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Priceless Play - 2 November 2019

Games about food to bring us together

I love food. To me, food isn't just something I have to consume periodically throughout the day in order to survive -- it's a crucial part of my understanding of the world. I'm a food-oriented tourist (burrata in Florence! smoked fish in Copenhagen!) and a food-oriented friend (come over for dinner! let's go out for brunch!). Because of my penchant for produce and fervor for fruits, Thanksgiving is one of my all-time favourite American holidays.

To celebrate the approach of Thanksgiving (and in my dedicated and ongoing journey to teach you, dear reader, how to cook), today's free games are all about food.

Pot Luck from Doug Valenta

Made for Ludum Dare 45, Pot Luck is a game where you are (surprise) hosting a pot luck dinner. As your friends arrive one by one, it's up to you to decide which of their dishes you want to serve at the table. But, of course, all of your friends are exceedingly picky eaters and exceedingly rude. If each person can't find a dip, a salad, and entree, and a dessert which suits their particular tastes they'll leave. And when they leave, they take their dishes with them.

Pot Luck reminds me of all those logic problems I loved as a kid -- "Moira's house is blue, and David's house isn't red. Whose house is the yellow one?" The music is jammin' and the meals are procedurally-generated nonsense. Please don't bring a meaty, fruity dessert to my Thanksgiving.

Croissant from Michidk

Croissants are some of the most complicated pastry there is to make: it's a process of flattening ice-cold butter into dough, folding the dough over itself (and the butter) before the butter melts, chilling the folded butter-dough mixture in the fridge so everything firms up, and then doing the whole process over and over again until you reach perfectly level, laminated layers. It's tricky, finnicky, and a devilish recipe to conquer.

Eating a croissant, on the other hand, is a flaky, buttery, golden-brown, and altogether transcendent encounter. In Croissant, you can experience the joy of eating an endless string of croissants without any of the stomach-ache. Just four bites, a bit of ennui, and it's on to the next one. Big recommend, if only to avoid laminating pastry dough.

I Don't Know How to Have Hotpot Alone from Nuttatulipa

Food is often a powerful part of domestic and cultural life. For example, my mother and I used to make Christmas cookies together every year. When I moved to the UK for university, I figured that our Christmas Cookie Days were over. And yet, I awoke one day to discover that she had shipped me a Tupperware container just bursting with them. That small reminder of home -- its tastes and smells and comforts -- could have knocked me off my chair. It's difficult to convey the importance of a cookie like that to others.

I Don't Know How to Have Hotpot Alone is an autobiographical game about eating hotpot with the game dev's father. As they describe it, growing up in an Asian family, "love is not told and parent's high expectation for a child is a norm." Here, they've recreated one of their most cherished memories: going out once a week to eat hotpot. It's a bittersweet reckoning with family, food, and a parent's expectations.

Free Sandwich from sophiaaar

I am a sandwich purist. Despite my freeform and radical attitudes about most everything else in life, I firmly believe that some things are categorically sandwiches, and some things are not. A BLT is a sandwich. A PB&J is a sandwich. A hotdog is a hotdog and a ravioli is a ravioli. Please, let's not do this.

In this game, sandwich parts are randomly cycled onscreen until you decide that it's time to eat. Sometimes this food is a sandwich and sometimes it is only masquerading as a sandwich. It's simple, it's quick, it's lunch. Do not @ me, respect the sanctity of sandwich.

Five Secrets from Kitfox Games

Kitfox Games often contributes to smaller jams here and there, which is something I really appreciate in a larger studio. Taking breaks to pursue little projects keeps things fresh, and it gives us little delights like Five Secrets. In this game, you are attempting to summon the ghost of your grandmother using a secret combination of summoning ingredients. Some of these items are food (turnip) and some of them are decidedly not food (fish hook).

I believe strongly in the magical properties of food, and this is where Five Secrets finds a home in this week's theme. The magic of food comes in all sorts and styles: recipes are a bit like spells, tugging at the memory of meals or the taste of home. Putting out a meal brings people together, like some kind of summon. The hearth of a home, and all of its mysticism, is often found in the kitchen. A homecooked meal can be a love letter, finding a ripe avocado out of season takes a miracle, and getting a good rise on a souffle can take a prayer. I hope you take can some time to cook a bit this weekend, and think about what you've summoned.

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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.