Live Free Play Hard: Videogames Have The Right To Children

Undead and disabled. Supermarket carnage. Tender star quest.

Mazing by Ryleigh Kostash

The elements are primordial: Run through a maze, grab a key, avoid the monsters, get to the exit. But Mazing lets you break the rules. You can hop over walls.

Jumping has a cooldown, so using it efficiently is life or death, especially in later levels where monsters SWARM the maze and a less than perfect jump gets you ate.

I really like this. It feels good to break the rule of the walls. Makes me feel like a skulking cartoon burglar. Just the right amount of things to think about: mazeshape monsterpath whentojump.

Dating Sim by Kyle Reimergartin

Finally a game that captures what dating is REALLY like


You Only Get One Chance by danman9914

Choose the best object to fulfill three tasks. You only get one object! Funny to pick the best object for most of the conditions, killing a vampire and setting a fire with an axe, then realize you’re dropping it on a baby. It’s for the greater good…

The conditions are repetitive though, I’d like to see more variety.

Lucid by AC Atienza

Calm, reflective star journey in hypertext.

You occupy a body that is beyond human, modified to breath toxic atmosphere and regenerate during sleep, but not so explicitly described, nor gendered. The writing lends a feeling of detachment to even moments of bodily trauma. I felt like I was dwelling in a robot chassis. I found Arden’s perspective on that choice interesting: “Sometimes I feel like a strange monster trapped inside my human body, uncertain of how even I feel about it, and Lucid didn’t tell me I was wrong – it told me I was important.”

From the main menu of the game, a link entitled Fragments: “Your body is not what you are born with but rather what you make for yourself.” This ephemeral attitude toward bodies extends to others as well. [SPOILERS] When you’re talking about the fox, the construct refers to the uncertain nature of the fox, but doesn’t state it in terms of shapeshifting, instead suggesting that your impression of others is more about you than them. And you know, that’s pretty much correct.

Dojo of Death by nicotuason

One button ninja slaughter. The streamlined controls–move toward mouse cursor, click to dash–unify mind and body into a killing machine. I like the death animation, frozen as a fountain of blood sprays to the sky.

Ernesto by Daniel Benmergui

Puzzley roguelike that reminds me of Desktop Dungeon’s deterministic decision-making. The dungeon is abstracted to a grid of objects, a field of pure choice where you decide the best order to receive monsters, traps, medkits, weapons.

Your movement leaves a trail behind you. The trail, like in Snake, cannot cross itself, so you want the most efficient path that doesn’t kill you (while muscling up for the endgame boss). You can undo moves by clicking down the line, as long as you haven’t actually died.

Last Chance Supermarket by Sebastian Lague

Shop at literally breakneck speeds, avoiding other shoppers and trying to fill randomly generated lists. It’s funny because you go so fast that you can’t help but order thousands of dollars of worthless junk, consuming at the rate of why is this cart so fast that I can literally die piloting it toward the things I need to buy to generate the illusion of my children loving me.

Zombie Ninja Confessional by Whisperbat

Disability explored through a zombie ninja protagonist. You have action points to spend every day on taking care of yourself and maintaining your environment. Entropy laps at every action. Catching up seems impossible.

Leon Arnott describes it: “”zombie” being a metaphor for physical atrophy, and “ninja” referring to beloved hobbies and sports that you can no longer participate in, and able-bodied friends that you can no longer be in the company of.”

Your flesh is rotting. And that’s the thing, isn’t it? Part of being disabled is being subject to society’s eugenic perspective that you’re basically already dead, consigned to the trash heap by your impaired productivity. The aesthetic of evil as diseased, pus-dripping, and deformed is pretty ableist. I identify more with diseased mutants, with their blemishes and distorted movements, than healthy physically fit humans. History is written by the healthy.

Framed as a strategy/management game, which is interesting, because those tend to be efficient, with fairly logical returns based on your actions. But clicking the Relax command doesn’t guarantee anything. Because just as in real life, “Due to a combination of pain and stress you are unable to properly relax.” Making the “right” decisions doesn’t always do shit. Zombie Ninja Confessional is as fragile as the protagonist’s decaying flesh, reminding me of HORSEMASTER’s desperate decisions.

A lot of strategy games are in line with a harsh, Randian universe. Make the right decisions and you’ll be fine. Fuck up and you deserved it, you scrounger. Some of the simulations I’ve seen in recent years come from a different perspective, one that models an unfair universe where you can’t always tick off all the checkboxes and get a cookie. Sometimes the checkboxes multiply, sometimes they’re invisible. No one has all the options arrayed in front of them.

When your health drops to 0, the game forgets when you last ate or took your pills. Because pain impairs memory. It’s part of the downward spiral. So it’s not just about making the right decisions, it’s about being aware of whether any decisions exist at all. Everything in this game stresses the need for communal care, not the ruthless survival of the fittest practiced by certain governments.

The art complements the theme of having no energy. Black and white scribbles, the bare minimum of noise to convey something, anything at all. The games we make under physical duress. Many of my own games were made in poor health, so I understand the lean, scant claddings. Art is an extension of our bodies.


  1. Rhandom911 says:

    How pretentious.

    If this is the attitude “games as art” is going to breed, leave me out.

    • Eddy9000 says:

      I think you already feel left out, which is why you came on to an established column enjoyed by thousands of readers to make a declaration that you want to be left out when no one invited you in the first place. It’s a horrible to feel left out and I sympathise with you, but I’m sure you’ll find a place where you fit in eventually, and then you’ll look back at the times when you used to leave comments like this and think about how much more content you are in your life that you don’t do it anymore. Xx

    • Synesthesia says:

      Ok. See ya!

    • Shakes999 says:

      And nothing of value was lost.

    • TheBarringGaffner says:

      I think you’re using the word pretentious wrong. Someone trying to express themselves earnestly through art isn’t pretentious. Dismissing their work without giving it a chance is.

      • mechabuddha says:

        Thank you for saying this far better than I ever could.

      • Synesthesia says:

        You’re ok.

      • Pemptus says:

        Just curious – why do you assume he didn’t give it a chance? Maybe he did and found it to be pretentious bullcrap nonetheless.

    • secuda says:

      and remember if it looks half assed it might be in art direction, god forbid good looking games can be called artsy.

    • Sleepymatt says:

      Yes, I have ALWAYS found my ninja dojo slaughter sprees to be just so bone-wearyingly pretentious. But luckily somehow I found a way to live with myself.

    • GunnerMcCaffrey says:

      I don’t understand people who get upset when you suggest their pastime might not be vapid and pointless.

      • desolation0 says:

        I wouldn’t call a game vapid or pointless just because it isn’t trying to be artistic, though.

        • GunnerMcCaffrey says:

          And I’d say if something manages to be anything other than vapid and pointless, it’s already achieved a basic level of artfulness. Making good things is hard.

      • lurkalisk says:

        The idea behind “pretentious” is that it in fact IS vapid and pointless, despite the work’s attempt to convince you otherwise. I’m not saying that I agree with Rhandom, but the argument, true or not, makes sense.

        I have played the odd indie game, here and there, that does seem to be void of any real merit, yet bludgeoned the user over the head with just how deep and important it would like you to think it. So, I can understand this line of thought. Here, though, it doesn’t quite make sense, and I certainly wouldn’t broadly label indie games this way.

    • NailBombed says:

      This word you use, I do not think it means what you think it means.
      If you think it means ‘Stuff you yourself don’t particularly care for’, then no, that’s opinion.

    • Angel Dust says:

      Thanks a lot, dickhead. Now everyone is responding to your asinine comment instead of talking about how awesome Dojo of Death is.

      • siegarettes says:

        It’s really grand isn’t it? I sort of wish it was also an phone-device thing so that I could play it everywhere.

  2. fart says:

    Thanks for reminding me of that Boards of Canada classic. Time to dust off some mellow sounds :D

    • Lambchops says:

      John got one of my recent background writing albums in the Sunday Papers, Popentine has got the other one here.

      It’s like they are reading my mind.

      • Prolar Bear says:

        Great minds chill alike


        36, 44, 68, 27, 35, 42, 58, 47, 63, 85, 74, 67

      • Synesthesia says:

        Also if you haven’t listened to this one yet, do.

    • shimeril says:

      First thing I thought of too. Great album. I’ll also recommend a 2 man group called Redpoint – now defunct AFAIK but they created some beautiful stuff which was effectively free. Worth looking for.

  3. ninecome says:

    Fans of this column might be interested to know that THECATAMITES has made his first commercial release. It containts 50 of his short games, many of which made appearances here over the weeks.

    Please join me in ritualistically giving THECATAMITES all of your hard earned currency.

    link to

  4. KirbyEvan says:

    I really liked Lucid, it reminded me of Noctis or Space Engine, but in a short story form.

  5. hamburger_cheesedoodle says:

    Dating Sim was pain, but in a good way.

    Last Chance was alarming and breakneck and delightful! I managed to spend almost 7k past my intentions.

    Lucid was amazing and beautiful and evocative. One of the better twine games I’ve played. I love it.

    Good selections this week.

  6. Prolar Bear says:

    Joining the above comments about Lucid. It’s great, a really evocative experience; it’s also rather long for a twine game.

  7. Captain RDM says:

    so there is a maximum of ten points in one stage on you only get one, but i got 11 with a tomato for cooking stew… OK then.