A game idea hidden right in front of you

Sign up to receive each week’s Playlist e-mail here! Also check out our full, interactive Playlist section. windowframe (PC) BY DANIEL LINSSEN You’re reading this inside a window. Practically every interaction with a piece of software takes place inside one. This has been the norm for computer use since around 1990, which is when Microsoft’s Windows 3.0 arrived and engulfed all other graphical interfaces. It’s reasonable to say, then, that having us reconsider the windows we peer into our computer files and the internet with every day isn’t an easy task. But, in only 48 hours, game designer Daniel Linssen has managed exactly…

Wood for the Trees

Lose yourself in the looping puzzles of a beautiful low-res forest

The first paper note in Wood for the Trees asks: “don’t you just love reading notes on lamp posts?” Images and icons present in other first-person Unity games like Slender (2012) or Andrew Shouldice’s Hide are on display here too. The same note makes reference to “a missing beloved one” addressed by some of the internal monologue, also presented as text on the screen. Built in two days for the 35th Ludum Dare game jam (the theme of which was “Shapeshift”) Wood for the Trees is pervaded by the awareness that it isn’t a game of entirely new ideas—but it’s better…


Find peace with Sodzen, a game about watering a plant

I kill nearly every plant I touch, and over the years, I’ve wasted so much money on every plant imaginable in the hopes of finding the one species that can withstand my black thumb. But only now, with Sodzen, have I finally found my perfect plant. Sodzen is a low resolution, highly pixelated game submitted for #LowRezJam by Ottawa-based team SweetHeart Squad, which includes Sean LeBlanc, Ryan Bluth, Emma Thurlow, Cat Wong, Michael Hetman, and Ian Martin. The goal of Sodzen is simple: water the plant. You don’t have to water several plants (there is only a single plant), or…

Post-Apocalyptic Abramovic Method Game

In the post-apocalypse, there will still be performance art

Back in 2013, Lady Gaga quit smoking by employing the “Abramovic Method” during a three-day retreat in New York. It led to this extraordinary (and NSFW) video, in which Gaga is seen chanting into an empty room, stood blindfolded in a river to feel the rain drops against her skin, and getting intimate with a big block of ice while completely naked. The video achieved what it was supposed to: encouraging everyone who watched it and the public-at-large to question what this peculiar Method she went through was. The “Abramovic Method” is named after its creator, famed artist and self-proclaimed “grandmother…

Morning Makeup Madness

Morning Makeup Madness gives you 10 seconds to become as glam as can be

Jenny Jiao Hsia just released a new game, a little vignette called Morning Makeup Madness. The game has you put on your makeup in 10 seconds with predictably awful (or remarkable) results. Inspired in part by the YouTube 3 Minute Makeup Challenges done by some of the platforms most well known faces (Hsia cites Bubzbeauty as a notable example), Morning Makeup Madness puts you in control of the brushes and other implements of beauty warfare to help complete a common ritual. The timing here is what elevates this task to the heights of ridiculousness. the imprecise nature of the scoring is part of what makes…

Sara and Death

Philosophical mobile game reimagines Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal

Rocco Salvetti might be not your typical videogame maker. After studying philosophy, he decided he wanted a new adventure in IT. “I had a good job, but curiosity took over. I left and started all over,” he said. He moved from Italy to England, finding in London the right place to settle down and to run away from the stillness of small towns: “I need a massive city not to get depressed and it has been four years now, maybe I should consider Tokyo.” It is this hunger for more that describes Sara, Salvetti’s alter ego, and the protagonist of his game Sara and Death. Available…


Cartas captures the terror of immigration in the 19th century

Julian Palacios, the Milan-based creator of Cartas, describes it as being “a short narrative game about the journey of a man adrift.” It is, in fact, more specific than that, it being bookended by letters written by immigrants who traveled to Argentina at the end of the 19th century. The game seems most concerned with depicting the dysphoria and disappointment of immigration, particularly as it’s described in the letter that is read aloud at its beginning—that of open hostility, constant alienation, racial abuse, feeling alone in an unfamiliar land. It captures all this through abstract, dreamlike segments that see you…


Practice your improv in this videogame theater

Sign up to receive each week’s Playlist e-mail here! Also check out our full, interactive Playlist section. Commedia del’Arte (PC, Mac) A COLLABORATION BETWEEN STUDENTS AT THE ENJMIN AND EMCA SCHOOLS Surprisingly, improv is about more than Amy Poehler making fart jokes. At the heart of great improv is a sense of play. Though it’s controlled and focused, emergent play defines improv as much as it defines games like The Sims, where players (or actors) are encouraged to go to town within the confines of a defined possibility space. Commedia dell’Arte: Masks, Masters and Servants marries the play of improv with the play of videogames into…


A videogame that tricks you into reading literature

The puzzle island of The Witness, released back in January, contains a theater in which you can unlock and watch movie clips. Among the documentaries and interviews about science progression and spiritual awakening is the last 10 minutes of Andrei Tarkovsky’s Nostalghia (1983). Since it’s been discovered, chatter has spread across the internet from people first discovering the Russian film-maker, not just hoping to discuss what the Nostalghia clip could mean in the context of The Witness, but also showing an appreciation for the artistry of the film’s ending too. In this case, the game has acted as conduit, introducing its players to…