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Priceless Play - 20 June 2020

RPS says goodbye to Priceless Play

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Hey there, Priceless Pals. A melancholy day! This will be my last Priceless Play and the last Free Games Roundup here on RPS. Woe! I have had the undeniable pleasure of writing about the weird niche corners of free games for just shy of two years now, and I have loved every minute of it. Even though I won’t be here to tell you what the best free games of the week are in the future, there will continue to be free games. I implore you to keep seeking them out and to keep playing them.

This final instalment of Priceless Play is an ode to itch.io, and the best games I have found there while writing this column. Welcome to the Priceless Play Clip Show.

The Indifferent Wonder Of An Edible Place from Studio Oleomingus

I wrote about The Indifferent Wonder Of An Edible Place back in February of this year. At the time, I felt like the game couldn’t get any more urgent and pressing, but it seems to have only become more pertinent as time has gone on. The Indifferent Wonder Of An Edible Place tells the story of a government-sanctioned building eater, whose job is to systematically take apart buildings of historical importance and eat them – effectively destroying any evidence of their existence. When I think about the games, art, and writing that best describe what it is like to watch your own country erode away from its foundations (or, perhaps, bring it more sharply into focus), I think The Indifferent Wonder Of An Edible Place makes the top of that list.

The two-person studio out of Chala, India wrote that their “country has become a coloniser of its own people.” The game’s page on itch further says that the game was made “in solidarity with the protests against the draconian actions of [their] government.” If you’re looking for a bit of poetry to describe how you might be feeling during a period of significant civil unrest, I recommend it.

Soul Void from Kadabura

To be honest, I think all the games I pulled out for this collection of spooky games for Halloween 2019 are bangers. Soul Void bangs particularly hard. Much like what I suppose the television show LOST was about, Soul Void tells the story of souls stuck in purgatory. As you traverse through the muddy waters, you come across many ruined souls — some more grotesque than others — who need your help in some form or another. Soul Void clocks in at around 2.5 hours, and so is definitely longer than most games I like to recommend here. That being said, I think it has an accomplished attention to pacing and evocative (at times, disturbing) storytelling.

Kadabura still hasn’t made any other games available on itch.io, but you can check out their other work here.

Neo-Brutalism Of Tomorrow from Moshe Linke

I think a lot about Moshe Linke’s virtual museum of Neo-Brutalism. The game takes place in a huge, black-and-white concrete sort of structure which is so evocative that it feels like I’ve been there before. If it feels like I’ve said this before, it’s because I did say this before back in a roundup of games with melancholy environments. I still recommend all the games there in that list, but maybe start off with Neo-Brutalism of Tomorrow to get you in the mood. It’s a graceful display of light, sound, and space.

Electric Zine Maker from Nathalie Lawhead

I think that just about everything Nathalie Lawhead makes is wonderfully energetic, raw, and approachable. Top of the charts, for me, is their Electric Zine Maker project, which makes single-page-zine creation a breeze. I wrote about the game last year just after it had been released, alongside a number of other games that carry on the zine spirit. I think they all still rule, and recommend checking them out!

Since May of 2019, Lawhead has added some extra features to optimize your zine experience, like fun glitchy drawing tools and ASCII art support. Lawhead has also written an extensive guide to the Zine Maker on its new dedicated website, accompanied by artist statements and floating fish. Go on then, get your zine on.

Too many more games to really count

It has been my honour to bring little free games to your attention week after week. There was the time I wrote about games that all lasted under ten seconds, or the time I wrote about how a game communicates its values through its rules and instructions. There’s the time I wrote about games that tackled labour rights or the time I wrote about games about infrastructure. There was the time I wrote about games in Spanish, about games that are wholesomely unwholesome, and, once, about games that I just made up.

This isn’t the last time you’ll see me on the ol’ internets, and I hope to be back on RPS before too long. In the meantime, I’ll be working on writing a big book about being sad online in the 1990s, and tweeting incessantly instead of writing.

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Who am I?

Kat Brewster

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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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