Crowd-Finding: A Normal Lost Phone

It’s bad enough when free games run amok and wreak havoc. But what would happen if they started… evolving?

It’s a regular day. You’re walking down the street when you spot a phone, lying on the ground. It looks dejected and defenseless. A Normal Lost Phone [official site] branded “Accidental Queens.” It’s ringing. You take a closer look, and remember: you have seen this phone somewhere. The image flashes before your eyes: Brendan warned you to stay away, that it was dangerous. That it had killed before. Curiosity overwhelms you: you tell yourself you shouldn’t, but you pick it up. It’s Ulule, a crowdfunding website. They’re asking for money to turn a free prototype into a complete game. They name inspirations: Gone Home, Her Story, Life Is Strange. Will you reply?

By now, you’re too intrigued to walk away. Against your better judgement, you ask for more information. A short trailer starts playing.

You protest that the trailer didn’t really show anything at all!

They explain that the free prototype is still playable, if you want a taste of what’s to come. They’ll rework the script, flesh out the characters, add new apps and puzzles, but that should give you a good idea of what the game will play like. You open the link: it’s someone’s phone. You rifle through the texts, the pictures. It’s all beautifully drawn. You pay attention to the dates and guess the owner’s social media passwords. You piece the story back together, bit by bit. Suddenly, a throwaway text you read way back at the beginning takes on new meaning.

The voice continues: “The storyline touches on topics including youth, coming of age, homophobia, depression and the pursuit of self-identity.”

The campaign is already half-way through its £7,753/10,000€ target. A copy of the game will cost you 15€. Yes, they sigh, that’s about £12 to you.

Think carefully about what you’re doing. This free game will be unrecognisable, it’ll walk the streets and no one will suspect anything about its past. Will it grow into a well-groomed and behaved priced game? Or will it mingle with the best gaming has to offer, only to reveal that its essence had never changed? That, deep down inside, it was still a dangerous free game, after all?


  1. blainestereo says:


    • LewdPenguin says:

      When videogame journalism tries to be as artsy and obtuse as it’s subject matter, I think this is what we get. I know RPS often has a rather more off-the-wall and lighthearted approach and it’s probably why many of us are here at all, but this is one of those occasions I think we’d all be better off reading something else if we want any sort of idea wtf the game is.

      What indeed.

      • LionsPhil says:

        Yeah, I got basically nothing from this article.

        To paraphrase an ancient XKCD: communicating badly then acting aloof when you’re misunderstood is not art.

        • Melody says:

          I don’t know if it’s bad form to defend your articles or not, and I’m certainly not dismissing your criticism. If you found it unclear, then I will reflect on what could have made it clearer. In the meantime, though, I think I described what the game is like very explicitly.

          “You open the link: it’s someone’s phone. You rifle through the texts, the pictures. It’s all beautifully drawn. You pay attention to the dates and guess the owner’s social media passwords. You piece the story back together, bit by bit. Suddenly, a throwaway text you read way back at the beginning takes on new meaning.”

          • MD says:

            Has the post been edited since these comments were written? The current version seems pretty straightforward and at least as informative as I expect this sort of post to be, if not more so.

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        Gnarl says:

        Come on now, it’s hardly that difficult to understand, especially if you click on any of the links. I thought it was an interesting post about about an interesting game, that elegantly walked the line between informative and entertaining.

        In any case, the free one was quite enjoyable, but it would take a lot of cleverness to make the gimmick stretch to a whole game. And they did the annoying early-bird cheaper thing that just irritates me. But good luck to them.

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        distantlurker says:

        *puts hand up*

        I enjoyed the article. Whimsical.

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        Waltorious says:

        I just wanted to add my voice to those who not only had no trouble understanding the article, but enjoyed reading it.

        • zarniwoop says:

          I thought the article was good.

          You can’t skim it and get much out of it, but I found it quite easy to understand if I took the simple measure of reading all of the words.

          I get that’s not the way that most of the internet operates right now, but then that’s why I keep coming back here.

    • satan says:


      You opened up a rockpapershotgun article that was told from another perspective. Without reading the article you tensed your index finger and spun the filth-encrusted mousewheel on your mouse (that cost more than the bed you sleep in), seeking the juicy comments below.

      You knew the comments waiting for you would rail against this perversion of the pc game news website journalistic format. With a smug grin you set about disabling your many safeguards protecting your online privacy so that you could post a witty retort.

      Several minutes into unravelling your virtual barricades, Steam bombarded you with popups, triangulating the friend, his mood and the day of the week, your knew right away your dear friend *redacted* was having one of his fortnightly alcohol induced identity crises.

      “Shut up for a minute I need to argue with people on the internet” you said to him.

      He ignored you and continued his drunken raving. Wanting to get back to crafting your comment, you sent him some of your best throwaway lines with the intent of defusing his downward spiral through humour. One of them hit the mark, perhaps a little too well, as with his mood now elevated, *redacted* started to extol the virtues of the just released Witcher3 pre-DLC update. Louder and louder he grew, as his text changed to all caps ‘WHO THE FUCK DID THIS TO GRIFFIN’ was the last communication you received from him before you had to disable incoming message notifications, so full of ‘FUCK’ was your monitor.

      Though your will was slightly weakened, the barriers preventing your from commenting were now gone, and feeling thoroughly energised after a prior meal of pancakes, you let your fingers try in vain to keep pace with your imagination as words filled the tiny comment box. Satisfied you had got your point across, you scrolled back to the top of the comment box, this was no longer a comment, it was a short story, and every short story worth a damn needed a title.

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        kfix says:

        10/10 would read more comments by this lord of the underworld.

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    johannsebastianbach says:

    Just sunk my lunch break (and another half hour) in this. Dangerous indeed!

  3. Nevik says:

    I had already heard of the game but never tried it until now. It was a very interesting way to convey a story and I would like to have more of that.
    But I am not quite sure if 15€ are justified by the new additions to the original game. Perhaps if they’d to a complete new game which is inspired by A Normal Lost Phone I’d be more willing to support the funding.
    Still, I wish them good luck their Ulule campaign.

  4. kronik says:

    If on a casual platform a video game?

  5. Monggerel says:

    But I must explain to you how all this mistaken idea of denouncing of a pleasure and praising pain was born and I will give you a complete account of the system, and expound the actual teachings of the great explorer of the truth, the master-builder of human happiness. No one rejects, dislikes, or avoids pleasure itself, because it is pleasure, but because those who do not know how to pursue pleasure rationally encounter consequences that are extremely painful. Nor again is there anyone who loves or pursues or desires to obtain pain of itself, because it is pain, but occasionally circumstances occur in which toil and pain can procure him some great pleasure. To take a trivial example, which of us ever undertakes laborious physical exercise, except to obtain some advantage from it? But who has any right to find fault with a man who chooses to enjoy a pleasure that has no annoying consequences, or one who avoids a pain that produces no resultant pleasure?

    • invitro says:

      It’s hard to disagree with that.

    • Rosti says:

      What is Cicero’s De finibus bonorum et malorum, source of Lorem Ipsum, doing here, eh?

      The puzzle deepens…

    • santouryuu says:

      To summarize,it is wrong to say that pleasure is bad and pain is good.The fact is that pleasure often leads to downfall to those lacking in reason and restraint,whereas pain and toil sometimes leads to upliftment and gain.
      so,pleasure without harm is not bad,pain without any gain is not good

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  7. BTA says:

    Hmm, the original was interesting, though maybe overly simplistic. It’s definitely the type of thing I’d be interested in seeing more of and so I’m happy they’re moving forward with this, though I don’t know if I’ll be backing rather than just buying it when it comes out.