Shower simulator. Spaceship technician. OH LOOK YOU'RE PREGNANT WITH THE EARTH.
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Fright House by Jake Clover
Fright House is a compilation of games by Jake Clover, following his previous comp Some Games.
Sanctuary is my favorite. You play as an alien critter. Sanctuary is incredibly lonely.
Sanctuary is a series of scenes about helplessness set in the vast void of space. Watch a friend get eaten, get ripped from your ecosystem, trapped in a metal chamber hurtling through space, dropped in a desolate glass dome full of plants just as displaced as you are.
Some parts happen in real time. It’s worth waiting through the spaceship ride and later on at the sanctuary. You can do something else and leave it in the background.
That part where the spaceship comes and you wait and wonder if you’re getting a new friend, a companion in this stark dome, but it’s only a plant :(--then the spaceship TAKES OFF WITH A HORRIFYING LOUD ENGINE SOUND--a key element of Jake Clover’s brilliance is his genuinely threatening sound effects. It actually evokes cruelty to animals, because the spaceship doesn’t care how sensitive the creature's hearing is, whether the creature is scared, it’s just this insensate metal thing collecting pets without understanding their physiology or emotions.
Or take Platformer 3, the platformer that’s like, maybe death is pretty bad, yeah? I'm a rat running through a parking lot and shit is crashing from the sky. I walk into a burning UFO and SCREAM as I catch on fire. I stagger around for a few seconds before I die, horribly conscious the whole time.
Most platformers treat death like punctuation. Any horror at dying is mainly related to the frustration of lost time and effort. Platformer 3 subverts the format by making death scary.
Jake's games are trash-worlds bigger than the player, feral versions of existing genres distorted through an ugly, resolutions mismatched, my first game aesthetic. They're menacing and inhospitable, you need an oxygen mask to play then. They're really good.
Not My Hello World by Shayla Goller
Coming of age ceremony involving gems, and the girls affected by it. CW for child abuse.
Each girl has a different way of reacting: apathetic, shell-shocked, justifying their own abuse, etc. After talking to every girl, I've seen (and remembered) a whole slew of coping mechanisms people use when they feel helpless.
I appreciate that the ceremony involves lovely gems, it feels more nuanced than straight up violence. Beautiful things integrated in totally toxic ways. Coercion ruins everything, even good things. The gems make us acceptable to others, but is the pain worth it?
Contrast the woman who wears her gems proudly vs. the traumatized girls. She's justified her painful augmentations. Just another adult whose forgotten what it's like to be a scared, helpless kid.
Sleep by Matilda
Sleep is about coercion in a psych ward. Matilda focuses on the details, clinically observing her own clinical observation. This is especially important given how media is full of stereotypes about mental health, asylums often used as the setting for horror movies and games.
It makes sense to be scared, but it's the institution that's scary, not the inmates. People struggling with mental illness are often the most vulnerable people in the room, and not all the people in those settings even belong in a mental health setting, considering the historic and ongoing use of psychiatric incarceration as a punishment for political or marginalized individuals.
The nature of an institution is to share dehumanizing properties with other institutions. Schools are prisons are mental hospitals, both metaphorically, relationally (school to prison pipeline), and architecturally (soothe and corral). All assume human beings as quantities to be controlled, units in an industry that demands efficiency. Sleep is from the perspective of someone who was meant to have none.
Shower Sim by chrisamaphone
Shower simulator with all the important options. Change temperature! Piss! Masturbate! Keep that annoying shower curtain from clinging to your body!
On Twitter, chrisamaphone said “i was surprised how many different actions/interactions such a tiny system gave rise to”. I love hyper-specific sims like this, so much more interesting than attempting to craft universal systems. Trying to get clean while dealing with angry roommate, fiddling with hot water, and deciding whether to cum (REALISM).
TECHNICIANPC by beefstrong
TECHNICIANPC. Technician NPC. Like most NPCs, you can’t really affect the world around you. You're there to observe, rooted to your given zone. In this case, it’s a brick spaceship. It has an arcade machine, an oxygen garden, moss pumps, and a storage zone for mysterious creatures.
I really hope beefstrong does more games. He's been making cool art for a while, hyper-saturated plasticine environments oozing goo.
Cyborg Goddess by Kara Stone, Kayte McKnight
Cyborg. Goddess. Two female archetypes. Which will you choose?
Cyborg Goddess has this shimmering spacey across-the-ages veneer especially with the cosmic-sounding music but it's really funny. Collage graphics are ideal for mocking archetypal imagery.
In a related essay, Jasbir Puar writes:
"...would I really rather be a cyborg than a goddess? The former hails the future in a telelogical technological determinism--culture-- that seems not only overdetermined but exceptionalizes our current technologies. The latter--nature—is embedded in the racialized matriarchal mythos of feminist reclamation narratives. Certainly it sounds sexier, these days, to lay claim to being a cyborg than a goddess. But why disaggregate the two when there surely must be cyborgian-goddesses in our midst?"
Feminine archetypes, the words I wear like armor. Identities go through cycles: reactions to dominant archetypes, reclaiming, manifesting the invisible, etc. Many archetypes are about uplifting that which is despised. When you're a monster harpy trash garbage babe, being hairy and dirty and messy and loud isn't a negative.
I think a lot of it comes down to flexibility. Female teachers who get fired because someone found out about their past career in sex work. Be a Sex Goddess or be a Mother but don't cross over from one or the other. Archetypes aren't evil, but trapped people inside them and not allowing for contradiction is. A fortress without an exit is a prison.