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Lately I’ve played the following small games that stuck out in my mind:
- Kittens Game is an idlegame from bloodrizer. It feels like a less horrific A Dark Room and it’s probably bad for you.
- “Saturn V” from Archie Pelago felt like an interactive art gallery, and had the same pleasant ambiguity I experience in actual galleries and museums, where I’m never quite sure where the line is between art and architecture: which of this is exhibit and which is window dressing? I actually suggest playing or downloading it without reading the description/artist’s statement first, like I did, to enhance that sensation. My speculation intensified when I came across the lovingly-rendered beer kegs in the basement.
- I’m glad I didn’t have an Oculus to play the original game-jam game “SightLine”, despite the creators’ recommendation. Early on there’s a set of physics-y bridges that are all wobbly and bouncy, so much so that several times I physics-ed straight through (maybe thanks to the “tunneling” or “bullet-through-paper” issue, maybe due to the elastic rope of the bridge stretching too far). This is weird; genuinely wondrous misdirection and legerdemain, with stuff disappearing, reappearing, and changing when you look away, mixed with some overwrought Stanley-Parable-aping narration and puzzles requiring mindreading. I’m glad they’re making a new game based on the old one’s mechanics. This sort of vision tracking is presumably ideal for VR headsets.
- “The Burrow” by Fewer Words is one of those interactive art pieces where I’m not sure if I’m done at the end of it. The artist statement says, “Every exchange is significant and becomes a part of the narrative.” If so, actions aren’t mechanically significant, from what I can tell. The first two sections of three give you minor camera control but no real agency, and the third is an odd exploration mobility puzzle thing that reminds me of some of the more esoteric Ages of Myst Online.
- “HASTE” by VR-Gamers is a prototype with a really cool concept and style but it feels like a brick wall. “Freerunning and when you go fast time slows down” sounds awesome. “I’m not sure if I can make any of these jumps and if I mess up I have to reload from the beginning of the level” feels really frustrating. The creator says “Be prepared to lose often – this game is for hardcore players only.” But one of the things about games is that they’re teaching devices. A good game teaches you how to use it. This one made me wonder if there was an extra key I didn’t know about that would make me succeed at jumps. There wasn’t. I gave up.
I recently looked around on the internet for interesting tabletop roleplaying systems that I could read and try out for free. I’ve yet to play any of the ones that caught my eye for the first time, but I thought that I should share the highlights of my search.
In the descriptions, you might see the terms “simulationist” and “narrativist.” I’m using those words to describe how the game approaches the details of its rules. A simulationist game, in my way of seeing it, is one which offers a realistic and internally consistent world model which provides specific rules for a wide range of things. A narrativist game, on the other hand, is vague on details; generally, the players and game master can go along with the story, with the rules providing much broader strokes.
Here are the games that jumped out at me, in no particular order: