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Priceless Play - 15 December 2018

Make a decision!

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Is there anything quite so glorious as being right? The smug playground-satisfaction of pulling out an “I told you so,” or (even better) the long-con revenge of living well? Of course, every good thing has its price. For every instance of being right, there must exist an equal and opposite instance of being wrong. The less enjoyable forfeit of “You were right, and I was wrong. Vanessa Hudgens does play her doppelgänger, Lady Margaret Delacourt, Duchess of Montenaro in hit Netflix original film The Princess Switch, and she doesn’t have a heretofore unknown identical twin.” Sometimes it stings to be wrong. But it means you put yourself out there — and that’s commendable.

When we’re having trouble juggling responsibilities, decisions, and judgement, our good friend Video Games comes in. For some, the holidays are looming ahead. For another few, this means spending time with family. Your experiences could run the gamut! Tensions might be running high. Maybe you need to practice admitting you were wrong. Or maybe you need to practice being right. Maybe you just need a break from deciding anything at all. For whatever you need, I hope here lies the remedy. You decide.

The Impossible Quiz by Slapp-me-do

I exist in a sweet spot of state education: old enough to have had dedicated computer labs in the schools I attended, young enough to have only been hindered by internet-blockers in my final year of high school. I’m sure this was due to the not insignificant portion of internet traffic dedicated to various flash game sites — Newgrounds, Kongregate, Jayisgames… the others. Playing flash games is an indelible part of my childhood education. Part of the oeuvre was The Impossible Quiz — or some mirror of it. Was it the first? I’m not entirely sure. Here’s what I do know: The Impossible Quiz takes no prisoners, and might be one of the best representations of mid-2000s internet humour (and all its flaws).

I feel there there are so many conversations in games about what it means to make games difficult, and what it means to fail, and what it means to be a part of some mysterious overarching and requisite narrative. The Impossible Quiz knocks them all out of the water. Listen. BioShock came out in 2007, and so did The Impossible Quiz. Coincidence? I don’t think so.

Sort the Court by Graeme Borland

A game of royal decisions, this pre-Reigns Reigns-like allows you to live the powerful fantasy of controlling an entire kingdom. Using your executive powers of YES and NO (and would that all responsibilities could be so reduced), you must decide how to proceed with ruling your kingdom. Beware! For each choice has…………………… consequences!!!

I love little management games like these which boil down complex and nuanced decisions into the smallest parts imaginable. Lemonade Stand Sim and Cookie Clicker are classics (I’d even put Long Live the Queen in this category), but I am so charmed by the narrative twists and turns that Borland has included here. With a killer soundtrack from Bogdan Rybak and sweet art direction from Amy Gerardy, this is a game I’ll come back to until I’ve exhausted its replays. Sometimes the low-stakes kingdom-deciding decisions are the most cathartic.

Encouraging Duck by like, 100 bears and the Never Apologize manifesto by Torfi

Look. Sometimes you need a bit of encouragement from a duck. I don’t know what else to say about this. Sometimes you need a beautiful mallard to tell you to drink a glass of water, and I will not apologise. This having been said, you might equally require a reminder that you don’t need to apologise after all. Take chances, make mistakes, and get messy.

I’ve talked a bit about the manifesto jam before, and whenever I need a little pick-me-up (games-related or otherwise) I’ll take a little dive into what the jam’s entires has to offer. As for the encouraging duck, I think I made myself clear.

A Vivid Life by Deconstructeam

What if your body were wrong? Your skeleton, even? Deconstructeam puts together an evocative and unsettling exploration into what it means to have a skeleton. 11:45, A Vivid Life is a magical-realist science-fiction body-horror game about being wrong right into your bones and trying to come to terms with it. There are many things I can say here which might disguise themselves as incisive or insightful; but when I try, I’m painfully aware of my own critical limitations. Imposter syndrome doesn’t have to be something you feel when your skeleton is wrong — sometimes it rears its ugly head when you try and articulate an opinion, or when you go home for the holidays. Sometimes the words don’t fit right, or your body doesn’t. Of all the games on this list, this one stuck with me the most. For better or worse.

Content warnings here for just about anything imaginable: body horror, pixel nudity, descriptions of domestic violence, war crimes, and body horror (really gotta emphasise that one). Potentially more in other branches I didn’t go down.

becalm by colorfiction

At the end of the day, does it really matter if Vanessa Hudgens has an identitcal twin in hit Netflix original film, The Princess Switch? Maybe you just need, as colorfiction provides, a bit of calm. Sail the cosmically coloured waters, take in the sights and the sounds. colorfiction calls becalm a “flotsam simulator,” which is honestly #goals.

The year is almost over, and maybe we’ll fit together a bit better in 2019. Maybe we’ll all become flotsam.

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Who am I?

Kat Brewster

Contributor

Kat Brewster is a sometimes writer, sometimes game designer, and most-of-the-time academic based out of the University of California, Irvine. Kat's research focuses on play, the future of digital work, and queer archives. You can reach out on Twitter @katbamkapow.

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