Last month, I fell somewhat in love with an ultra-gentle, early access management sim about freshwater fish. Among Ripples: Shallow Waters is, even as a proof of concept demo, a solid tycoon game. But what really took me was its take on the "tycoon" part. This isn't a game about chewing up a disposable world for resources, but about tending, shepherding and expanding ecosystems, back into the spaces chewed up by human expansion. Better still, it isn't framed with "wE'Re AlL dEad, tImE to LeT tHe cOckrOacHes HavE a TurN!!!" nihilism, it's about compassionate, sober-minded people in the near future, working hard after a rough time to make things beautiful again.
Best of all, though, Among Ripples gives centre stage not to elephants or pandas or tigers, but to the equally spectacular, yet ever-overlooked inhabitants of rivers and lakes in Northern Europe. These creatures - dace and crayfish and perch - were the animals I grew up watching, and it was legit moving to see them made the subject of such a clever, thoughtful game. Enthused, I embarked on a long, rambling conversation about pike with game director Martin Greip, some of which made it into this interview. And now, apparently inspired by that conversation, Greip has gone Full Herzog, narrating this short, intensely calming video about pike. I strongly recommend that you watch it.
Wasn't that splendid? "The prey fish need the pike, as much as the pike needs the prey fish". I'll save you a soapbox rant on my part, but I have to say, I find it damned refreshing to see a game incorporate animals as what they actually are, rather than as stage-managed versions of themselves, fictionalised in order to make them more convenient for the demands of entertainment. Maneater, this is not.
Greip's team have now made a follow-up video, talking about the new water depth mechanics they're adding to the game. It's just as lovely a time, and shows how the actual ecosystem simulation behind Among Ripples is coming along:
And there we have it. I'll finish in a slightly atypical move, by pointing you towards the game's Kickstarter. There's only two days left to go, and at the moment, it seems touch and go whether it's going to make its funding total or not. We don't tend to highlight crowdfunding projects while they're still running, but considering the wall-to-wall misery I see whenever I poke my head above the Twitter parapet these days, I'm of the belief that we need more games like this.