How I Spent My Summer Vacation

Rhapsodies on games, gaming, and why we play.

Month: February, 2012

The 2012 IGF Pirate Kart: 323 x 10 Words

by berv

Some months ago, I heard of the Pirate Kart: a collection of quick jams, abandoned projects, works-in-progress, and strange experiments deemed by their creators to be unworthy of entry into the annual Independent Games Festival. Fool that I am, I decided it would be a good idea to play through all 323 entries and attempt to review each of them in exactly ten words.

I’ve since found that expressing anything in ten words is, at its best, a damned challenge, and at its worst, not at all fair to the items under review. Attempting to balance description of the games with my reaction to them while at the same time trying to make the snippets enjoyable to read was quite a challenge that I definitely won’t claim to have overcome. I’d like to apologize in advance to those developers who I haven’t really done justice to and applaud everyone who participated for doing your thing, regardless of how much or how little I might personally have enjoyed it. I also appreciate that many of these games might never have been intended for review and so have tried to curb my snarkiness where possible.

I’d definitely recommend giving the Pirate Kart a try, if only to see sampling of the huge range of work contained within. The best way to appreciate it, I think, is to boot it up, take the random ordering it provides you, and start working down the list until you’ve had enough. Iif you’d prefer a little direction, though I’ve marked a few of the games below that I thought stood out. Games that are bolded and italicized are my top picks, notable in some way that made them clearly stand out from the pack. Games that are simply bolded had some sort of stand-out element and are certainly worth your time, if only to appreciate the idea or it’s potential.

But really, what I’d rather you do is throw yourself against the will of the Pirate Kart and see where you end up. Best of luck.

Reviews follow


Retroactive storytelling and character definition in Unmanned

by berv

Now that it’s been a few days (and I’ve had the chance to bounce it off a few people), I wanted to comment on Unmanned, a browser-based game by Molleindustria. Though I would describe it as more of an interactive story than a game in the traditional sense, I found it to be an incredibly compelling journey of character definition.

Unmanned has the player inhabit the character of a predator drone operator for a day, tending to the oft-monotonous tasks of his day to day life and spending his idle moments introspecting and chatting with the people of his world. The game runs with a split interface, forcing the player to perform simple actions (e.g. shaving, staying in your lane on the highway, etc.) on the right half of the screen while choosing from dialogue options on the left. As a mechanic, I thought this was a solid mirror of how we seldom give anything our full and undivided attention and appreciated the light task-juggling required. But it’s the dialogue that really drew me in, and that’s what I’d like to discuss.
Read on…

Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoned

by berv

I had downloaded the demo to Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning about a week ago, watched the intro cutscene, ran into graphical issues, and promptly uninstalled it, but yesterday’s launch event persuaded me to give it another try.

First, I’d like to talk about the launch event. A sizeable number of popular videogame webcasters, many of whom I recognized from Starcraft 2 casts, agreed to promote the game on launch day by streaming themselves playing it. Being able to check in with each of these personalities as they explored the game did a great deal to win me over to the merits of the game. Seeing each enjoy the game despite their different approaches and in-game character builds drew me in and, on a basic level, made me want to have the same fun they were having.  Additionally, some of the streams featured interviews with particular bigs involved in the game (Curt Schilling, R.A. Salvatore, Todd McFarlane, Ken Ralston), which added a little bit of additional spice to the presentation and context for the product. All this was combined with periodic giveaways of the game itself and larger sweepstakes running over the course of the day to produce a very successful kick off and managed to get me excited about a game I had given up on.
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by berv

Just moments ago, I finished the last segment of Superbrothers’ Sword & Sworcery EP (iOS) and am so moved by the experience, I am compelled to write in the hopes that I might persuade at least one other person to take the same journey.

Where to begin? S&S EP is so tightly put together I feel as if I’d be doing it a disservice to discuss it as anything less than the whole. If you can play it (and you trust my judgement well enough), you’re best to pick it up and experience it for yourself. For everyone else, I will attempt to break it down.

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Losing and other such nonsense

by anbrewk

Despite my enjoyment of playing games, I do sometimes get frustrated when a game is not going my way – that is to say, when I am losing.  I’ve spent some time thinking about those feelings afterward and wondering what causes them – if it is really my losing that makes me frustrated or something else.  There is an inconsistency in my feeling frustrated that does not always coincide with losing. Sometimes I lose, or am losing, and I am perfectly happy to continue playing.  Other times I lose, or am losing and I want to quit or leave.  Recently, I had a similar feeling of frustrating and coupled with a desire to escape that mirrored this feeling of frustration I feel when losing in games: I was a guest at a persons home who kept insulting me (probably unintentionally) yet consistently enough and in such a way that I felt there was little I could do to stop it. I wanted to escape. In that situation, I had a similar desire to quit and leave. I had the desire to quit the activity which was frustrating me and leave the situation which marked my frustration.  I wanted to distance myself from something that wasn’t working for me.

The common denominator in my frustration is not that I am losing, because sometimes when I am losing I don’t feel like leaving or quitting and I often lose and have a great time. It isn’t as though every game I play I win and only the games I win at I have fun at. I have never won a single game of Brass yet I like that game very much.  I have won games of Through The Ages that I have been frustrated with because I felt my decisions didn’t matter and I won for arbitrary reasons.  More so than in either of those cases, I have won and lost games of Roma that I thought were trivial in both cases: I would now just as likely ignore a request to play a game of “flip the coin!” then play Roma.

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