We continue on our holiday march!(This Decade In Gaming: Community Pt. 2)
Summon The Apgrod is a game representative of the ‘alt’ movement from the middle 2010s, incorporating elements of procedural text, environmental storytelling and glitch aesthetics to produce something at once alienating and heartwarming. More than any other game for me, it successfully combines the mundane with the supernatural in order to produce the sublime
2:22am joins a tradition of cutting and splicing first person gameplay in order to express itself using montage (the same tradition as Brendon Chung’s Gravity Bone). Its vignettes are dreamlike, preferring poetic relationships over explicit plot. Its mood is unforgettable: You will come back haunted
Trigger (by Amy Dentata) is a visual novel in which the protagonist’s post-traumatic stress leaves us endlessly in doubt about what specific events befell her during her youth, while FIRMLY convincing us of the emotional truths surrounding her abuse. We are invited to guide her towards any and all closure, memory, justice or comfort she might find; yet she faces setback after setback, and it’s harrowing to behold. This game is both brilliant and largely overlooked.
“VII: We Must Save The World For Ourselves” is not a game, but a book of criticism published by Austin C Howe on itch. It is the best close reading of Final Fantasy VII I have ever encountered, and ought to be remembered as an important contribution to the world of alternative videogame media (if only people would read the goddamn thing).
“Into” by animalphase incorporates twee aesthetics not simply to ‘make it approachable’, but rather to connect us with parts of life that our industry has traditionally scorned. The sound of an old crush’s voice as they whisper into your ear; drawing tools scratching across paper surfaces. Moments we don’t realize were important until decades later. A powerfully-simple experience that I often drift back to in my mind.
Bedrooms, by Increpare. To me, the most powerful of his short 3D narrative games. Really expressive in the use of colors, sounds, texts, camera movement.
2:22AM, by Alice L (https://umbrella-isle.itch.io/222am). A beautiful and simple collage of different vignettes. Lyrical. Feels like a dream. The first time I played it it felt like a novel way to approach narrative in videogames.
MirrorMoon EP by Santa Ragione. Beautiful visuals and pacing. An exploration game both individual and collective. The things this game did with the multiplayer experience were innovative and incredibly meaningful. It also had a deep feeling of discovery.
Gravity Bone, by Brendon Chung. Feels already like a classic to me. It’s like a level design/narrative class. Beautiful use of montage. Loved how interaction and narrative were blended together..
Experiment 12. A wonderful collective project that shows how things can evolve from person to person. The flow between each of the 12 games is fascinating.
Devil Daggers. Superb transposition of classic FPS mechanics into a challenging score attack game, presented with astonishing sound design. An early (but exceptionally good) example of indie games revelling in the crunchy low-fi of early 3D.
Spelunky. Arguably the most significant founding force behind the new wave of roguelikes that focused on abstract orthogonal design over CRPG dungeon-crawling. Not just a trailblazer, but an incredibly tight and satisfying platformer too, with a thousand interlocking components just waiting to cascade into place.
Diaries of a Spaceport Janitor. In a burgeoning scene of simulators that capture the wonder in the mundane tasks that fill up our lives, it stands out for its strange and vibrant world, in which you are only a background feature. You live at the locus of numerous cultures, mysteries, and stories. When your story begins, the game ends.
Lethal League Blaze. A unique and highly accessible fighting game formula tuned to perfection, presented with banging tunes and visual design reminiscent of the poor, long-lost Jet Set Radio. An ever-escalating back-and-forth that’s part mind-games, part light-speed trigonometry. Tragically out of its time.
DUSK. YEAH IT’S SELF-INDULGENT RETRO BOOMER-SHOOTER NONSENSE BUT OH MY GOD I’VE BEEN WAITING SO LONG FOR A GAME THAT *GETS IT*, AND DUSK *GETS IT* SO HARD. IT UNDERSTANDS THAT THE OLD-SCHOOL FORMULA ISN’T ABOUT ENDLESS RUNNING AND GUNNING BUT ABOUT USING THOSE MECHANICS AS A BASE TO BUILD A FANTASTICALLY DIVERSE RANGE OF ACTION-HORROR EXPERIENCES.
As for what they think of AAA releases this year..
Prey: Mooncrash. Everyone slept on the base game within like a week of it coming out, despite it being easily the best [Bio/System]Shock game this side of the millennium, and Mooncrash cleverly exploited roguelike concepts to plug the few fundamental design flaws in its formula. Solve problems on your feet. Plan your escape. Play an imsim where you’re not hoarding resources. It’s got everything.
Thanks to everyone who contributed to the list, we’ve truly had some remarkable games this decade.
Emily Rose is an indie developer who writes for rebind.io and resides in the pacific northwest. She’s often seen in the local VR arcade and developer community participating in pushing the medium’s horizons. You can find her on twitter @caravanmalice