❤ (◡ ‿ ◡ ✿) ❤ SPECIAL LOVE EDITION ❤ (◡ ‿ ◡ ✿) ❤
FEATURING THE TOE TINGLING TALENTS OF THE
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.)
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.
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.