Love Free, Play Hard: The Week’s Friendliest Free Games

By Porpentine on April 14th, 2013 at 2:00 pm.

❤ (◡ ‿ ◡ ✿) ❤ SPECIAL LOVE EDITION ❤  (◡ ‿ ◡ ✿) ❤

 

FEATURING THE TOE TINGLING TALENTS OF THE

PULSE POUNDING HEART STOPPING DATING SIM JAM

So we (the Internet) had a game jam (snowballed into existence by artist Madam Luna from an idea by Eren Russo) with the theme “dating sim” and the important disclaimer that “dating sim” means whatever the hell you want it to mean.

These are the dating sims that never were, dating sims by people who’ve never played a dating sim in their life, dating sims for sexualities that no one is making dating sims for.

We explored love between clip art, dinosaurs, and anglerfish, but also questioned and deconstructed dating assumptions and social interactions.

Twine and Ren’Py were popular tools, but not exclusively (someone used Powerpoint!)

We coordinated over Twitter, followed each other’s progress with the #pphsjam hashtag, then watched the numbers roll in: 50 games, 60, 70, 80…and counting.

I feel PPHSJAM was successful because it picked an amazing theme. Interpersonal relationships are common experiences yet vary wildly from person to person, making the jam something everyone can participate in while ensuring the games are as unique as their creators. (And I bet the cute vibe pulled in people pushed away by jams marketed toward Games Culture/programmers.)

Anyways, Leigh Alexander wrote up some spectacular coverage on Gamasutra, and Nathan Grayson covered more games here on RPS!

 

 

AEGIS WING by Anna Anthropy

This is probably the most personal thing Anna’s ever made, a romance that begins with a seduction on Xbox Live.

I like the acknowledgment of multiplayer games as a way for people to talk under the pretense of playing a game, like how many MMOs function as the digital equivalent of knitting circles.

Hey we’re playing Street Fighter and our avatars are getting real physical with each other. What does that mean? Maybe nothing, maybe it’s just another one of the ten zillion ways we sublimate our sexual tension and romantic feelings into our environment, doing anything but fuck or kiss or hold hands because emotions are hard and scary.

In this case, the game is Aegis Wing, and it’s about two space ships fighting endless hordes of alien scum by merging together into a single super-craft–a touching and perfect metaphor for their relationship. I’m interested in avatars not as laughable deceptions but as empowering realizations of our boundless multiplicity.

AEGIS WING is a powerful love letter because it talks about the struggles that leave you wondering if you’ll still be a couple in the morning. A relationship is more than the rosy memories, it’s the dark, bruised times you survived together.

 

Kindness Coins by Arden Kehoe, Spider, Jordan Battiston, Michael Real

Monster girl dating sim full of fuzzy feelings and amazing art (plant girl, cyclops bunny, devil babe!) where you “play as a person that a dating sim protagonist is trying to pick up”.

Kindness Coins veers toward a typical heterosexual narrative, then gracefully rebels. It also deals with flawed models of romance–women as “machines that you put Kindness Coins into until sex falls out.” The author talks more about that here.

Wow, why am I getting flustered playing this, what an unfamiliar Video Game Emotion, oh wait, it’s because I get to play as a woman attracted to other women, ha, how unusual! But it shouldn’t be.

 

 

Magical Maiden Madison by Christine Love

Magical girl texting her friend about an intense encounter with a vine monster. Each text can be negative or positive, leading you to decide: how exactly do you feel about saucy vine monsters?

This is an adorable send-up of Sailor Moon-style tropes, laced with a sly eroticism that makes a lot of sense when you consider it’s a show about half-naked girls being constrained by bestial monsters (I’ve never seen the show).

 

There Ought To Be A Word by Jeremy Penner

Jeremy Penner, divorced (but not quite), separated (but living in the same house and getting along quite well), opens an account on OKCupid (for friends). How do you describe yourself when you don’t fall into the conventional narrative? Gently told and disarmingly sincere.

 

Dining Table by Leon Arnott

Creepy and tender dollhouse romance slowly zooming out to reveal the scope of its imagination.

 

***END LOVE TRANSMISSION*** (until next week because fuck, 80+ games, we’re not done yet)

 

 

Future Development by Nigoro

Tough base building sim where infrastructure development plays out tight as a puzzle. Each map has some glorious goal like launching giant robots or Buddha towers into space, if you can survive the time limit and UFO attacks.

Future Development has the pleasure of building efficient cities in a tight space (reminds me of 90′s strategy game Deadlock: Planetary Conquest), but it also has a personality. You aren’t just planning out the most optimal power line routes, you’re considering where aliens will attack and leaving room for defensive cannons, or clicking on your peppy guide just to see what she’ll say next, or throwing a concert as spaceships suck up helpless workers.

 

Mumble Indie Bungle: Gurney by Pippin Barr

Rushed through the hospital on a gurney, mumbling the Lord’s Prayer with your dying breaths, words disintegrating against the pain.

 

The Guardian by Nicole Brauer

Brooding prequel to Shadow of the Colossus set in a bleak yet lovely silhouette world.

So, this is a slow game (whether it is too slow or pleasingly methodical is up to your personal taste) but the artistic efficiency is worth noting, especially the single pixel presentation.

Nicole doesn’t need more than a pixel to convey the inhabitants of this world because she renders everything contextually. People move along the ground. They vibrate in fear or express their wounds in stuttered, agonizing steps. Birds temporarily sprout two diagonal pixels to represent flight. Unlike humans, they can be in the air. Berries twinkle.

This is more than an aesthetic choice. By scaling humans to the smallest possible unit of representation on a computer screen, The Guardian immediately establishes a world of giants.

 

Find Me a Good One by Heka Games

a surreal puzzle platformer in which you are tasked to find, chat with, and navigate dream characters back to your brother in order to fend off the nightmares sneaking into his bedroom.

True.

You also get to wear a crown. I found it in the sky. I have no idea what it does (a good question would be, does it have to do anything?)

 

I See You by CatOverlord

I See You takes inspiration from Imscared but branches off in its own direction.

It transgresses against the sacred holy space of your computer, but along an extra axis.

It uses the low draw distance for obvious terrifying reasons, but also to make the level itself undependable. Hugging the wall as I try to form a mental map of my surroundings no longer grants a modicum of comfort if the walls change when my back is turned. The darkness is where things change.

The deformation of spaces reminds me of a 1st person Silent Hill, that tense wandering of bland corridors, everyday surroundings displaced and twisted.

At first I was put off by the dialogue boxes (hey I know keys open doors) but quickly realized their purpose is rapport, not instruction.

This is about being a plaything in the jaws of architectural horror. This is a game for whimpering.

, .

31 Comments »

  1. Armatool says:

    LOVEFACE

    • foppehenk says:

      LOVE HULK LOVE HULK LOVE HULK

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    • Raiyan 1.0 says:

      LOVE HARD LOVE HARD LOVE HARD

      UNGH UNGH UNGH

    • The Random One says:

      If only you could love the monsters.

      • Aaax says:

        If only you could make love to the monsters…

      • Premium User Badge

        RedViv says:

        I suggest you go back to the lovely jam page and check out the Rogue hack then.

  2. sneaklemming says:

    Interested in giving some of these a go. It can be hard to find “love” games that don’t degenerate into some form of interactive sex game.

    One of the best I can think of, which you did not mention here is: don’t take it personally, babe, it just ain’t your story. Which I think was covered before.

  3. AlwaysRight says:

    I thought love was only true in fairy-tales…

  4. LionsPhil says:

    You link to the previous article, but leave out the T-Rex?

    For shame. For shame.

    • Porpentine says:

      I WOULD NEVER FORGET T-REX AND UKELELE

      THERE WILL BE MORE LOVE IN THE FUTURE

    • eQuality_Ninja says:

      T-Rex was really sweet. I played it on my me-phone in bed yesterday morning. Many thanks for the link RPS!

  5. utharda says:

    I think this, “I like the acknowledgment of multiplayer games as a way for people to talk under the pretense of playing a game, like how many MMOs function as the digital equivalent of knitting circles.” May be the single most valuable observation in the history of the MMO market.

    Thanks.

  6. Dr I am a Doctor says:

    oh hey a new game by anna anthropy focused on lesbian relationships and bdsm
    Ecclesiastes was right

  7. The Random One says:

    Not surprised you also liked Gurney. In a ‘bundle’ of pure satire, its poignancy takes you by surprise. It’s only too bad that you pretty much need to know (a certain English translation of) Psalm 23 by heart to play.

    My cup runneth over.

  8. Quirk says:

    I’m getting a little fed up of Twine games which aren’t games.

    If you want to write short fiction, great. I like short fiction. However, my standards for short fiction are much higher than for game stories, and if you’re writing mediocre short fiction with a couple of hyperlinks for skippable information and a couple of choices that aren’t, you don’t get to take advantage of the game story proviso, nuh-uh.

    Seriously, I don’t want to ignore Twine games. I’ve seen some interesting stuff done in Twine, and like the potential. However, when the scene is filling up with people who don’t understand the difference between designing a game and authoring a story, or do but are cynical enough to realise that billing their little fiction piece as a game will actually get a bit more of an audience to look at it, I’m beginning to lose interest in looking at new pieces.

    • I Got Pineapples says:

      That’s the thing.

      I really want to like Twine games.

      But a lot of it comes across as people wanting to work in a conventional medium, like fiction writing realising they aren’t really that good and instead placing their work into a space that allows them to insulate themselves from criticism.

      For example; people will, with very good reason, defend a queer narrative in gaming for example in a way they simply wouldn’t with a written piece by the same person on the same subject.

      If you want to write a short story, write a short story. If you’re crap, get better. You’re not going to be less crap just because you wrote it into a game unless you have an idea or concept that actually warrants being turned into a game.

    • musurca says:

      The Twine punk-lit stories are great if you’re new to hypertext fiction — but it’s hard to take some of them quite as seriously if you’ve already seen the early Storyspace work from the ’90s (like Shelley Jackson’s Patchwork Girl, which unfortunately is hard to play on modern systems), or if you’ve played any IF from the ’00s for that matter. Outside of the indie games community there’s a very high literary standard for interactive text.

      But that shouldn’t discourage anyone from trying! It’s actually very exciting to see hypertext being taken up by indie game designers after being neglected for so long. I just hope Twine authors take a look at the history of the medium, and in doing so feel challenged to bring their prose up to that standard.

  9. MinisterofDOOM says:

    Someone else remembers Deadlock!!!!
    I still play it on occasion. It was my first-ever turn-based strategy game and it kind of set my expectations for all other turn-based strategy games I’d ever play–which was probably both a good thing and an bad thing.

  10. elevown says:

    Nice stuff but I have to correct you on Sailor moon :)

    They were hugely influencial and popular anime- they invented many of these ‘tropes’ – they have dated quite a bit being nearly 20 years old- and I wouldn’t say they are the best anime out there but they had a big impact.

    They are PG- the girls arnt THAT skimpily dressed in the actual shows- they fight monsters, but there are no tentacles or H scenes- in fact the show is fairly dark and depressing later on – (some die)- and it features probably the first ever canon gay couple (main characters) in anime.

    There IS tons of H stuff for sailor moon out there true, but this was a result of its success and made by fans- not from the series. I think its disservice to lable it some kinda pervy Tentacle/monster rape fest or whatever when it has exactly NONE of that in it.

  11. djriverside says:

    Kindness Coins created a desire in me for more games where I get to act like a normal human being in romance.

    A friend of mine adores Katawa Shoujo, a game that put me off because the narrative seems to fetishize weak, helpless women and finding just the perfect ways to throw kindness at them. But, thinking about games that use Kindness Coin mechanics… Isn’t Christine Love’s own Analogue: A Hate Story an example?

    Kindness Coin also reminded me of the lack of games with male-male romances. :( And even fewer featuring men that aren’t marines or superheroes. Also a dearth of games with characters that actively hit on you and try to get closer to you without a bit of predation on your part.

    • JackShandy says:

      “the narrative seems to fetishize weak, helpless women”

      Well, it fetishizes disabled women – I wouldn’t say they’re weak or helpless.

      • djriverside says:

        The paths I played seemed to imply that conquering their personal problems required your presence: you’re an agent in their healing of whatever may plague them.

        Perhaps it’s not so bad when viewed through that lens, though.

  12. dethtoll says:

    Kindness Coins is the clear winner out of this.