Boing Boing 

Enjoy an atmospheric horror story about space travel

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You've just been accepted to university on Earth; you say farewell to your family and start your comfortable, luxurious trip through space. Once you're on your way, though, you realize you might not be alone.

Stowaway is a Twine story from Tanya Short about something that doesn't belong—the idea of an intruder, the idea of the self. It's very graceful and restrained, immersing you as much in the chill of its spaceward journey as in memory and emotion. I think the writing is fantastic and the storytelling dreamlike; calling it a horror story is my choice—you might get something different out of it.

Stowaway is free to play here. I've worked with Tanya and her studio Kitfox Games previously through my game design consultancy Agency, but that project wasn't related to this one.

Avoid your job in this pleasantly oddball game

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The objective of NEVER GO TO WORK is in its title: Your alarm goes off just after 6 AM, and it's time to get to the office. Except arriving there ends the game, and you don't really want to go to work, anyway.

You are Agenesia, disgruntled and harboring a crush on your unreliable bus driver, and your meandering takes you all over town. Anything can go wrong: I was killed by ghosts on a mini golf course, and found myself inexplicably on a riverboat. I wanted to go to the strip club, but it was closed. I kind of like the gritty caprice of Agenesia's world: The rough textures of the graphical interface, the not knowing what to expect—is my intentional avoidance of efficient bus routes going to make my lateness to work sprawl wonderfully on the digital clock before me, or will I accidentally stumble into a game-over?

Some of the opacity doesn't serve the experience though, something I don't mind saying as developer Rani Baker (who also made this buggy but nifty nostalgic rebuild of Demon's Forge, the kind of Apple IIe game that I'm weird enough to still be excited about) is still taking feedback toward a final version of the game. I have a pack of cigarettes in my inventory slot, but while clicking it sometimes takes me to a wonderful neon ritual site, at other times it gets me stuck in an endless loop. I'm not sure what it's for. I enjoy the tension between needing to keep moving and not wanting to arrive at work, but while the collage of unpredictable moments feels creative and cool, at times I wish there were a little more for me to do.

NEVER GO TO WORK is free to play in your browser. It is the latest title to be commissioned by the Interactive Fiction Fund, which aims to support both established and up-and-coming interactive fiction makers with actual money (I'm a backer; consider becoming one yourself here). The last title was Morning Rituals, a game about a Satanic Keurig machine (which we liked).

A game about imagined conversations with your ex

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Most of us do it: We imagine the conversations we'd have with an important friend or partner from years ago, now that everything's changed. You're a totally different person now than you were then, and now there's probably some things you kind of want to explain to them, lingering memories you still feel bad about, things like that.

It's such a universal human thing—of course it isn't possible to follow all threads back into our past and tie them up neatly. Sometimes it's not ethical to dredge the other person's history just so you can get a sense of closure. So the conversations we long to have with the people of our past remain theoretical, even if we can imagine them vividly, can imagine what we would expect the other person to say, what we wish they would say.

Conversations We Have in My Head is a new, simple game by whiz-of-all-trades Squinky that deals with this theoretical space. In the game, Squinky imagines some aspect of themself (a character called "Quarky") talking to an ex about (among many things) the past, their relationship with their family, and coming out as genderqueer, apparently a new development since the last time Quarky and the ex spoke. Talking to an ex, who once knew you a bit differently, about such a shift in how you identify and express yourself is its own unique circumstance, and it's fascinating to see it illustrated in a game.

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What I like about this vignette is that you play as the ex, in a sense—occasionally you have the option to interrupt the other character with phrase prompts that appear on the screen, either to respond or to ask questions. Or, you can just let them speak to you and simply listen—clearly they need to speak to you, and the desire to offer that character a compassionate or curious response is in interesting conflict with the wish not to interrupt them.

Ultimately I played Conversations We Have in My Head a few times to experiment with all the possible directions the conversation can take—which is fitting, because these kinds of things and their different possibilities often repeat gently in the mind, following their different paths. You can try it yourself for free or pay-what-you-want.

Squinky's games often focus on "gender identity, social awkwardness, and miscellaneous silliness" as themes; you can see some more of their work on their online storefront, or back their various projects via Patreon.

You're the writer of a terrible video game. Can you save it?

C├ęsar Astudillo, creative commons image : https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/

You're the writer of the latest game in a once popular, lucrative game franchise called Shattergate. You've never actually played any of the Shattergate games, granted, but somehow you're writing it anyway. And you're so screwed.

Read the rest

Play it now: Bus Station Unbound

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The ideal of "getting home for Christmas" is tinged with romance, conjuring images of rushing through snow and the chaos of transit to that ultimate family seat. For most of us, though, that holiday-card vision is a lot more complicated, and it's that painful, conflicting space that text game Bus Station: Unbound aims to evoke.

In Bus Station: Unbound, you can't rely on weather or the logic of whimsical urban transit any more than you can rely on your own family or the inexplicable magnet that suggests you ought to return to them. The transit hub you wander, lonesome and hungry and cold, is haunted by its own ghosts, other people whose pangs and circumstances will draw you into their orbit. Intellectually you have a goal, but your heart and spirit have manifold others, and they are sometimes at odds.

It's a text-only game made with Inklewriter, an incredibly simple and readable tool that even I can use (I once made a game about saving a pig, Bushwick, foodie culture and wild nights). If you can read and make choices, you can explore Bus Station: Unbound, and its incredibly piquant prose that conjures all the spiritual weight of returning to your hometown in the dead of winter.

Bus Station: Unbound is developed by Curious Tales and is free to play in your browser, but the developers would appreciate donations if you appreciate the experience -- a fair ask, given that there are some 100,000 words contained therein.

You can play the Hitchhiker's Guide game right now

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Yesterday, March 11, was Douglas Adams' birthday. Did you know you can celebrate by playing the 1984 Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy game in your browser at work this instant?

Although games made with a text parser -- you know, where you type commands like TURN ON LIGHT or LOOK IN POCKET or S to travel "south" through described space -- are increasingly a lost art, the Hitchhiker's Guide game, made by Adams and Infocom's Steve Meretzky, was radically accessible for its time. The game playfully teaches you how to succeed at its opening circumstance by letting you die repeatedly in ways that quickly acclimate you to its sense of time, space, and humor.

The frustrating thing (or the beautiful thing, if you're like me) about old text games is the limitations of what they can understand. But the Hitchhiker's Guide game was downright literary for its time, empathetic to uncommon commands, skilled at understanding what the player wanted to do. It holds up well even today.

Give it a try. Maybe help each other out in the comments?

You can also emulate it a little more neatly with help from this crucial abandonware repository and an emulator like DOXBox or similar.

Play the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy text adventure online


In honour of the 30th anniversary of the brilliant (and incredibly frustrating) Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy text adventure game, BBC Radio 4 Extra have recreated the game in an online edition. I remember playing this for endless hours, with my Peril Sensitive Sunglasses perched on my forehead, repeatedly typing "look." The R4 version allows for saved games, so you can come back to it. You can also play the 20th anniversary edition.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Game - 30th Anniversary Edition (Thanks, Fipi Lele!)

Mastaba Snoopy: Choose-your-own-adventure based on a horrific alien intelligence that loves Peanuts


Mastaba Snoopy is surreal and wonderful dystopian science fiction choose-your-own adventure whose premise is that an all-powerful alien has mistaken a Peanuts book for a guide to human interaction, and enslaved humanity according to its principles. It's built on Twee and Tiddlywiki:

1. An Unknown Alien Being acquires a child's forgotten book and mistakenly beliefs that it depicts proper protocol for interaction with the human world.

2. It grows and converts all life into more of itself, like a living strangelet - emotionless spacial cancer. It can shapeshift or divide at will and learns quickly. Each mass it breaks off possesses its own intelligence.

3. The new being filters everything it perceives through the lens of Peanuts comics. It mimics characters, but with no understanding of how they fit together. A computer-generated collage. It doesn't understand human rules - but it does understands the laws of Peanuts.

4. After many years, the Milky Way and surrounding galaxies have been entirely overtaken by this single entity. Suddenly deprived of food, the organism begins to STAGNATE.

5. The organism transforms into a distorted parody of the former planet Earth, a foul, expansive hellworld - filtered, again, through Peanuts.

End result: There exists an infinite, nonsensical world with all locations, living things, and social interaction based on half-remembered dreams.

Thousands of years to fester and the memory is going bad, the original book having been long since lost in the constant churning reshaping. This new, living world has been dying for millenia.

You are here to watch an alien rot.

Mastaba Snoopy (via Waxy)

(Image: Snoopy's World in New Town Plaza, Sha Tin, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from edwin11's photostream)