Soha E leads diversity and inclusion initiatives in the games industry and is an on-again off-again writer. In a previous life she dabbled in game design tools and guest lectured in universities across North America about DIY game-making. She also shitposts entirely too much on Twitter.
Between natural disasters and manmade political disasters, it’s hard to grasp what actually happened over the last 12 months. The dissociative nightmare of daily news makes it near impossible to recall major events, or when they occurred, and how the hell we moved on so quickly from them. Want to feel old and tired? The Fyre Festival happened this year.
Even the amount and quality of new games were overwhelming. There were the big releases and indie darlings, the hits throughout the year that I pre-scheduled into my calendar and organized my entire life around. I devoured them like a starving raccoon to avoid a spiral of depression--I’m talking about my personal favorites of the year: Persona 5, NieR:Automata, Danganronpa V3, Yakuza 0, and Night in the Woods. Hell, even Mass Effect: Andromeda had a few shining moments (give me an entire game of fighting Architects and smooching aliens, thanks!).
But then come along the smaller games, the ones that sometimes cost less than a latte or have no price tag at all. You wouldn’t have heard of them if they weren’t retweeted in your timelines, or if you didn’t scour blogs where creators who want to test their skills in free engines share their works. They pleasantly pop up while you’re scrolling through news, and you decide you’ll curl up with them before bed or try them out right then and there for a much-needed break. I wanted to share some of these games, the ones I’m glad I took time to check out in a year where time keeps slipping away.
Swipe left or right on policy proposals to balance out your kingdom, and die several times while trying to Tinder your way through power. As soon as you think you’ve got a grasp on how your advisors will react, the script switches and the townspeople are suddenly dragging you toward a guillotine. Don’t get comfortable because you’ll never be good enough, and while you’ll love to think of yourself as a Margaery, you’ll only ever be a Cersei.
I knew this game would be on my list before I even played it. Imagine Stardew Valley, but you’re a cat, and everyone else is also a cat. You learn how to forage and hunt in cat colonies while uplifting music plays, and if you’re like me, you frequently pause to clutch your chest at the overwhelming feeling of pure joy because you’re finally living out your Warrior Cats fantasies. Also, you can date other cats. Y’ALL, YOU CAN DATE OTHER CATS. AND HAVE KITTENS.
This indie game is described as a “solitaire game of cosmic horror inspired by the work of Junji Ito,” in case you needed to know exactly what to say for me to quickly pull out my wallet. The first mystery I decided to solve as my character’s ability to reason depleted was about the “ALARMING ACCOUNT OF ABNORMAL ARMS.” The first spell I learned on my adventure was “SKIN REMOVAL.” This might not make a lot of sense right now, but trust me, it’s where I had to start to try and defeat Gozō, also known as The Thing Forsaken By God.
Mama Possum is an interactive fiction with beautiful artwork and a strangely fitting acoustic twang. It also has the following synopsis: Two sisters, a truck driver and a housewife, fend off a Kaiju apocalypse in the Great Smoky Mountains with their mech Mama Possum. I’d love to tell you more, but you really have to experience it yourself. Go ahead, press the buttons in the console before you and find out where the behemoths go next.
A cyberpunk dialogue-driven game where you play as a network administrator who needs to delete hard drives to free up space. That sounds nice and easy, except you have to load up the drives into a monstrous humanoid AI and then talk to it. They’re confused and try to explain what they feel, and you discover that they really would rather you not do your job. However, the game reminds you that synthetics will do anything to seem like a human. Who will you believe?
I hope you get a chance to check out some small games this holiday break and add some weirdness in your backlogs, and may 2018 serve us better than whatever the fuck just happened in 2017.