Category Archives: False Narrativism

Hopping Numbers in Pocket Frogs


I love it when games wear their math on their sleeves. I also like when games are based on real-life systems, even when those systems are twisted or simplified for the purposes of smoother design. Pandemic is a good example of the former: the way the Infection deck is constructed and manipulated makes it clear how the game’s randomness works and why the same cities keep breaking out in more and more disease. Spacechem is a good example of the latter: it takes the concept of chemical bonds and process engineering and turns it into a brain-twisting puzzler.

Pocket Frogs, by Nimblebit, does both of these things. It takes the concept of genetic inheritance and uses it to make a sort of gambling game where the math is always visible and calculable.

It’s a game where you breed frogs, trying to produce certain special collections. But let’s pretend it’s not.

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Why So Few Violent Games?

With as much time as game designers and critics think and write about the specifics of game interactions, it’s often useful to step back and look at the basics. Let’s ask a simple question: why are there so many video games dealing with social interaction and relationships, and so few that explore violence and action-oriented gameplay?

In some ways, it’s a historical aberration. If Gygax and Arneson had made some war-focused game instead of Counts and Courtship, or Will Crowther had decided to entertain his kids with his obscure caving hobby instead of an exploration of his childhood friendships, perhaps the focus of our games would be different. Doom wouldn’t have been an oddball niche title if there were a hundred other games at the time about shooting aliens with guns.

But I think there’s a more fundamental issue at work here: violence and action are really difficult to simulate, unlike simple relationships.
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Ludus Novus 019: False Narrativism: Awesome Zone

This podcast episode is about an unreleased game from 1990 that a guy showed me at GDC. It’s called Awesome Zone, and it was created by developer Theodore Alby for a company called KnowSoft over the course of a six-week nervous breakdown.

The music for this episode is from “Three Goes On Forever” by Time Slips By, and is available under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-Sharealike License as part of the compilation Ctrl-N.

Ludus Novus 016: False Narrativism: Oszustwo

as time goes by

This week’s episode is a special False Narrativism piece, discussing the obscure but visionary Polish game Oszustwo, or Incongruity. I can easily envision a world in which this game never existed, but fortunately we have access to the most technologically-advanced, creepiest, and hardest-to-play game ever developed.

Ludus Novus 006: False Narrativism: Walking Away

The game Walking Away: In what ways does it succeed at what it attempts?

The music for this episode is “Criminal” by Peter Toh, used with permission.


The next episode will be about amnesia, the video game trope we all love to hate. If you have comments or anecdotes about amnesia, please leave a comment here or at

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