careful (but not too careful) balance between walloping/stabbing and potion-gulping. Sure, it’s a goofy timewaster, but it’s also quite an inventive one.

Crystal Crashers

“Crystal Crashers is a match-one game. You click a tile and it disappears. You get coins for that. You can buy upgrades for coins. But all upgrades do is give you more coins.”

Crystal Crashers delights in laughing both with you and at you – which isn’t particularly surprising when you consider that it was co-created by McPixel‘s Sos Sosowski. He and Dames Making Games founder/It’s Not Okay Cupid creator Zoe Quinn one-upped the diabolical simplicity of match-three games by subtracting two and adding a billion fake microtransactions. The end result? It’s a trap! From the barrage of unskippable, dubstep-barfing opening screens to the “game” itself, everything’s just an easily blown over prop set to disguise a bunch of ads. It’s not particularly fun, but it’s not really supposed to be. Crystal Crashers is a parody first and a game second. It’ll make you laugh, though, which is something I’ve heard people enjoy.

Portraying The Terran Condition: An Approach To Simulate A Civilization

“This 7D (backwards compatible to 2D) world simulation depicts six different key events in the history of Terra (‘Earth’), a low-tech civilization that self-destructed several aeons ago. Based on the relatively few biological and cultural artifacts, a team of multi-AI minds was able to recreate a stunningly accurate depiction of this ancient civilization.”

PTTC:AATSAC is downright bizarre. I’m not entirely sure what creators Damien Di Fede, Johannes Grenzfurthner, Eric Wenske, and Heather Kelley are hating on with it (so-called “realistic” games, maybe?), but it’s beyond surreal. Allegedly, you’re playing through a host of major events in human history, but the advanced civilization that’s come across the bones of ours has pieced them together all wrong. Unsurprisingly, it’s very silly. I was sold when it very matter-of-factly explained to me that humans were strange vacuum cleaner creatures with cube-firing guns for hands. Using my mighty digital digits, I then went on to exterminate an evil race of pink pinata… things, because that’s definitely what happened during, say, Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo. Granted, PTTC:AATSAC has some serious issues. The healing mechanic is (maybe purposefully) tedious, and it’s pretty easy for enemies to obnoxiously get the drop on you. As with Crystal Crashers, it’s more amusing than it is an example of sound game design.

And really, I suppose that’s my biggest issue with the Fuck This Jam entries I’ve played so far: they’re funny, but not necessarily fun. I’ve come across a few that show promise (for instance, Rami Ismail’s own Fastness and typing-based tower defender T.Y.P.O. both stand out), but by and large, I haven’t gotten the chance to try many that have pursued Ismail and Ramallo’s goal of reshaping genre conventions into uniquely great re-realizations. I fully plan on continuing to dig through the submissions, though. There are, um, quite a few of them. But, in the meantime, have you stumbled across any standouts? If so, tell the world! Or, you know, fellow RPS readers. Let’s discuss interesting videogames.

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39 Comments »

  1. mrd says:

    52…. wow. Only one I’ve played but now I have to go to bed. Wow…

    • yoggesothothe says:

      Mild spoiler warning, probably should play 52 if you intend to do so at all before reading this comment.

      Strangely, my experience of 52 was rather meh. Maybe it was that the gimmick was realized too early, quite a few screens before the reveal (which possibly gave me time to detach). Felt a bit heavy handed and didactic–indeed, gimmicky–to be honest.

    • Syra says:

      I enjoyed the sneaky idea behind it. But it was a terrible non-game. I hated it.

      I would have done it willingly if they just let me see.

      • yoggesothothe says:

        I think the difficulty is that it doesn’t actually make you care–it (almost presumptuously) assumes you will do so by virtue of the situation alone.

    • Kefren says:

      My girlfriend stopped when it got to 2 on the timer, and closed the browser.

      • mr.black says:

        SPOILER! For me the biggest impact (and it was that of raising-sad-eyebrow “oh no, you didn’t..” variety) was some 5 clicks from end when I.. got the message, the end itself was a bit bland after that. What.. I already done most of the.. business.. few clicks more wouldn’t actually make a difference, so let’s see what’s at the end. And I was a bit disappointed.

  2. Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

    It’s surprising how a title pic that looks like an image that hasn’t finished loading sucks at my mind like a howling existential void, filling me with despair as I try not to wait for it to finish loading. Like a missing tooth, I can’t help but notice it, look at it, probe at it, despite the angst it may cause.

  3. santheocles says:

    Ok, 52 really is brilliant. If you start it and think about quitting because it’s so dull… don’t. Really. See it through.

    • Bhazor says:

      I did and honestly I thought it was rubbish. Saw the twist a mile off and there was nothing the player can do. If there was any correlation between pressing the button and actually changing the story then it might of had something. As it was theres just no connection, its like if a game of Pac man ended with a message saying “While you were away Mrs Pacman was stabbed 2700 times :(“. Pressing s had no correlation with what was happening in the story and it’s designed that you have to click to start it. To me it just epitomises the whole un-game idea, its an art game that makes no use of its art form.

      • Nathan Grayson says:

        I sort of like that about it, though. We’ve been conditioned to unquestioningly follow whatever orders games give us — not matter how strange or arbitrary. Then it reveals what you were actually doing the whole time, and you *have* to think about it. Is it a perfect example of game mechanics overlapping with narrative content? No. But I think that aids its point in some ways.

        • NathanH says:

          The fundamental problem I have with this attitude is that you emph{weren’t} doing anything. You were clicking the mouse whenever you felt like it. In fact, the first click you do isn’t even instructed, you just do it because otherwise you’re staring at the screen for hours and so you try something to get things moving. But that’s slightly beside the point. The main point is that you weren’t doing anything. You weren’t controlling a character in a game. The information you had at your disposal was not sufficient to determine whether or not you were controlling anyone or anything.

          These “oh ho ho, you’re conditioned to following instructions!” non-games don’t really make a very coherent point. If I need to do something to proceed, like Pressing Start To Begin, or turning the page in a book, I’ll do it, because I know that’s what I need to do to get to the next bit. If they then say “every time you turn the page, a kitten was drowned in the story” then I’m not going to feel guilty about it, and nobody else should, because they had no reason whatsoever to suppose that page-turning meant kitten-killing rather than, say, distributing food to hungry children.

          Player remorse for the consequences of their game actions is emph{not} something that we should consider giving for free. We should only give it if we’ve been given reason to buy into caring about the story, and if we’ve been given information to determine what our actions are actually doing. And probably only if we’ve been given the opportunity to do something other than the remorseful action.

          • jrodman says:

            For me they don’t even work.

            I see the game asking me to click a lot, and that makes me wonder what if I don’t? I clicked about 4 times total, and the game got impatient with me and started clicking on its own.

            Not sure what the takeaway from that is?

  4. Zanpa says:

    I played 52 and I just hate the guy who thought of this.
    It is brilliant. That’s the kind of things those jams are for.

  5. Low Life says:

    With a name like that, I expected T.Y.P.O to actually introduce typos in the words. As it is now, it’s just another typing game – no conventions ignored here.

    As for 52, maybe there’s something wrong/missing in my brain but the only reaction the game got from me was a wide smile and almost saying “Well played, sir!” out loud. That’s not to say I didn’t like it, because that’s more than most of these things manage to do.

    • NathanH says:

      Yeah, I agree about 52, It was quite funny, because I spent the game thinking “there’s obviously going to be some pretentious bullshit attempt at a point here eventually” and sure enough there was a pretentious bullshit attempt at a point, but it was funny and well-played and so acceptable. But I can’t imagine feeling “physically ill”. Why would I?

    • wcq says:

      BORDERLINE SPOILERS!
      BORDERLINE SPOILERS!

      I guess 52 was kind of clever, but certainly it would’ve been more impressive if it had a different ending for those who figured it out halfway through. Now you just have to keep going or it won’t advance.

      • Edawan says:

        SPOILERS too.

        Yeah, when they mentioned the hostage situation, it was immediately obvious that the number was the number of hostages remaining, and the last one would be the madman killing himself, though I expected more to see at the end something like “There are [number you're at] hostages still alive.” Being forced to go down to zero is disappointing.

  6. DK says:

    52 would be impressive if it actually had a point. As it is it’s one of those pieces of non-content that *look* like they’re deep, but are actually just a big shiny box of couldn’t-be-bothered-to-be-clever.

    It doesn’t say anything. It doesn’t do anything with it’s one could-have-been-interesting mechanic. It might as well be a short story about a guy eating a sausage for all the meaning it has.

    • yoggesothothe says:

      Again, spoilers, etc.

      Mmm, I think the point was supposed to be that players will click first and ask questions later when playing games, a suggestion which itself could be mildly insulting.

      The thing is, when a game like MoHfighter does this with its intro sequence (as noted John’s in review), it’s rightly flogged and denounced as stupid. But when a “non-game” like this does it (and in a significantly more manipulative way), I guess it’s supposed to be clever?

      • Idiot says:

        “I guess it’s supposed to be clever?”

        I think it is supposed to clever. The mechanic at work here is more self aware than what’s going on in MoH Warfighter. Cow Clicker would be a much more apt comparison.

        About halfway through playing I realised I had no agency in the game and was disappointed. In the end though it had me thinking about the unhesitating submission I have to a game’s inputs. hmm

        • yoggesothothe says:

          Self-awareness alone doesn’t excuse a shallow or exploitative mechanic, though. Cow Clicker is indeed an apt comparison; if I recall correctly, Ian Bogost himself noted that he became consumed with the monetization process, and the “game” ended up becoming the very thing it was supposed to parody–except at an even greater exploitative extreme. It still ended up generating a significant amount of cash for him (though I’m not sure what he actually did with that cash).

      • soundofsatellites says:

        It *is* clever *because* it’s manipulative. I think most people click first and ask questions later, and I don’t find it insulting at all. I don’t want to make a universal statement, but most cultural criticism arises after we stop consuming the product. It would be like “Yes we do note the randian nature of rapture in bioshock, or we note this thing or that. But we think about it after”

        It is by no means different to MoH or any game waiting you to trigger a condition to move on to the next sequence. It might not say anything really deep, or might not resonate with everyone (experiences will differ, ymmv, etc.).
        I think it does not fit within the solid “game” definition, for me it’s a piece of narrative, a prototype of a mechanic which could be used in e-literature or something akin to it, and that’s for me, the value I got of it.

        • yoggesothothe says:

          I suppose the fact that the game has generated conversation and thinking means it has achieved its goal, so that’s commendable. But I would argue that it seems a bit like 52 is attacking a straw man. Most games in which a player is likely to pull first and ask later don’t actually involve anything to ask, and are never meant to. It’s a bit like denouncing a summer blockbuster for not having gravitas. And games that do encourage questions, well, they do this better by actually giving agency, don’t they? It means that player action is a conscious choice, not a forced one.

          The only choice here is to be manipulated or not–you could say that that itself is agency, but then it could hardly claim to have made a point for players that just refused to play it as the content would remain unknown.

          • Bhazor says:

            When my dad backed over bike when I was little it started a conversation.
            Still a shit driver though.

            Also I agree by removing agency you’re removing the whole point of a game as a medium. As I said above when what I am doing has zero correlation to the story then why should I care about what I do.

      • WHS says:

        I thought 52 was marginally clever, but frankly, the point would have been made better if the story progressed regardless of whether you clicked. You can’t really make a point about mindlessly following instructions when people are clicking to advance the plot; that’s like criticizing people for turning the pages on a book. Even once you realize what you’re doing, you don’t really have an option to stop, unless you want to abandon the thing halfway.

        • Berzee says:

          I was *just* coming here to post something about turning the pages of a book where people are dying — and I find that you have paved the way and done it already. Thanks, internet friend!

    • I Got Pineapples says:

      I think we’re beginning to see a kind of default indie game ‘clever’ in so far as we’re getting a clever that seems clever until you think about it for five minutes and then realise it’s some terrible undergrad crap and people are applauding it because we have set the bar for this sort of thing that low.

  7. SubparFiddle says:

    Wolfire’s submission is awfully neat!

    http://bmo.fuckthisjam.com/submissions/110-desperate-gods

    “Desperate Gods is a board game designed to play just like a board game in real-life: no rules are enforced by the computer, and all moves are performed in a shared physical space.”

    • Berzee says:

      I feel like this is a *brilliant* idea! I know some random stuff like this has been done for particular games in the past, but I’d like to see more of it. If done nicely, it would be kind of an awesome way to sell virtual-boardgames with minimal development cost.

  8. sirdavies says:

    Completed a few levels of Portraying The Terran Condition: An Approach To Simulate A Civilization. It’s alright, but not much fun.

  9. karthink says:

    I didn’t understand what happened in 52. What was the twist?

    (Apart from what my mouse clicks actually meant.)

  10. palat_21 says:

    Wait, what? No mention of Furiosity? Furiosity has totally won FuckThisJam :-)

    http://bmo.fuckthisjam.com/submissions/10-furiosity

  11. Ljud says:

    SPOILERS

    52: We need to talk about Kevin: The Game

    Seriously: This is supposed to be a interesting GAME? It is pointless and pretentious, and I for one am someone who enjoys movies like Shame, There Will be Blood, We need to talk about Kevin and games like Braid and don’t find them pretentious at all. But man, games like 52 and, I don’t know, Swords and sworcery EP are just pointless intellectual masturbations.

    If his point was that imagination is more powerful than images, than he deserves a no shit Sherlock award.

  12. Acorino says:

    Wow, if the author of 52 hates non-games, as he calls them, so much, I wonder why he made one that was so much worse than any of the others I played.
    Thing is, the story started with a ridiculously mundane scenario, then becomes all jumpy later on and suddenly there’s…well, danger. It was so uninvolving on its own that I realized that the timed clicking did make the story more bearable! Which would have been a great point on its own…just give me something, anything, no matter how pointless, to interact with the game, and I’m automatically more involved, no matter how shit the narrative is on its own. But there’s a twist of course, and I smiled at it, it was clever. But then the story stopped progressing unless you clicked some more, even after you figured out what it was you were doing. From then on it’s just a tedious walk to the inevitable conclusion. What’s the point?

    There isn’t one. It’s a parody of those presumably terrible non-games that is terrible in itself.

  13. The Random One says:

    I was kind of sad there wasn’t any gritty military shooters by Porpentine, or 40-hour RPGs by Anna Anthropy.

    I’m downloading it now, but I think Portraying is about retro games?

  14. MiloticMaster says:

    SPOILERS! SPOILERS!

    I was a little meh- about 52. Of course a lot of things contributed to this, of course being tipped off by the odd nature of the game and both the author/everyone else tipping me off-

    In conclusion- I got that meh feeling because I had to click to advance. Waiting and checking for the timer that allows me to click again, and trying to read the text below was distracting, so I tried not clicking, realizing that the conversation continued despite the anyway, so I focused on the story. Then the story had nothing to do with the number, so why would I press the number? First, the game instructs me that I need to click to advance. Then I realise I dont need to click to advance. Then I realise I need to click to advance chapters, meaning the game expected me to click but I didnt need to. Meaning that the number was tried to the story. As soon as it mentioned hostages it was over.

    Comparing this with DEPICT1, which is an amazing game based on this ‘misdirection concepts’, DEPICT1 does it beautifully with reverse psychology and playing on basic game concepts, as well as your pre-mistrust of the game. 52, which I believe is very well made, suffers because you never really choose to do it. The game just told you to, therefore you did. I suppose that was the point, but I’m not that sort of person. The flaw for 52 is that- its telling you a story, accompanied with somewhat pointless clicking iteraction. I was never actually in or part of the story, I was just clicking to advance- so the ‘clicking’ wasnt me.

  15. Shepardus says:

    I had a general idea of what was going to happen in 52 starting from 50. Still clicked to the end anyway. I wonder what this says about me.

  16. WrongTarget says:

    The most amazing thing about 52 is that despite all the detractors, here they are discussing it.