Open a game, take note of the engine, immediately settle into document an uncannily familiar experience. It’s a routine that, if one isn’t careful, becomes too easy to find yourself in as when critiquing the medium, but every now and then something comes along that challenges your expectations and refuses to be derivative, largely defying classification.
These last few years, there’s been a special crackle in the air as we roll into the latter half of the year. In Japan, since 2005 (as far as I can tell), there’s been an annual art show wherein participants create artwork for the case of imaginary Famicom games, called My Famicase Exhibition. In 2015, a gamejam would begin shortly after the showcase that would present game developers with these covers to develop what the game attached to the artwork would be. One of my absolute favorite gamejams, the A Game By Its Cover Jam, facilitates a strange reverse-engineering of game development that produces beautiful, unexpected work.
Like most jams, there’s a lot to sift through in the submissions. Below, I’ve listed a handful of games from the jam that stood out to me, and are worth giving an in-depth look.
I like RPGs, I really do, but they weren’t exactly a genre I personally grew up with. While their aesthetics and narratives greatly appealed to me, the controls and mechanics felt largely impenetrable when access to consoles was no longer an issue. Chrono Trigger was arguably my first run in with SQUARESOFT style action RPGs, and came across as a vivid revelation, refreshing due in no small part to its hybridized turn based system and elegant overworld navigation.
At the turn of century, humanity began to panic as the future loomed.
Oncoming and unavoidable, the year 2000 was poised to be a time of great change, but much to our chagrin, it was a twist of fate that we had built our lives around such fragile technological marvels that would ultimately prove to be our own downfall. In our relentless pursuit of efficiency, systems built to house information containing dates would only register two numbers: the last two digits of the calendar year. As 2000 rolled in, a sudden fear began to arise that computers for governments or banks would be unable to distinguish between 2000 and 1900, causing irrevocable damage to our infrastructure and usher in an apocalyptic calamity.
These prophetic notions were predominantly held by the fringe of scientific research and society, exacerbated through outlets rapidly cycling through fear-mongering and misinformation. As society questioned the ability of corporations to address the issue in time, the Y2K fervor was the perfect encapsulation of a decade built upon pop culture that pushed hard into a fantastical vision for the future, with contemporary industrial design becoming the turn-of-the-century realization of what sci-fi had promised us in decades prior. Truly, the Y2K Bug is something of our society’s first watershed “cyberpunk” moment, with the misguided and shortsighted actions of the government and faceless corporate entities serving to endanger humanity, alongside an ever-growing online meta-verse, and the push towards a forward thinking “futuristic” visual zeitgeist.
In the swirling darkness of the moonlit night, past the forbidden trees that whistle in the wind, in a forgotten valley is somewhere far beyond your imagination. It has a name shrouded in whispers, leaving a chill on the lips of those who would dare speak it.
Foreboding as this place may be, it is not malevolent.. but nonetheless it worryingly beckons you, weary traveler. Far away on the distant horizon, you will arrive at your destination and find an answer to a question you never wanted to know.
And for the rest of your life, Kestlebrook will haunt you.