Hope for the Future

Premier video game industry news site Gamasutra just released their top 5 indie games of the year. Number one is Daniel Benmergui’s wonderful “I Wish I Were the Moon,” which I’ve mentioned before. Number two is “Everybody Dies,” third-place winner in the 2008 Interactive Fiction Competition and a game I’ve yet to play. These two selections give me a great deal of hope for the future of interactive entertainment.

“I Wish I Were the Moon” is everything that mainstream digital games are not. It is short, taking only 15 minutes to play to completion. It has simple graphics that still maintain a strong aesthetic. It is completely nonviolent (with the exception of quasi-accidental drowning) and it’s about love and relationships. Last but not least, it’s an inspiration for my recent release, “The Majesty of Colors.”

“Moon” beat out Iji, the excellent sidescrolling science fiction game reminiscent of Out of This World and Metroid. It also beat out Anna Anthropy’s much-loved spike-fetish game “Mighty Jill Off” and internet-geek favorite “You Have to Burn the Rope.”

The fact that Gamasutra, a site entrenched in the traditional digital games industry, picked a cute and touching game from Argentina and a piece of text-parser interactive fiction, means that at least some folks get the potential of games. All of the candidates they mention in the story are great, but these two are probably the least like AAA titles. They’re artsy and lo-fi and would get laughed off the shelves of your local video game store, but they were still picked as the best. Given, it’s only in the context of free indie games (the phenomenal and totally independent World of Goo was number one in downloadable games), but it still pleases me that we’ve gotten to the point where the special qualities of these games can be recognized beneath their not-that-shiny surfaces.

(As a disclaimer, I write a column for Gamasutra’s sister site GameSetWatch.)