The Bestest Best WHAT Of 2014: Secret Habitat

Secret Habitat is an artgame. Its procedurally generated islands are full of procedurally generated paintings, which have been created by (unseen) procedurally generated painters. Fascinating and fulfilling, it is without a doubt the Bestest Best WHAT of the year. Adam, Alice, Graham and Pip donned their finest berets and sat down in a procedurally generated Parisian cafe to discuss.


Alice: I’ll just fetch my pipe and pour a glass of port. I saw this painting and thought of you:

Adam: I submit to you a painting that I believe to be the worst in the history of the world. A painting that is the crowning achievement in a career of spraying shite onto canvas. I give you ‘Chest Nose’.

Adam: It’s the sequel to the artist’s earlier work, ‘Village Respect’.

Adam: I hate that guy. I hate him so much.

Alice: Isn’t this a pop art exhibition – a collection of advertising materials framed? I assume Chest Nose is for Lemsip, a still from an animation of phlegm.

Graham: This one reminded of both of you.

Graham: That’s why I called it alice.jpg.

Adam: Ah! Because of the imagery, like raindrops on a neon-lit city street? Because it reminds you of the thrilling dark heart of the night?



Alice: Normally I’d be puzzled, but I feel I understand where you’re coming from now I’ve studied Man Feeling.

Adam: So – who made all of this art? Where does it come from? Who are the artists?

Alice: A computer did, Adam! A computer did all of it! The picture, the gallery, the wallpaper, the whole chuffing island – a computer invented all of it because Strangethink Software whispered special inspirational messages into its ear.

Adam: Incredible! I didn’t even know computers could use bristly art brushes. But wait – they can’t, can they? This is some clever coding thing.

Graham: Alice, your comments are very arch. Do you perhaps come from the…

Alice: Is this joke getting a little worn out? Maybe we need some…

Adam: These are pictures from the procedural art galleries of Secret Habitat. Which, as Alice quite rightly states, is a computer program created by Strangethink Software’s tender whispers.

Pip enters, stage left.

Pip: Am I allowed in?

Adam: Oh god. Pip’s here now.


Adam: No! I was embarrassed because you walked in during a conversation conducted almost entirely in the form of pictures with mildly insulting titles. Will you write actual words for me to reply to?

Graham: I’ll write stuff too! You are all of my favourite people to be…

Adam: Sit down.

Graham: Cor, that’s a clever algorithm.

Adam: Ha ha – that’s actually a photograph taken by famous cinematographic artist Vinnie Van Gogo.

Pip: I just jumped out of a gallery window rather than listen to the sound installation a moment longer

Alice: I really like the sound installations, but I once got told off by a hospital technician for grooving to the sounds of an MRI scan.

Pip: Some of the sound installations are interesting, some are window candidates.

Adam: Pip and Alice are talking about the game Secret Habitat there. It has sound installations as well as procedurally generated pictures.

Alice: The paintings aren’t just from the procedural art galleries, they’re from the procedural artists exhibiting in the procedural art galleries. Each floor of each gallery is dedicated to one artgorithm. That’s a word. So while we’re cherry-picking the best insults (those names are procedural too, of course), these will all be surrounded by works with similar motifs – colours, styles, patterns – and it’s all very splendid.

Adam: Yes, procedural artists, not just procedural art – which is why I have found myself snootily dismissing some artists and pondering the work of others with hand on chin. Some of them really are producing absolute tosh.

Pip: If I launch the game again will I get a new set of artists or artgorithms or whatnot?

Alice: Yep, the whole island’s new each time as far as I’ve seen. I’ve been so delighted by finding galleries containing one single, wonderful painting. That’s all I’ll get from that artgorithm.

Graham: Aye. Each island has quite a lot of galleries on it too, and there’s surprising variety. Like, I’ve never seen anything like Adam’s most hated procedural paintings.

Alice: A hundred or so galleries, I think.

Adam: I was about to say the same thing about the single paintings, Alice – the artists who have just one or two pieces are such treasures. I get quite excited when I see a tiny building.

Graham: I did find one artist that had six canvases, five of which were entirely black. The sixth was amazing.

Adam: I like to think the amazing one was the first thing he did. And then he just lived off the proceeds. “I’m having my avant garde phase. It’ll last until I die or run out of dosh.”

Alice: Oh gosh, when you find one jarringly different painting… amazing!

Graham: It’s a very good artgorithm at confounding your expectations. I continually think, “Oh, I get this” and then head somewhere new and am surprised. I think that’s why it’s so good. I don’t think its procedural artists are as good as real artists, but its procedural galleries do a good job of giving me some of the same feelings of exploring a curated space. Strange juxtapositions. New angles on old ideas.

Pip: The thing is, when you don’t get lucky for a while it’s like one of those horribly unforgiving trudges round the commercial galleries of Piccadilly and Mayfair. “Why has everyone had the same idea? Why is there nothing here I like?” – very different answers in both cases though!

Graham: But then you can jump out the window and the movement speed picks up and you can sprint across a procedural island which is always lovely. “I’M COMING FOR YOU, ART”

Alice: I had a horrible string of galleries filled with paintings by people who’d pirated Photoshop and Googled “Matrix computer art tutorial.”

Adam: I genuinely like the fact that I’m sometimes frustrated. There’s an actual objective when you’re searching for a diamond in the rough.

Alice: Right, so, the movement – it’s rare for walk ’em ups to fiddle with that much. The reverential pace is the presence of Art is great. I still swear it differentiates between shuffles and steps, accepting a small amount of shuffling but then forcing you into a full step. Which is how I walk around galleries.

Pip: I like the swimming and the slides. I wish I could actually slide down them.

Alice: Though, of course, the landscape and buildings are all procedural too. They’re made the same way as the paintings. Then we’re talking about The Art and The Rest.

Graham: I like the procedural wallpaper.

Adam: I didn’t even know the wallpaper was procedural for the longest time.

Alice: I like staring out of windows, framing the landscape like paintings. Because, really, what’s the difference?


Alice: Thanks, Adam. I like to think I’m…

Pip: Are the proc gen algorithms linked at all? I don’t think they are because one of the things I’m less keen on is the naming.

Adam: Yeah, I was very excited about the names at first but they’re all a bit samey.

Pip: It feels like that’s kind of more sarcastic, in a way. more on the “poking fun at GCSE art students/YBAs” spectrum, you know?

Adam: Is the whole thing maybe a joke? I certainly detect a wicked sense of humour but I think the tech itself is earnest. (can tech be earnest? does anyone have a picture that will mock that turn of phrase?)

Alice: I once had an unfortunate conversation with someone about how technology was neutral. It was at an art opening, actually. It was their friend’s show so I didn’t want to say they were super-wrong. But back on topic – sometimes name and painting work together beautifully. I’ve had a few that I really, really liked. It’s pure chance, but then that’s the “diamond in the rough” again.

Adam: I think certain algorithms are quite friendly. Some are very rude.

Graham: I think the names definitely feel jokey, but I like the serendipity when they do work well with the images. That might be lost if it happened more often, or if they weren’t willfully obscure/randomy.

Pip: Kind of, although I’d really like the naming to have more personality. Or more of a sense that it’s distinct and coherent in the way the image sets are.

Adam: I just wish there was variety in the phrasing – not just WORD WORD.

Alice: I would like more variety in naming, yes. It’d make me hunt harder for MEANING in them. I really like, for example, how I could see an outline of a person on the right here, with that wound deep inside them. WOUND. PAIN. ART.

Adam: Is Secret Habitat a thing that you’d like to see plugged into something larger – a city or district generator, f’rexample? Making galleries that are neighbours to other buildings? Or do you like the island of galleryhomes?

Pip: Both, I think. This does a decent job of creating the illusion of other lives happening without you because you try to ascribe meaning and see patterns despite your best intentions or despite knowing it’s not true. As a result I think you could plug it into a wider world, but I’m also enjoying roaming.

Graham: That illusion of other lives is important, I think. I find a lot of procedural games, if they don’t have NPCs, feel empty or cold. Even if there’s music and things to poke at, they feel abstract. Secret Habitat is full of abstract art but feels warm and alive to me.

Adam: Graham – you do realise we must somehow plug this into Ultima Ratio Regum?

Graham: Yesssss.

Pip: That game needs to hurry up and add detective work.

Adam: Is part of the appeal the thing that makes us lie in fields picking out faces and animal shapes in clouds? What’s the clever word for that? The imprinting of meaning on just about ANYthing. The cornflake Jesus.

Pip: Pareidolia?

Adam: Somebody should make a game called ‘Procedural Pareidolia’. Pareidolia would be the name of the main character. It’d mostly be about looking at random patterns of noise that morph into photographs of horses and bears if you look at them for long enough.

Graham: That’s a great picture. Top arting.

Alice: I’m not sure what I have to say on this. I’ve proven, in games and in life, that I will happily spend hours marvelling at small, inconsequential, and accidental things. Secret Habitat rewards the way I see the world. Every building, every tree, every slime pool is a special thing and all exciting to me and my child’s mind.

Pip: This is a good one.

Alice: This is an actual favourite of mine.

Pip: Another problem I have is that there’s no way to save it. I like art because I can come back to it. With this there are spaces I will lose forever when I close it. Or even when I leave and can’t find the building again

Alice: Yes, that is a shame. Proteus has the same ‘different every time’ going on but screenshots include tiny bits of embedded data that let you revisit worlds or share them.

Adam: The terminable sadness of Pip art. I quite like the single visit. Makes it feel really important to actually spend time in the good spaces rather than just hitting quicksave

Pip: This one is a case in point.

Alice: But then, isn’t EVERYTHING ephemeral? Isn’t LIFE ITSELF fleeting? I like needing to enjoy things now before they’re gone for good. I’m horribly unsentimental though. Or hate the past. Somewhere between the two.

Pip: That’s just your approach though.

Alice: Move on, Pip. Your gallery is dead. Your Mountain is dead. We’re all going to die.

Pip: I know that :(

Adam: Are the screenshots not enough, Pip? That would suggest that being able to move around in the galleries is important as well. Spying on paintings through windows, Getting the right angle. I think that’s definitely the case – goes back to Alice’s thoughts on the movement.

Pip: Yes. I like being inside spaces. You move around and that means you can see different things. There’s an act of inspection as well as appreciation.

Adam: It’s about space rather than just image.

Pip: I dunno. I get the whole fleeting mindset exists and yes, everything does die anyway, but moments of sanctuary and happiness can be so few and far between it makes me sad when you know you’ll never be able to return to them

Alice: Oh! One thing about the screenshots I do like: they’re rendered in double resolution, which means in complex, heavily layered paintings they can reveal details you couldn’t really see.

Alice: Did any of you spend much time outside the galleries? I had a lark climbing onto roofs, scrambling over buildings, entering by leaping onto balconies.

Adam: Yeah – put me in a game with a jump button and I’m going to jump onto and out of everything. Out of windows, onto balconies, across roofs, into ponds.

Graham: I didn’t know you could get onto the roofs. But I did spend time running to the coastlines, staring at the horizon, watching the strange wibbly trees, lining up angles through and out of windows. The tint on the windows makes some paintings look really different/great.

Alice: Modern-build art galleries always look such fine places to climb but for whatever reason they don’t allow it. I want to climb and slide all over the Centre Pompidou. Does Secret Habitat contain works of art or is it all the same thing or is the algorithm the art or do you even care?

Adam: I think the algorithm is the art. And we’re just skimming across the surface of it.

Alice: You can find new things, but will always mourn for a few that you didn’t get enough time with. Editing footage to make that video wot I made, I was mortified to see some of the paintings I rushed past for the sake of brevity.

Adam: For me, it captures the experience of LOOKING at art far better than it succeeds in creating art. Maybe that’s the point. I think it is. Guessing or downright fabricating stories that connect one work to its neighbour, seeing meaning, skipping past some styles and fixating on others.

Alice: It is a clever little algorithm. I like to imagine the equation is also gouged into the walls of Strangethink’s home. That’s the real Secret Habitat.

Graham: I don’t even care whether it’s art or not. I think we’re exploring the innards of an algorithm though, not the surface, and whatever it’s producing is all the same. I just booted it up and discovered two artists whose work I liked and I’d never seen before. What a wonderful thing.

Adam: Graham – we should stand outside a gallery shaking our fists at one another. You hold a sign saying ‘Innards’ and I’ll hold one saying ‘Surface’. It’ll be a Happening.

Graham: We agree about the looking vs. creating, though. It is about the galleries, not the works they contain.

Adam: We probably agree about the innards as well. My surface comment was more about the fact that I don’t understand the algorithm – the process of creation will always be a mystery to me – but I enjoy the results nonetheless. Bad Words. Does anyone have a painting called bad Words?

Graham: I like to think these two artists are rivals:

Alice: Hah!

Adam: Imagine if the game created the same images – had all the tools to do what it does – but it was about driving a car down a highway at night and seeing huge billboards at the side of a road. I’m not really going anywhere with that – I just suddenly wanted to be in a car. At night.

Graham: Yep. Would play.

Alice: Yes, yes I would like that an awful lot. A lot of Strangethink’s projects seem to build upon previous things. I wonder what’ll come out of this. Like Pixelatedcrown, they’re building things to learn things to build things to learn things to an unknown end.

Graham: Unless Adam makes his procedural road movie in the next two weeks, is this the best procedural thing of the year? It feels to me that the proc gen is what is remarkable about it, and that it’s more intrinsic to what’s enjoyable about it than other games which only use it for worldbuilding. The artgorithm is all.

Adam: Yes. This and URR. But mostly this because it’s a complete thing.

Back to the complete bestest best PC games of 2014.


Top comments

  1. Strangethink says:

    This "game" is not an attack on modern art like some of the comments mention.
    I love art, from a pile of bricks or a blank canvas to an old master backed by decades of skill.
    Even art churned out in the thousands by a set of instructions on a computer.
    This "game" was intended as a celebration of art.

    If you hate my work, I am cool with that. If you hate modern art, I am cool with that.
    I thought I should put this here though, because I am not cool with people thinking I hate modern art.
    Creation is such a joy for me, and I hate to see it turned into negativity.
  1. Eight Rooks says:

    Not really my kind of thing (though some of the pictures are vaguely intriguing), but oh God, those titles are amazing. Someone needs, I say needs, to create a science podcast called FACT SMASH.

  2. lordcooper says:

    I’ve never called a game pretentious and have always been in favour of the whole games as art thing.

    But this really does look like a pretentious pile of wank.

    • edwardoka says:

      I’m glad I’m not alone in thinking this.

      While I can appreciate the intelligence required to procedurally generate those images, I have to say /REALLY/ RPS, this is the best use of PCG in 2014? In a world with link to in it?

      • Mike says:


        My name’s Mike, I organised PROCJAM. Secret Habitat was an entry to the jam, in fact, and I felt honoured to have talented people like Strangethink taking part in the event. I think it’s one of the coolest things I’ve seen, and it was also nice to see the developer get really into the project as it developed via Twitter.

        The point of PROCJAM – one of its points I guess – was actually to broaden the horizons of what people think procedural generation can be and can do for games, and that’s why I think Secret Habitat was so important (and many other entries that also opened people’s eyes). So be supportive! Things that confuse us at the time tend to be important, looking back!

    • Eight Rooks says:

      From Strangethink’s own site:

      Aimlessly explore 99 procedurally generated art galleries full of generated artwork and generated sound loop exhibits. Maybe you will find some meaning here. I don’t know.

      I haven’t played it, but that seems pretty unassuming to me. Perhaps there are only 98 galleries. Perhaps there is absolutely no chance anyone will find any meaning in any of them. Perhaps Strangethink knows this full well. Perhaps.

      Or perhaps you just don’t really know what “pretentious” means.

      • LogicalDash says:

        “Pretentious”? That’s like, when you don’t get something, but it’s their fault you didn’t get it?

      • Ross Angus says:

        I could not say it better myself. Thank you.

    • Dances to Podcasts says:

      There’s that word again! Let’s do the old dance: what is it pretending to be, how does it fail to achieve that and why?

      • ringadingding says:

        I think it’s trying to be clever and interesting, and failing by not being either of those things. But why? It is trying to intellectually elevate itself but, to me, is stonkingly banal and puerile. If one expresses such an opinion, one is “not intellectually equipped” to understand the artness/gameness of it all. Mnnnh yurrs, pastiche, fucking procedural oeuvre, ooh here comes another numptie! “Would you mind explaining exactly what you mean because I think you’re thick!” Haw haw haw!

  3. green frog says:

    Huh? This wasn’t on the list. “Best Game, Best RPG, Best CCG, Best Space”

    link to

    • green frog says:

      Ah, it’s just been changed. It appears “Best Space” has been renamed to “Best WHAT”.

      • Alice O'Connor says:

        Sometimes categories don’t look where they’re going. Sometimes they trip. Sometimes they’re… pushed.

        • whoistheprotagonistofthehalflifeseries says:

          The thing with game-esque somethings like this is the users expectation on which parts of the brain are going to be kindled by the experience.
          For something like this to be really enjoyable you need to have the same kind of attitude necessary to enjoy things like meditation, a walk in the park or a visit at an arts museum. I.e. you need a good amount of serotonin and be not afraid to use it.

          99% of gaming currently is not about celebrating perception. It’s all about repetitive tasks each yielding a micro reward. Which is exciting – and thats dopamin, not serotonin.

          It’s really down to the specific neurotransmitters. It is perception vs excitement. If you want a slotmachine in a casino then sitting in a stone zen garden meditating wouldn’t come to your mind either

          PS: If your serotonin level is to low you can not derive any pleasure off of this at all because serotonin is mostly defining the way you perceive the world. If your serotonin level is really high as it would be when taking lsd or magic mushrooms (or having a high vitamin d level) this virtual arts gallery is a wild ride.

      • Cockie says:

        Commence conspiracy theories!
        Option a) They wanted to go for Elite but decided against it now it’s launched and threw this one in instead
        Option b) They want to mess with people trying to guess the games.


          I’d say that they’d give this award to a game that let you wander around an interesting space (geddit?) but Secret Habitat turned out to beat that game in its own genre, and then they had to change the award’s name because what’s cool about SH isn’t just the space.

          Or: it was called ‘Best Space’ because this is Best ‘Put Something Great That Comes Out In December In This Space’.

  4. Skabooga says:

    This has got to be one of my favorite articles in recent memory, and that’s no small feat. You all should do more group-chat-o-extravaganzas!

  5. Joshua Northey says:

    Best waste of a spot you could be introducing us to something worthwhile.

    • Alice O'Connor says:

      Given that we evidently think this is worthwhile, our selection criteria must be horribly flawed – there’s a real danger that another selection might disappoint you too.

      Perhaps you could declare a winner for Bestest Best Joshua Northey-Pleaser and we’ll all nod sagely.

    • gnodab says:

      tststs, don’t you know better than to criticize the company-line?
      next time you’ll ask for gameplay or interactivity. dont you see that this is holding back games?
      get hip or get out.

      but seriously, as someone who is fascinated by procedural generation and it’s possibilities, this is not it.
      the trick is to use develop pg to create something functional. just producing white noise and calling it art is trivial.
      just take screen shots while the visualization tool in winamp is running. though even this would require more effort.

      reading the discussion to defend this was hilarious though. a bit sad. but hilarious.

      • iucounu says:

        What’s interesting about this is that you generate the image and then you hang it virtually on a wall, in a virtual frame, and assign a random title to it. Giving it that context allows it to generate more interesting artifacts than the individual elements are on their own.

        I think this is a very simple, neat idea.

        • Farsi Myrtle says:

          Is this the “art is what you see in art galleries” definition?

          • iucounu says:

            It’s certainly true that putting something in an art gallery makes it something that you’re being invited to look at or experience in some way. Marcel Duchamp took an old urinal he found in a skip, signed it, and put it behind a velvet rope in a gallery. Whether you think it’s funny or clever or not, he’s absolutely correct that the context changes our reactions to the object.

            There’s a family legend that in the 80s my uncle Giles sneaked a printed-up label into an art gallery and installed it next to a fire extinguisher, with some kind of plausible art-bollocks on it, and took pictures of people as they stood and contemplated it; which was basically Duchamp’s gag all over again, but it is a good one and bears repetition. You invite people to look at something in a particular way, in a novel way, to experience it differently – that’s surely an artistic intention.

    • Kaeoschassis says:

      Look what happens when they try to introduce us to something worthwhile though. Well done.

  6. Strangethink says:

    To win an award is nice, but to win an award for BEST WHAT is beyond anything I could have ever hoped for.

  7. v21v21v21 says:

    What people perhaps don’t realise is that this software is in fact a big laugh in the face of modern art. A well deserved hit below the belt, followed by furious iron-heeled stomping as well.

    I am happy.

    P.S. I swear*, not three years ago, I saw in some probably unknown NY gallery a big canvas painted a solid yellow, something between “Chest Nose” and “Village Respect” above, but without the wavy pattern. By a nice lady, probably somebody’s aunt (no, not that kind, the old kind). I know, she was there. Opening-of-the-exibition day. The asking price was was $50.000. Honest.

    *(quite a lot, actually)

    • Cockie says:

      Ah yes, in high school we visited a modern “art” museum. Highlights were:
      Three wooden beams
      A block of marble upon which someone had smeared butter (which smelled horribly)
      A video made out of pieces of youtube vlogs
      A piece of cardboard with egg shells glued on it
      Something that looked like someone had taken the contents of their vacuum cleaner and glued those together for several years, which apparently was the case

      I’m still not over it. :/

      • pmcp says:

        I think I had some work in that show.

      • Gilead says:

        When I visited the Tate Modern a few years ago there was a pillar with what looked like a radiator attached to it, roped off in the same style as the other exhibits and with a sign in front of it.

        Plenty of people were walking up to it, seeing the red ropes that indicated the thing inside was art, and contemplating it for a little while before drifting around to the side with the sign on, which said ‘out of order, do not touch’.

        Turns out it was just a radiator.

        • Vinraith says:

          That is fantastic. It so neatly summarizes the problem with certain branches of contemporary art.

  8. futabot says:

    The best part about this game is that in the process of ruthlessly mocking modern abstract art, it does occasionally produce a Jesus-in-a-pancake. I ran into a painting that strongly resembled a beach at dusk and the title had something vaguely to do with love. Pretty impressive for dumb luck.

    It caters to the jaded pessimist that enjoys seeing abstraction parodied by a lifeless algorithm while simultaneously appeasing to the hopeful optimist that enjoys miniature miracles. If it was just snark or just gentle exploration, it wouldn’t amount to much, but by combining both, it’s quite enjoyable and worthy of study.


    The day after I downloaded the game, I visited the Pinacoteca de São Paulo, walked a bridge across its central space and ended up at a collection of abstract Burle Marx tapestries.

    It felt very strange.

  10. Wytefang says:

    Doesn’t seem like a game at all, more like a “boredom simulator.”

    • A Gentleman and a Taffer says:

      “Boredom is the feeling that everything is a waste of time; serenity, that nothing is.”

  11. quietone says:

    I never last more than 5 to 10 minutes in any non-game. Blame it on my ADD. Some of them are certainly awful, and look more like “I’m too lazy to do anything functional” than anything else. Others are charming and intriguing. Others, finally, have some great ideas that can improve both games and non-games. Basically, as many variants as games themselves.

    Like games, some of them are fun, some of them are not. Some of them make you think, some of them make you quit in disgust.

    I see them as a sub-genre within computer games, gamey or not, and I can happily live with that concept. What amazes me is that they alse brought their own sub-genre of consumers, the: “I hate those things so much I go berzerk at the mere mention of them”.

    • Farsi Myrtle says:

      I think some people just have a common sense threshold, beyond which it becomes absurd to keep insisting something is a game. This, for instance, is procedural art with an added element of moving through a virtual space. That’s it. I don’t understand the fervent desire to claim everything for games.

      I wonder if this will come to a head with VR tech when film makers create VR films and game journalists try to insist they are videogames, only to be rebuffed. Blurring boundaries is interesting of course, but the way language works means we will always have these conflicts.

      • quietone says:

        Still, I understand people not liking them. I don’t understand people crying “heresy”. Again, I probably wouldn’t touch most of them with a ten feet pole, just because they are not my cup of tea, but I wouldn’t launch a crusade against them, just as I would not launch a crusade against most platformers, or HOGs, both genres that bore me to death.

        These non-games are obviously a niche product. They are not competing against the Battlefield series, they are not threatening to destroy the game industry and replace our Dragon Age games with Watch Paint Dry Simulators. I doubt that 2K games are worried about being pushed out of the industry by Mr.Randomized Art Programmer. They have their little spot under the sun, and I am quite OK with it. I might even drop every now and then to have some tea with them, just like I did with platformers and HOGs (ok, maybe not with HOGs, I just can’t stand those games!) :p

      • bill says:

        You say that as if “procedural art with an added element of moving through a virtual space” excludes it from being a game. Or as if being a “non-game” excludes it from being a game. Or as if it is really very important whether it’s a “game” or not.

        Without getting into the endless and impossible “what is a game” thing again (because I have no definition and I’ve never seen a satisfactory one, and it’s almost christmas) computer games have long since evolved past the original meaning of “game” when it was attached to them.
        This happens to language, meanings change, or things change but the word remains the same. We still call Films Movies, although they don’t involve film anymore and moving is hardly their key aspect anymore. We still say Dial a phone number and Hang up the phone, although we do neither.
        Early Video Games were things like Pong and they were a simple reproduction of a game in a video medium. They contained neither art or music or story or setting or characters or etc… .

        I don’t consider many video games to be games at all, but that doesn’t stop them being games in the sense that we now use the word.
        For that matter, the “video” bit is rather odd as well tbh.

        • Farsi Murdle says:

          That’s why computer game is a more sensible term, but the dominance of home consoles ruined that.

          Anyway I agree with you, except that it’s not natural or preordained for something like this to be included under the umbrella of ‘games’, as part of their evolution. If that happens it’s because of work that people have done to make it happen, and there will always be people (like me) who will be sceptical of that project. My theory is that people are desperate to claim things like this for games because they so desperately want games to matter, because they’re a bit embarrassed about playing games and if they are ~art~ they are more worthwhile. But it rests on outside definitions of art and value that don’t account for what makes actual computer games interesting, which to me is the ability for the player to influence, change, and play with the system. There is art and beauty in that, but it’s rarely acknowledged or articulated.

  12. Premium User Badge

    Helianthus says:

    I vaguely remember one of the Crew saying a year or two ago that the last few in the list of best games (the 20+ lot) are a bit more cream of the crop than the others.
    Have the rules changed since then?
    Or is… this… really, reeeally one of the proudest and tallest pinnacles of the year, the best among the best in the eyes of the Hivemind?
    Cause it’s definitely a WHAT, I must say.

    • A Gentleman and a Taffer says:

      No, if you ask they’ll always say there is no order, although usually the most popular contenders are saved to the end to keep you on your toes. This falls into the “Well, I never heard of that despite reading RPS all year, I must give it a go” category. Always a favourite here, anyone crying that it took the place of another generic genre staple that they already knew was good is missing the point of RPS imho.

  13. MOKKA says:

    I’m so glad to see this game here. As weird as it might sound for some people here, but Strangethink’s games probably are among my highlights of this year.

  14. Stellar Duck says:

    Just went and downloaded it.

    Fascinating. I can see myself rummaging around in this for a bit.

    Also ended up buying Terror on The Speedwell and grabbing a bunch of other stuff. I may need to hang around that site some more. Lots of interesting stuff.

    Noticed Return of the Obra Dinn as well. Looks so good!

  15. ringadingding says:


  16. meepmeep says:

    Unfortunately when I played this I couldn’t shake the firmly imprinted feeling that I was being slowly pursued by a grotesque monster.

    It also gave me strong feelings of TRIHAYWBFRFYH.

  17. elderman says:

    This award does make me curious for historical context. What was the Bestest Best WHAT last year? When did we start having WHAT’s in gaming. Which game was the first WHAT, I wonder? Answering these questions will illuminate the future elaboration of the computer game WHAT as the genre develops.

    D/Led and look forward to check out this experience. Looks weird.

  18. Premium User Badge

    dnelson says:

    I found a building with two floors, but there are no ramps to the 2nd story. There’s a balcony, but unless the game is also some sort of AC clone where you’re expected to climb one building, jump from roof to roof, then enter via balcony, I fear I’ll never see the pictures inside :(

  19. Dances to Podcasts says:

    A road trip is an excellent thing to do proceduralistically.

    • Paul.Power says:

      I’m picturing procedurally-generated Burma Shave jokes. Jokes that may or not make sense.

  20. RARARA says:

    I sometimes try to discern if a captcha is a comment on the article above it.

  21. Urthman says:

    Here’s another cool thing from the procjam that might please people who like Secret Habitat or might be the alternative that Secret Habitat haters would like: Forska, a walking simulator that generates still impressionistic paintings of green landscapes (or other colors if you find a portal to another world). Rather than walking around an art gallery, it’s like being able to enter and explore a painting.

    link to

  22. Rhygadon says:

    Lovely. The very first painting I found was a flat blue “Adam Special” … but then in my first five minutes I found “SIGN REFER.” The architecture really does create some nice jumping challenges, too.

    Does the Mac version actually generate screenshots, and if so, has anyone figured out where they’re hidden?

    • Strangethink says:

      I have had reports from Mac People that screenshots may be stored inside the .app file.
      Apparently you can open it like a zip file or something?
      I have never used a Mac so I don’t really understand their file system.

  23. Strangethink says:

    This “game” is not an attack on modern art like some of the comments mention.
    I love art, from a pile of bricks or a blank canvas to an old master backed by decades of skill.
    Even art churned out in the thousands by a set of instructions on a computer.
    This “game” was intended as a celebration of art.

    If you hate my work, I am cool with that. If you hate modern art, I am cool with that.
    I thought I should put this here though, because I am not cool with people thinking I hate modern art.
    Creation is such a joy for me, and I hate to see it turned into negativity.