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Live Free, Play Hard: The Week’s Finest Free Indie Games

Spend millions of dollars, sure

Featured post

THIS WEEK: Fridge magnet story engine. 2012 so .exe, 2013 so .ppt. Dinosaur dating sim. “The ONLY LGBT-friendly anglerfish dating sim!”

 

Do Not Touch by Moniker

Do Not Touch is a video game.

It is a game that is a video.

It is powered by time travel.

It is made of hundreds of strangers choices traveling like sperm.

I had another paragraph typed but I deleted it because doing anything but playing this spectacular example of pure play is bullshit.

18 Cadence by Aaron Reed

18 Cadence is a story made of magnets. The setting is a house and the people who live in it over generations. A fireplace can be a magnet, and so can a woman grieving for her son killed in the war.

The magnets can cling together to form complete sentences, and you can click on them to change the phrasing. Smart words. The presentation is tactile, giving you a well-worn worktable and a knife to cut apart bonded magnets.

18 Cadence captures the body of fridge magnets (refining them in a way they could never be physically) but also the soul (leaving stuff for other people to find). I made one of my own. :~)

MY DATING SIM.PPT by DankHerbMullet

This has been an exciting year for Powerpoint. From its burgeoning popularity in the indie scene to Blizzard’s interesting decision to make Starcraft II: Heart of the Swarm entirely in Powerpoint, I think we’ll see a decrease in other formats and a rise in this exciting medium.

It’s easy to see why. Powerpoint is robust, professional, and lets you use lots of cool graphics. Many people make deeply personal games in Powerpoint and share them using their computer internets.

Anyways this is a dating sim in Powerpoint.

Jurassic Heart by Hima and Piti

Dinosaurs and humans, the love that dare not speak its name…

All the Pleading Emoticons by Finny

I’m angling in on another thing I like about Finny’s games: the fusion of holy dread with the mundane?

And instead of writing purely from a position of knowing retrospect, it talks about mental illness with full immersion, looking out from that dark place, not inward (which makes the ensuing catharsis all the more powerful).

Benthic Love by Mike Joffe and Sonya Hallet

Benthic Love is about the monstrous sex life of anglerfish but they talk like human beings so it’s like sup, can you be a brainless parasite on my side while I drain your sperm? Thanks.

When I was done playing it, the obvious question ran through my mind: should humans have sex like anglerfish? (probably???)

But after that thought came another (maxing out my daily two thought quota), that this quickly made game about fish sex pulls off a more interesting, varied, ~TENDER~ romance than your average Bioware title. If the DOOMED ROMANCE OF THE ANGLERFISH has you beat, maybe sit down for a while and think about things.

 

ButtonX20 by Ninjadoodle

A button and a laser guarding a key. The button disables the laser. Get the key to open the exit.

ButtonX20 squeezes 20 levels out of this premise and how it does that may surprise you.

No One Has To Die by Stuart Madafiglio

A mysterious corporation’s HQ is burning down and you’re trying to save the people inside from your security room vantage point. Each of them has a secret. Each replay gets you closer to piecing it all together.

No One Has To Die sets itself up like a puzzle game, which threw me at first. I expected it to get harder, make me combine previous skills, but the fiddly bits are really about conveying narrative. Which is cool because I feel there’s this erroneous assumption that once puzzle mechanics are introduced, they have to be challenging, optimized, geared toward victory?

It’s not a bad way to convey people burning to death at a distance. The three squares in front of a man fleeing from fire are not a space to be gamed, there’s no crate I can push to save his life. But it is a space for spatialized despair, that is, a space where he can put his shivering back to the wall as flames lick closer and closer, more meaningful than if you clicked a link saying the same thing.

A SURVIVOR IS #REBORN by micha cárdenas

Mainstream media has this problem where they see something glitter and they grab it in their crow claws and take it to their nest. Maybe it’s your car keys or a pretty ring from a loved one. But the crow doesn’t care about the function or sentimental value of the bauble, they just want something shiny.

Bioshock Infinite had shiny racism. In Tomb Raider’s case, it’s shiny gendered violence where she screams and moans as she’s groped by men or narrow, horney corridors.

If you’re zoomed out far enough to find those things merely thrilling and not, say, serious, horrifying, mobilizing, personal, contextualized, etc–then you aren’t close enough to do the subject justice. An action movie with bad science is funny. Bad handling of violence toward women, not so funny. Micha’s game responds to this commodification of struggle with autobiography, as if to say: this is what violence looks like.

Games are great for talking about violence! The problem is a conversation dominated by voices with no experience with violence saying the same thing over and over again. Sometimes they try to comment on violence and it’s like watching someone cover their mouth with their hand and speak out the other hand in a high pitched voice.

The talkativeness of women has been gauged in comparison not with men but with silence. Women have not been judged on the grounds of whether they talk more than men, but of whether they talk more than silent women.

This suggests to me that making a thoughtful narrative demands actively seeking out intelligent voices, not just looking around the room for 1 second while yelling IS OUR GENDER SHIT GOOD? OK COOL (they probably don’t yell this(even if they did, a game design structure where people can be fired for speaking out probably isn’t helpful))

Spend millions of dollars, sure, and maybe set aside 500 bucks to pay someone to look at your game and ask why a woman needs to prove herself by fending off a sexual assault that would never happen to a male protagonist (It happens to their wives who usually die afterwards. I mean, I want to use my refrigerator for food, y’know? Give me some space in here.)

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