Japanese animator and illustrator Taro Oono (official site) may also be one of the most prolific game developers you’ve never heard of. But despite launching dozens of tiny interactive vignettes convened with domestic life, family antics and gorillas, you won’t find his catalogue on Steam, Epic or even indie-centric Itch.io. For a little under a year, Oono has been posting his collection of short, hand-drawn microgames directly through his Twitter.
After all – they’re only gifs.
Gif games aren’t spectacularly new. You’ll have seen them if you spend any time on the social hellsites – throwaway little timewasters to find out what Disney princess you are, what Harry Potter house you’re in. That sort of guff. Oono’s account even starts with a few of these less-interactive novelties, albeit with bucketloads of hand-drawn charm in discovering what hairstyle you’ll wake up with.
Increasingly, however, Oono’s games have become wonderful little reflex puzzles. Try and slam the pause button at just the right time to complete some charming little mundane tasks. Try and trip up Santa, nick some bananas from a gorilla without him noticing, or see into your child’s future.
Even getting a good night’s sleep can be a pain in the arse. Insomnia’s got nothing on this poor lad’s sleeping situation.
— たろう(な気分)🧃 (@OONO_TARO_B) January 16, 2020
There’s a staggering level of care taken in making each frame unique. Tiny gags and curiosities are hidden throughout, within cycles that aren’t quite as repetitive as they first seem. It took me a few games to realise many had loops within loops, adding different variations to their win frames each time around. Did you get the ending with the dog back there?
Others games make themselves a little more involved. This compact gathering of gorillas takes a leaf out of Hidden Folks‘ book, tasking you with picking out five smiling primates from a crowd of dour simians. Do yourself a favour and don’t scroll down to the replies until you’ve given it your best shot.
It’s become standard practice for eagle-eyed players to post the results of Oono’s games, but discovering their secrets is the best part of the experience.
— たろう(な気分)🧃 (@OONO_TARO_B) January 25, 2020
Feel free to comment your best guess for what’s going on here, though. I’m uh, not quite sure how you beat this one.
— たろう(な気分)🧃 (@OONO_TARO_B) September 18, 2019
Being on Twitter, Oono’s games instantly shareable and remarkably accessible. If you can load a gif, you can play a game, and there are dozens of them to scroll through over on Oono’s feed.
Don’t fret about the language barrier, either. There are plenty of approachable, wordless delight to be found in most of his games, even if a handful are a little inscrutable for non-Japanese speakers. Sliding your face up a dogs arse, after all, is a universal human experience.