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Passengers is a game about the human cost of Europe's migrant crisis

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The ongoing European Migrant Crisis sees death tolls rise as refugees take expensive and often extremely-dangerous trips with smugglers, often to be displaced again or even arrested when they arrive. The European Union is struggling with the ethical responsibility to assist people who've endured desperate and life-threatening circumstances for a chance at a better—while some countries believe in developing a unified continental plan to assist in the crisis, there are also fears that placing asylum-seekers would lead to more risk of life and resource strain. Some countries are building fences.

Creator Francois "Nerial" Alliot and collaborator Arnaud De Bock felt the human lives of the migrants themselves could too easily be lost in the ethical debates about asylum and human smuggling. In their new game Passengers, you play a smuggler bringing people to Europe. You can select what kind of watercraft you pilot and what kind of bribes you accept, and how many people to bring on board—these factors affect your own profits and level of risk. On your journey many of your passengers will die, you'll attract the attention of the coast guard, run out of water, or worse.

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The most impactful part of the game is when you choose who to take on board. Each asylum-seeker comes to you with a name, a history, perhaps a family, and an amount they can afford to pay, which you can negotiate. You find yourself in the position of judge—who deserves another chance? Who might be too fragile for the trip and should leave room for someone else? Should you take a high number of people, even if it makes the trip more dangerous?

Would you take a drug dealer, a criminal, a benefits-seeker? What if he was more polite and appreciative to you than the sullen man who won't look you in the eye and doesn't seem grateful for your risk? Would you try to negotiate a higher fee from a woman and child if they seemed healthy, if you knew they probably had money?

Ultimately do your own feelings make a difference to the fate of your passengers, who will often die at sea?

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It does remind of the constant calculations of what "life is worth" that often come with these incredibly complicated but heartbreaking situations. The free little game was made in a weekend for the Ludum Dare 33 jam, the theme of which was "You Are The Monster." It's a PICO-8 game—Passengers co-creator Arnaud De Bock kindly sent us the fanzine about the elegantly-constrained digital console last week.

How to join this weekend's Ludum Dare game-making jam

Ludum Dare 33 is here, which means loads of indie developers will soon be jamming on tiny games in accordance with a theme. Anyone can participate, which means if you've been reading all our articles about how game-making can be for anyone who dreams it because of new tools and community support, you can get ready to join the jam.

The community will be voting on this jam's theme until this Friday—just sign in to vote from a list of 20 finalist ideas like "No Enemies", "You are the Monster", or "Alone in the World".

Here's some resources from Pixel Prospector if you're not sure where to get started, and you can visit Games are for Everyone to find the right tool for your idea and support on how to use it.

Follow Ludum Dare on Twitter. I also love the Ludum Dare jam-bot Twitter, which randomly tweets games from recent compos.

5 games with weapons you'd never expect

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A week or two ago, I took part in my first Ludum Dare—Latin for "to give a game"—a recurring event that picks a theme and asks participants to make a game around it within 48 hours.

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Try performing in atmospheric Norse slam poetry competition

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MadameBerry has made us a neat toy: EDDA, An atmospheric slam poetry battle based on a collection of Old Norse poetry. Alongside warm firelight in a great hall, you choose how to complete phrases in response to your challenger, with the aim of besting four different types of poets.

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Minicraft

Minecraft developer Markus "Notch" Persson entered rapid game-dev competition Ludum Dare, which provides just 48 hours to see a project from inception to completion. One must start from scratch, but Notch went even further, livecasting every second of the process and blogging the milestones. The result was Minicraft, a stripped-down 2D version of the megahit.

It has crafting, exploring and fighting, all built around familiar toolsets, ores and beasties. The third dimension is replaced by levels, in the manner of a traditional roguelike, and the player has an objective: to find the Air Wizard and kill him, thereby letting the game meet the competition theme of "Alone." Minicraft is hardcore, too, with no save feature and a good hour or two of play ahead of you to get there.

A spectacular achievement in just a few hours of coding, Minicraft casts the same spell as the real thing. It does, however, suffer from shallowness and grind. There's not much to do except plow through the process of emptying each level in search of better ores. And if there's a way to place blocks (i.e. build things) I couldn't find it. But it's free and the source is right there, so who's complaining?

Play Minicraft