Indie games roundup!

The best from the independent dev scene

This week in games: inactivity, brutalism, The Witness and more

Zoya Street, curator of Critical Distance, offers slow reflections on the fast-paced world of digital play…

What was it like working a Nintendo hotline in the 80s?

This week, our partnership with Critical Distance brings us reading on parenting via Tomb Raider, the utility of the word 'gameplay', and experiences from Nintendo 'play counselors' from the 1980s and 90s.

Can games exist without players?

This week, our partnership with Critical Distance brings us interviews with the developers behind Cibele and Uriel's Chasm, as well as a meditation on games that aren't meant to be played.

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Did you know Carl Sagan designed a game?

This week, our partnership with Critical Distance brings us writing on witch folklore, the intimate language of games, and a lost design doc made by Carl Sagan.

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Get romantic with tentacle monsters

This week, our partnership with Critical Distance brings us a preview of consensual tentacle sex game Consentacle and a new documentary series on women in games. Read the rest

Why games need to stop letting everyone save the world

This week, our partnership with Critical Distance brings us a look inside the cheerful pacifist adventure game Undertale as well as Life is Strange's final chapter.

Kill Screen's Frances Chiem argues that the “gut punch” of futility in Life is Strange’s conclusion is effective because it transcends genre cliches. Protagonist Max doesn’t get to be the hero. As the title of Chiem’s article succinctly argues, "We Need to Stop Letting Everyone Save the World."

Writing for FemHype, the writer known as Nightmare takes on the staggeringly popular Undertale, "the RPG game where you don't have to destroy anyone." The game has become a hit for its charming characters and broad, inclusive representation, as well as its emphasis on pacifist resolutions, which Nightmare argues speaks especially to LGBT+ players.

At Ludus Novus, Gregory Avery-Weir explains how Skyrim’s city of Riften is doomed to perpetual crime and poverty because the thieves and thugs running it are “essential” in the game’s code and therefore can’t be removed:

When games portray fictional worlds, they make implicit statements about the nature of the real world. By placing the Thieves Guild—one of the game’s three major employers—in a corrupt town ruled by a coldhearted mead magnate, Skyrim makes a statement about criminals and morality. Criminals come from bad places, and there’s nothing you can do to improve the situation.

Bianca Batti of Not Your Mama’s Gamer takes a look at women-driven horror games like Among the Sleep and Alien: Isolation and concludes that they, too, often 'hard code' their mother figures as either victims or monsters:

In these two texts, motherhood becomes binaristically constructed between the two poles of good mothering and bad mothering, with no other options for maternal identity made available.
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What makes someone a 'girl gamer'?

In her recent video project, Latoya Peterson explores the label "girl gamer". Meanwhile, Kevin Nguyen has a hypothesis about the "Jonathan Franzen of video games."

How games are keeping traditional symphony orchestras in business

Read about the surprising role games are playing in sustaining symphony orchestras, one woman's struggle in a toxic industry, and how a player discovered their sexuality in Borderlands.

Let's talk more about The Beginner's Guide, a game about games

This week, our partnership with Critical Distance brings us further discussion on one of the most interesting works of game criticism ever to be playable, the untold story of the Net Yaroze homebrew community, and more. Read the rest

Celebrate the classic Breakout, and then rethink the term 'empathy games'

This week, our partnership with Critical Distance brings us a takedown on 'empathy games' from one of the field's most well-known independent designers, as well as a unique collection of games inspired by the classic Breakout. Read the rest