Live Free Play Hard: So Many Hell Sectors So Little Time

The sky is eating the island. Guess the language inside your friend’s head. More hellish glitch zones than you can shake a #<#<<##U#YGE#&4378 at.

Museum of Parallel Art by Neverpants, Various Artists

I made a game once where the players are aliens from different species and one alien wants to date the other alien but they speak different languages, so you try to communicate your emotions using randomly selected hands of symbols. If you fuck up you get eaten.

This is way better than my experiment, except for the part where you get eaten. It reminds me of certain card games, like Dixit.

You go through a museum with 10 random cards looking at 6 random paintings and you decide which card represents which painting the best. Then your friend does the same thing, except they guess which cards you placed to each painting.

The first time, I got super literal cards. Like, I had a ghost card and Munch’s The Scream was in play. That kind of thing.

The second time my cards didn’t have any obvious parallels to any of the paintings, so I had to do serious telepathy with my friend, which is much deeper and more interesting. What is their history, their mindset, their personality? How well do I know them? In which way is this painting of a mountain like a fist, or a bird, or a king? Are they going to think of the triumph of conquering a mountain, fist raised? Or a bird flying high past the peaks, both free to kiss the sky? The game is best at this level of abstraction, creating complex layers of symbolic communication between you and the other player.

My friend was saying how if you played this with someone else a bunch of times you’d start developing a mutual language. If the pool is small, memorization will cut into that language-making process, but there’s already a hundred paintings, with more to come, because they’re recruiting on Twitter and Tumblr. You can submit your own:

Here’s how! Send us a link to your tumblr, and we will pick the best pieces in there to put on the museum’s walls. We usually pick up to four pieces that are added to the list, and every time you play we randomly pick 6 pieces from that list!

If you’re interested, send me a tweet on Twitter at Dom2d, an e-mail at dom2d at or a message here on Tumblr!

So the exhibit functions on two levels: to frame the gameplay, and as an actual virtual museum that expands constantly and randomizes itself. It’s like wandering into a museum between dimensions, where the exhibits regenerate every time you step inside. And on the internet, where we’re spoiled for gorgeous artwork, slowing down and looking at a fraction of it has a way of getting us to appreciate stuff we’d otherwise jadedly scroll past on Tumblr.

Snot City by James Earl Cox III

The city is under attack by spiders. Get the four pig heads to save your city. Each pig head gives you a special power. Mesmerizingly repulsive, full of skittering spiders and doomed gut-feelings.

Snot City’s UI is gooey and designed for panic. I’m infatuated with avant-garde UI’s that encroach organically on screen space, and I especially like when they contain talking heads barking incoherent orders at you. 2014 isn’t about better NPC interactions, it’s about getting back to our roots and refining the Sim City advisors.

Env by Adrianis

Feeling incredibly mortal and exposed on this minimal purple plane surrounded by instant death water as the land itself is sucked into the sky. I like how completely fucked up the landscape gets. The minimal graphics and simple palette were a good choice for emphasizing the alienation and scarcity. If desert islands are one of the ultimate symbols of loneliness, how much lonelier when they’re perfectly geometric and purple and disappearing.

My first action was to try to get up the blocks as they were sucked up, using them like a bridge. Then I figured out what food and tech was and hunted them down until I drowned with a silly jump. Every time you get a tech power-up, your jumps get bigger, but the land is constantly eroding, and the land that exists is fragmented and upturned, cutting off your line of sight and concealing sudden drops into deadly teal water.

Now I wanna see more stuff in this format, where you’re trying to survive the destruction of a landmass/building/whatever, no objectives, just staying alive as long as possible as colossal destruction rages around you.

HELL SECTOR MPPC-4036 by goddesses17

The creatrix of last year’s hit Peanuts body horror Mastaba Snoopy emerges to drop a tiny glitch-world in our cyber-laps.


I enjoy the sound effect, at once decadent and the scream of a perishing cartoon character. The loop matches the rate at which I kill myself by falling in the water, so I keep playing, hypnotized.

I feel like some weak, bottom-rung lifeform caught in a world where I don’t matter, I’m just another organism dying a quick death.

A Night in the Woods by Amy Dentata

Scavenging for fuel to warm yourself in a tense post-apocalyptic setting. The thick, overgrown forest is scary, but so are the empty houses, and the strange messages you find.

The refugee challenge: can you break into Fortress Europe? by Harriet Grant, John Domokos

This is how abuse works. Someone is deeply harmed over a period of time, in ways they may never recover from. If they react, they are punished. There is no greater punishment than the punishment reserved for the way people react to abuse.

The same principle works for countries. Like abusers, nations get to claim civilization even as they act aggressively toward weaker countries, cultivating anger and pain and bitterness. This system punishes the behavior it creates, enabling an endless cycle of pillaging under the guise of holding that country accountable. Then people flee the country, and they get treated with unspeakable cruelty. This week a guard from Serco, a company in charge of refugee detention in Australia, discussed his experiences here, in comic form. Dehumanizing conditions full of neglect and abuse, resulting in mental illness and suicidality.

There isn’t a lot I can say that isn’t better served by playing the game, which is an informative, branching narrative about a woman trying to get her family to safety in a world that has no place for her.


  1. youhavemyaxe says:

    I was worried my snow day would have my deluge of free games

  2. KDR_11k says:

    Glory to Fortress Europe!

    • Halk says:

      I am actually surprised no cynic ever turned this scenario into a (quite literal) tower defense game.

      “Africans must die 2” or something like that.

      • The Random One says:

        A political tower defence game. Instead of towers, you must create laws against immigration. Laws cost political capital, which you get more if you manage to draw up panic amongst your population.

  3. Mr. Mister says:

    I’ve been playing a lot for FTL: Captain’s Edition lately, so when I read “Hell sectors”, I mentally visualised a sun-filled sector type.

    I’d still pick it over AI Overrun and Quarentine sectors.

  4. misterT0AST says:

    I expected that Refugee game to present a journey full of obstacles, while getting a decent ending is pretty “easy”.
    Obviously you have to travel miles on foot through dangerous war zones, but you do that just clicking on a button, you never find gangs of organ harvesters or dangers like that.

    I thought I’d find an overdramatic human tragedy, and I found basically an educational tool telling me how international treaties and citizenship laws work across Syrian migration routes. Nice.

    Although it was kind of weird that there wasn’t a route going through North Africa and then to Italy. Usually we get Syrians coming from South by ship (and some Africans claim to be Syrian to claim asylum when they actually couldn’t).

  5. Headless Monkey Boy says:

    “I made a game once where the players are aliens from different species and one alien wants to date the other alien but they speak different languages, so you try to communicate your emotions using randomly selected hands of symbols. If you fuck up you get eaten.”

    Captain Blood?

  6. Jakkar says:

    Env is… glorious.

    I mean, that beam in the sky, that thing is all of the terror and overwhelming power of Wells’ tripods. It’s everything Half Life 2’s striders weren’t. It makes you feel so small, so utterly irrelevant. A game about being an ant on a great continent of carpet while a vacuum cleaner is aggressively buzzed around by an elderly woman who has forgotten to take her pills and has lost her spectacles.