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Leigh Alexander

Leigh Alexander is editor in chief of Offworld. She's also author of Breathing Machine and Clipping Through, ebooks on games, tech and identity, and recently published MONA, an illustrated moral horror short.

In this game, censorship does not mean 'deleting your spiteful internet comments'

As a woman who writes articles about video games, I hear the word "censorship" a lot these days. To hear certain corners of the internet tell it, "censorship" supposedly means having discussions on the images we see in media, asking people to think about the language they use and the effect it achieves, doing any kind of media criticism, or moderating comments so that nobody can shit them up with frantic sealioning about how other people are being too sensitive to criticism.

Fortunately there's a game in the works about actual media censorship, as in a system wherein only government-approved or politically-advantageous speech is allowed and defiance solicits retaliation. The Westport Independent tasks players with deciding how, when and whether to strike out "offending" comment from the people's news, whether they'll work in step with the government agenda or attempt to subvert it, and who among their employed transcribers can be trusted to help. westport

The game's still very early yet, but there's an alpha available for you to preview some of the intriguing systems. The Westport Independent has eloquently borrowed one of the best parts of its aesthetic-alike predecessor, oppressive border control sim Papers, Please: It's that element of having tools, papers and information splayed out across the intimate work space in front of you, all of it a pleasure to pull, sort and rifle. That pleasurable intimacy tends to reinforce the idea that your tiny decisions reverberate massively. westport2

We recently covered Holly Gramazio's work on a newsgame about the arbitrary (and basically sexist) list of acts banned in the UK's pornography. What other games about censorship have you enjoyed?

Being student council president at an elite girls school isn't easy

Take one part roleplaying game, one part dating sim, and one part mystery-solving, set it in a traditional elite girls' school, and you'll have Hanako Games' Black Closet, a slightly rough but engaging twist on more than one genre.

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How four keys can create a spectrum of feelings

Arielle Grimes' What Now? uses constraint and glitch aesthetics to explore emotional overwhelm, care for oneself and othersRead the rest

Play it now: RadOS

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The age of obsequious, infantilizing, anthropomorphic operating systems—think Clippy and his cohort—may be a dim comic memory, but it's helped inspire an entire (though brief) generation of art and music.

Now, a new jam game called RadOS, billed as a "modern horror experience", summons the simultaneously hilarious and nightmarish circumstance of cursing softly at a bright, gooey GUI as you struggle desperately against losing everything. Your virtual assistant is a goofy, wittering submarine sandwich wearing shoes (this is never explained), who cheerfully informs you that thanks to some crucial updates, your system will restart in 30 seconds. That's about how much time you have to save all your unsaved work.

RadOS presents you with the impossible feat of saving several windows' worth of work in those 30 seconds, and these vary for each playthrough—figuring out how to save, export, submit, et cetera each open project is made ever more enraging by the assistant continually popping in to "help."

If it's possible to succeed, I haven't managed it; I think instead it's a nihilistic commentary on Windows 95, designed to frustrate you and make you laugh a little bit (the user icon, a cavernous hood with a blossom emerging from its depths, is wonderfully eerie).

RadOS was made for the recent Toronto Game Jam and is downloadable for free. There's no Mac version.

Why do deer run into traffic, anyway?

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Infinideer is a weird little diversion made for the tenth annual Toronto game jam: You are a deer, you gallop into traffic, and you have to cause as much wreckage as you can before you die grossly, which is inevitable.

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Could this beautiful game signal the end of our dystopia fetish?

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Over the past decade or so, gritty, apocalyptic worlds were the favored setting of popular video games, and machinelike cyber-dystopias were a reliable aesthetic before that. But No Man's Sky, a highly-anticipated upcoming world, is infinite and hopeful.

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Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is forever

Why the classic game still commands so much love (and money) Read the rest

Pokemon ghosts are still fashionable, still spooky

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If you have a fond memory for Pokemon games, you'll remember that Lavender Town tends to be where all the ghost stories can be found. Somewhat famously, Lavender Town is also the source of a great work of creepypasta—now it is the inspiration for a great handmade outfit.

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The thrill of cleaning in video games

For lots of commercial games, being able to spatter the walls with viscera or to leave a mess of smashed barrels and crates behind is part of the abandon. But aren't people often just as driven by the urge to clean up?

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Why are the stories in video games so bad?

People often say they are enthusiastic about games because "they can tell stories", or because they enable narrative moments not possible in other media. But although there are numerous flashes of brilliance in games, this potential often feels like something they circle, but never attain.

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Get ready to blindfold your friends in this neat local multiplayer game

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Smartphones and tablets have been great for games, but are much-maligned for the antisocial act of screen-staring. Luckily, games like Glitchnap's Sentree can help all your friends play together, with just a couple of devices.

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Can you please stop with Cards Against Humanity

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If you like card games and board games even a little bit, chances are you know Cards Against Humanity—it's the most popular 'thing' of its kind, having earned like $12 million bucks. Which sucks, because it's awful.

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Everyone loves this delightful alphabet for all ages

Do you have young ones at home? Or do you simply live in a world where language and phonetics are touchable, colorful, dreamlike living things? Either way, be sure you have not missed Metamorphabet.

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This poor kid was forced to play an indie game in school

Dejobaan Games' Elegy for a Dead World is a beautiful game—as you navigate endless, lonesome interstellar landscapes, you fill in writing prompts. It's flexible and gentle, a good tool for getting your creativity flowing. And it's lots of fun to sabotage.

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Offbeat, girly games that pay tribute to a pioneer

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In the mid-1990s, Theresa Duncan's works went beyond just 'games for girls' -- charming games like Chop Suey, Smarty and Zero Zero were rueful and unusual, with a distinct Gen X flavor, portraying young womanhood in all its weirdness and touching complexity. The pioneering Duncan died in 2007, but now there's a new group of small games in tribute to her work.

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Play it now: Traveler

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Traveler is a nuanced and touching text game about... finding where you belong? It's an abstract space travel adventure, where you drift among planets with an eye on your ever-falling system gauges, thinking about your home, your family, your mission.

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Was the world's oldest deck of cards any fun?

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The oldest complete deck of cards in the world is from the distinctly-unhappy 15th century, and lives at the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Cloisters location. The oblong cards are nifty-looking—but what would people play with them?

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