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Screenshot Saturday Mondays: Please, is anyone there, is anything left

Thinking about the future while Twitter burns

A strange lobby in the yet-untitled new game from Jacob Potterfield.
Image credit: Jacob Potterfield

Hello? Hello? Is anyone out there? If you're reading this, you must be. If not, hell, I must try to keep on living even if no one's observing. I've not seen my friend's cat in three days. I don't know if my friend has a cat anymore. I don't know if I have a friend anymore. All I know is that Twitter's collapse has accelerated. But this was once a weekly column highlighting attractive and interesting indie games from Twitter's #screenshotsaturday tag, and maybe it still is, or maybe it will be again. For now, come check out these games, if you can.

Over the weekend, Twitter introduced caps on how many posts you can see each day, supposedly temporarily and in response to "extreme levels of data scraping & system manipulation". Different types of user (new accounts, established accounts, and rubes) have different limits. At one point, unregistered people couldn't see tweets at all. I'm not sure where all that stands now. Twitter also went down for several hours.

Pretty underseascapes in watercolour-painted adventure game Echo Of The Waves

I have no idea how you, reader dear, are currently seeing this post. I don't know for certain what's there nor how it's presented to you. I don't know how you might see this post three hours, three days, or three weeks from now as Twitter's troubles continue.

Watercolours are back out for Été (coming to Steam), a game about a painter on summer hols in Montreal

This was yet another week where Twitter refused to show the full #screenshotsaturday archive. This time, it cut off mid-Saturday afternoon. Typically I would compile this post by scrolling back through everything posted on the tag across the entire weekend but sometimes I'm now lucky to reach the actual Saturday of Screenshot Saturday. On those days, I end up piecing together a post from the little I can see in the full archive and whatever gets autocurated by popularity into the tag's "Top" selection. The games in Top tweets are consistently good, sure, but I want to dig down and find games which went unseen. This column suffers for variety without them. Purpose, too.

And Flawless Abbey (coming to Steam) is evidenly both hand-painted and hand-cranked, a delightful little sequence

I've been thinking about Twitter problems and this column for a while. Some game developers had already been branching out into new social networks even before Elon Musk arrived with his sink full of bright ideas. Several Mastodon servers have sprung up to house devs, and #ScreenshotSaturday happens there too. I've skipped Mastodon so far in this column because I've seen a fair bit of crossposting and almost everything was still on Twitter anyway. I wasn't convinced it was a good use of my time. I've said before that I would reevaluate this stance over time and yeah, I'm doing some reevaluating alright.

I still don't know quite what Jacob Potterfield's latest is, and I'm still so into it

Mastodon instances are not permanent either, mind. They rely on the time, money, effort, and emotional work of community hosts—demands which increase as a server grows. One niche Mastodon instance I joined in 2017 shut down due to (I think) a combination of admin infighting and users' frustration with the server sliding away from its intended purpose. Everything posted on it was lost.

I always welcome first-person kicking, and do appreciate the slapstick of deploying kicks against little guys in survival horror Labyrinth Of The Demon King (coming to Steam)

Alongside Twitter's troubles, I've just seen that GIF hosting site Gfycat is closing. It's had technical troubles for months without explanation, and now the operators have casually dropped a shutdown notice on its site. All its content and data will be deleted in September. We've often used Gfycat on RPS to demonstrate little things in games, and a number of great posts won't make sense after that dies. Now I need to find an alternative for that, and hopefully find time to fix old posts too.

I like the sound of The Secret Ties Of Strandcliff (coming to Steam), where you play as a barkeeper in a small-town tavern who can learn secrets, solve mysteries, and use information to manipulate people for good or bad

I couldn't tell you how many friends and colleagues have permanently lost years of work after the sites they wrote it for broke, shut down, or changed direction.

Swish weapon animations in retro-inspired FPS Interlopers (coming to Steam), though honestly I can understand why the big wheel is angry when your rifle is seemingly built from the technobones of its young?

So, sites backed by investors are vulnerable and sites which were once profitable businesses are vulnerable and sites run by communities are vulnerable. All services will one day die. Of course, everything dies. All flesh is grass and all websites are, a £25 monthly subscription service which offered the giddy thrill of a fresh square metre of rolled turf from a surprise cultivar or mix delivered to your front door but closed down after burning through £900 million in venture capital without gaining a single paying customer.

I suppose it's inevitable that a generation of retro-styled games will echo the stylings of Windows 95 desktop games, or at least that's what I see in the UI of "relaxing" fishing game Aquamariner (coming to Steam) experienced a brief rebirth when a link farm nabbed the abandoned domain name to advertise Top Online Casino Casinos Casinoes For Grass Lawn Lawnmower Turf Strimmer Outdoors Dad Father's Day Gambling. That too died. now exists only as a single promotional wooden 'swag' crate forgotten in the shed of a Sunday Times columnist. A lush bluegrass/fescue mix sprouts from the cracks in its lid, the roots cradling branded socks and caps now too decomposed for you to read the baffling slogan, "Grass, grass, or grass, nobody rides for free."

I always enjoy seeing this developer's pretty work on virtual goldfish tanks, though you'll need to subscribe to the Patreon to play with these new robofish

I mean, never existed, but I did enjoy thinking about it for two minutes while writing that. Maybe fleeting joy is the best we can hope for online. Twitter's collapse as a social hub isn't a new thing, I'd just forgotten how this feels.

I am enjoying imagining the rhythm in my fingers to hop these posts in Schim (coming to Steam), a platformer where you jump from shadow to shadow

When I first got online in the late 90s, almost everything was doomed. Community-run communities would spring into existence, grow, thrive, decline, then die. Some lasted months and others years but every Quake server, IRC channel, and messageboard I once called home is gone. And long before I started surfing the information superhighway, earlier internauts had already lost many of their newsgroups, BBSes, and MUDs. If anything, it's weird that I've been able to hang around the same site for 16 years.

Retro rallying in Shakedown (early work-in-progress available on Itch)

Megabucks from investors can create the illusion of stability, certainly more than your cyberpal sneaking a server onto his university's network, but eventually they lose interest or demand too much and it ends (until cool teenagers save the future using NFTs, obvs.) Maybe living online is a choice between gruelling self-sufficiency or surrendering yourself to the whims of fate and accepting everything will die over and over. Twitter is even experiencing a painfully familiar cause of online community death: an admin lost to their own cult of personality.

Good Game Boy horror in this game being made for the GB Compo 2023 competition

Any hypothetical 'death of Twitter' could be years away, mind. While it can feel apocalyptic at times, there's a long way yet. I imagine Elon Musk has enough money to run Twitter into the ground then keep on running it as a vanity project until he's cannibalised by employees at his Martian colony after a self-driving tractor ploughs through the "kewl" "cyberpunk" glass dome of the farm module. Hell, maybe Musk would be happier if the site was only visited by people willing to pay him for the privilege of writing fawning replies to his unfunny tweets.

Doom collides with the popular Internet horror fiction setting of The Backrooms in this little experiment from the maker of Backrooms: The Project (coming to Steam, with a demo out now)

I feel for the indie devs who already struggle to spread word about their games. Building and keeping a following is difficult. Risking losing touch with fans and potential players then needing to try again in five different places at once sounds horrible.

Cop Bastard (coming to Steam, with a demo there now) certainly is a name

In my personal life, I have the same stance as probably most people: I'm waiting to see if one network 'wins' as Twitter's successor. Twitter's presence in my life has grown pretty small so jumping on trying Mastodons, Bluesky, Cohost, and other alternatives is not a priority for me. Professionally, I should rethink. I will continue thinking about ways this column might need to adapt. I should start thinking about what I'd do to keep the spirit of this going if adaption is not possible. In the meantime, hey, enjoy these games!

I sadly don't have the customary cat to close this week, but here's a caterpillar in I Am A Caterpillar (coming to Steam)

What else caught your eye this weekend, reader dear?

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