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Priceless Play - 26 January 2019

New beginnings and feelin good!

I make my bed every day. It's the easiest way I know to tell the day that I am ready for it. Making the bed is fairly simple to do, and (in most circumstances, I imagine) shouldn't take more than five minutes. The results can be astonishing. Voilà! A bedroom is transformed. Does a tidy person live here? Who knows! The possibilities are endless and the day begins with a task completed.

Here is the secret about making beds: you can make your bed at any time of day. It really doesn't matter when. The same logic can be applied to days. Sometimes the best thing to do is to climb back into bed when the day is going wrong, just to climb back out of it again. The first month of the year is drawing to a close. Perhaps, by now, you have left your resolutions by the front door alongside your running shoes, yoga mat, and half-finished juice cleanse. That's fine. The market for resolutions is wildly exploitative anyway. This isn't the first time you have experienced a new beginning. It won't be the last.

Here are some games which remind me of that feeling.

Planetarium by Daniel Linssen

One of my Favourite Games of All Time is David OReilly's Mountain. I know I am not alone in this. I went back and had a little look in the RPS archives for this gem when the game came out. Daniel Linssen's Planetarium is not Mountain, but it gives me that Mountain vibe, you know?

Planetarium is a procedural planet maker. On its game page, Linssen declares it, "not a game." Hell yeah. Planetarium lets you search the galaxy for random planets, and here they come, one right after another. You can investigate what they might look like in one climate or another, and each planet's temperature variables contain within them the capacity for life. Perhaps you will find some "unusually fast birds," or merely "brown spores" on your planet. I love these little glimpses at how (excuse me, sorry) life finds a way.

Where the Goats Are by Memory of God

I feel it is my duty to you to deliver the once-yearly reminder to play Where the Goats Are. It is a slow game, and it lasts for about an hour, so I understand if you have gone back and forth on whether or not to play. Where the Goats Are follows the daily routines of an old woman named Tikvah as she milks her goats, makes cheese, and tends to her chickens. She waters her only plant after making the trek to the well just beyond the gate. She prays at her small shrine. Later in the day, the postman arrives. She trades him cheese for hay, and perhaps she reads her letters before bed if the light is still good. She remembers to close the door on the chicken coop.

I have had Where the Goats Are on my to-play list for a while, now. It has been a fantasy of mine to go off and leave the world behind to tend a small farm where no one would ever bother me ever again. Tikvah's relatives write her letters, and they tell a small story about the woman she was before they all moved away. Slowly, they begin to tell the story of something else. Where the Goats Are is sad. I could not stop playing it for the full hour it asks, and I recommend you do the same. The developer, Memory of God, announced a followup game called The Stillness of the Wind, which will release "when the goats are ready." Maybe this year?

Sacramento by Dziff

Dziff, of the Klondike Collective, showcased a version of Sacramento at the Leftfield Collection for EGX in Birmingham, 2016* where I first saw it. It blew me away then, and manages to do it still. A walking sim, Dziff describes Sacramento on its itch page as "a game about capturing fleeting memories before they fade. You'll wander through an ephemeral and uncanny landscape, flashback of moments I gathered on sketchbooks over the years. Drift aimlessly across time & space, enjoy the quiet while it lasts as life will soon resume its course." The hazy watercolours melt beautifully away in this timeless spot of nowhere.

Sacramento's particular blend of time is what I find so alluring, here: Dziff presents images as a mixture of sketchbooks from across several years. I don't know if you've ever had the sensation of picking up a sketchbook of yours or a piece of writing you did from years ago -- and you don't remember doing it -- but you discover that you're not half-bad at the work you do. Isn't it bizarre to find traces of yourself in your past which, when all said and done, make an amalgamation of you? I don't know, maybe I'm getting a bit airy and existential here, but I guess Sacramento just does that to me.

*Side note, all the wristbands for EGX that year said BRIMINGHAM in big letters and I haven't forgotten. Just wanted to pass aong that bit of trivia.

Tiny Garden by Anneka Tran

Tiny Garden is a beautiful little diamond planter to sit in a corner of your screen, ready and rarin' to go for little bits of clover to grow and little creatures to roam. It's a small experience -- just the planting and roaming, please, but such a delight. It's honestly a little gift when these sorts of games come along which ask for nothing more than a quick slice of your time. It responds well to each click and drag of the mouse -- and I made audible noises when I gathered all the little creatures into a bottom corner and then released them.

Look, sometimes it's fun to gather little creatures up in a clover field!!!! It's just fun, ok!!!!!!!!!

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About the Author
Kat Brewster avatar

Kat Brewster


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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