Edutainment…. EDUTAINMENT! a frankengame meant to EDUCATE, striking cringe into the hearts of all young gamers everywhere, shudder. The only thing we’ve ever traditionally learned from school is the many ways which lessons are painfully dull, to the point that games like Frog Fractions have famously riffed on their ineffectiveness.
But what if we could envision a world that was different? A world where you could have fun….. AND… learn something, without making a mockery of both the subject and you as a person?
Who doesn’t love a little game of Sid Meier’s civilization? Perhaps some space faring 4X empire building?? (The 4X of course, stands for ‘
eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, and eXterminate’)
A lot of people as it turns out including myself, actually. Over the years, a discourse has developed around the idea of creating ‘non-violent’ games, yet it’s a concept rarely applied to things outside of Chad Shootwick’s Domination Quest 64. The accusation that genres like Grand Strategy or 4X contain more than surface level depictions of military violence would quickly raise the eyebrows of some, but even the cut and dry historical simulations are far from apolitical, their core gameplay balanced upon the very notion of statecraft.
This moral conundrum begs the question: where can someone go to satiate their cravings for grand scale and ambition when they don’t particularly involve scenarios of worldwide domination or subjugation? Hive Time offers a very simple answer, and while the natural world is no stranger to acts of violence, bees are largely peace loving insects vital to the sustainability of our ecosystem.
At first glance Hive Time doesn’t seem like much beyond simple bee management and for the most part it is, but as the gameplay begins to gain momentum it becomes quickly apparent how well each mechanic perfectly scales. Something about it manages to scratch the exact same compelling itch you would get out of an incredibly lengthy campaign of Civilization or even a well-kempt base in XCOM: Enemy Within.
The art of maintaining your Bee Keep is incredibly zen despite how riveting it is, the cartoonish depictions of the pollinator’s lifecycle still serves as a deeply informative lesson about how bees go through their daily motions to maintain the hive. It makes sense, after all ecology and games have a lot in common with how they are both deeply driven by interlaced systems playing off of each other, it is inevitable that someone like Cheese would find satisfying ways to synthesize the two in an attractive and playful package.
It is also worth noting that Hive Time is a lovely demonstration of the open-source Godot game engine, an often overlooked alternative to Unity, as well as Cheese’s take on pay-what-you-can pricing models:
I believe that the effort we have put into creating and supporting Hive Time is worth at least $10. However, I also believe that in an ideal world, financial barriers should never prevent people from participating in culture. For this project, I’m in a position to make the game available under a pay-what-you-want model so that it can be accessible to people who can’t afford $10.
– Hive Time’s itch.io page under ‘Is this game free?’
If you can afford $10, but would prefer to not pay, that’s up to you, but I hope that if you find enjoyment in the game that you’ll come back to give some support that matches that enjoyment.
I am personally a strong proponent of charging for your small games, but the fact that Cheese has gone out of their way to produce a work that would easily thrive on a platform like the Nintendo Switch at a flexible cost of entry is incredibly noble. Just because you don’t have the means doesn’t mean you don’t deserve access to culture or good games, especially ones that teach you how to care for and respect the delicate ecosystem we all rely on to live.
We have a rule here at RE:BIND to not focus on what something costs, because the intrinsic value of art and human achievement is worth compensation, artists and game designers deserve to make a living so that they may continue to deeply enrich our understanding of the world. Developers that understand this and still take the bold decision of offering up their labors to the world openly to the public demonstrate the power of trusting your audience, giving us a glimpse into a fairer world that isn’t as far out of reach as we might think.
So play Hive Time, get lost in it! Love your bees, love your fellow humans, and most importantly, show the developers your support if you have the means. If we want to see open-source engines stand up as a viable alternatives to dominant private platforms, then we must vocally recognize how valuable works like these are.
Ecosystems are more than just trees and animals, they’re also the people who make up the communities we all depend on to thrive. Take heed, Stewardship is a virtue, and one we would be wise to nourish for the future.
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