What makes an adventure? There is, of course, that romantic school of thought: the hero’s journey away from home and back again through peril and plight, death and rebirth, and all the rest. (Don’t forget to save the cat on page three.) But what else? What is “adventure” for the rest of us when we have no power to save the world from bosses and demons and zombies? Lacking any supernatural call to my true purpose, I’m pretty willing to call a trip to pick up the shopping an “adventure.”
Here are a small collection of games to reconsider what it means to undertake those grand escapades of danger and daring. You’ll find no swashbuckling vagabonds, nor Chosen Ones, nor daredevils. Here are games of the adventurous “just getting by.” Adventure is out there!
Northbound is a game about graduating from university and going on a road trip with your childhood best friends. It takes place almost entirely in a rusted clunker of a van, watching the road pass by in the window. It is beautifully rendered, lit, animated and gorgeously soundtracked. Best of all? It’s awkward. Northbound manages to walk that fine line between three points of a triangle: a willingness to be slow-paced, boring at times, and an ambivalence about being there in the first place. But that’s what road trips are. They’re more road than you thought was possible.
I firmly believe that the road trip is a rite of passage. Perhaps it is my indelible love for all that is Americana in the open road. In the past few years, I’ve driven across the United States (D.C. to L.A., 4,293km) and up the Pacific Coast Highway (L.A. to Seattle, 2,414km). I’ve taken trips around my home state to see every corny tourist trap and roadside attraction, and impromptu day-trips out to the desert in Joshua Tree, California. I am sure that I’m not the only nerd who spent their childhood in the backseat of their parents’ car, face lit up by the light attachment for their GameBoy. There is something uniquely curious about the power of road trips – a catalyst for self-discovery, a reclamation of agency, and an admirable relentlessness. The road carries on until it doesn’t.
THE LADY’S BOOK OF DECENCY: A Practical Treatise on Manners, Feeding, and Etiquette by Sean S. LeBlanc
Ah, puberty. That time in a young woman’s life when she must prepare for her coming out, choose a worthwhile suitor, and pay careful attention to all those pesky changes taking hold of her body. The fur! The claws! The insatiable hunger! The… wait, I’m sorry? A submission for last year’s Gothic Novel Jam, The Lady’s Book of Decency: A Practical Treatise on Manners, Feeding, and Etiquette is an interactive-fiction adventure game from Sean S. LeBlanc. It follows all the trials and tribulations of being a beastly wolf-creature and respectable 19th-century lady. You must properly balance each of your expectations (are you a blight on your family? Are you properly educated?) in addition to managing your… condition (how hungry are you? How much fur currently covers your body?)
I am a sucker for lady management games of politics and intrigue, a new genre I have just made up. Games like Long Live the Queen, Reigns: Her Majesty, and anything regency-inspired, have my vote through-and-through And now, so does The Lady’s Book of Decency. Tales of intrigue are always that much more intriguing when the social costs of decorum are at stake.
I admire what developer ‘corpsepile’ has been able to do with Networking Event Simulator. It is exactly what it says it is going to be. You are at a nondescript networking event, and you must have conversations with a given number of people before the evening can come to an end. It is in this way that I hate every minute of Networking Event Simulator for its entirely successful execution of every networking event I have ever been to. Here is the over-talkative man who wants to tell me all about his business trip when I just want to get one of the three cocktails the production company has bought out from the bar this evening. Here is the man who is over-familiar and assumes I know everyone he knows. Here is the man who thinks he is too cool for small talk, even when we are both just trying to survive out here. Networking Event Simulator brings an irreverence to the networking event, and a sly meta-commentary of what it means to make a game about the worst possible creation known to plague the earth. Godspeed, networkers of the world. I do not envy your plight.
Duck Goose is an itty-bitty adventure game where you, a duck, must find your friend, goose. Please. Please find the goose.