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QWOP goes avant-garde in this silly dancing game

I’ll admit upfront that I’m a terrible dancer. Not the kind of terrible that is actually cute. I’m talking the real, awkward kind of terrible. I blame it on being tall. It’s just not easy to make limbs in these proportions move cohesively the way I’d like them to. Maybe that’s why An Evening of Modern Dance caught my attention—it’s easy to see a bit of myself in its hilariously floundering dancers. An Evening of Modern Dance follows in the tumbling footsteps of QWOP (2008) and Octodad (2010), this time bringing ragdoll physics to the stage. Made for Ludum Dare 32 by…

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This Morse code game relives the 1914 Christmas truce

‘Tis the season for Christmas music to blare from every direction. They come from speakers, carolers, and buskers. They are played in stores and putative public spaces. As a side effect of this sonorous onslaught, ostensibly cheerful songs become backing tracks to breakups and calls announcing the sickness of loved ones. Omnipresent holiday cheer, as social networks have previously learned, cannot coexist with sensitivity to personal context. Relay, a game created by Jon Reid for the 34th Ludum Dare games jam, uses this incongruity to make a historical point. Set in December of 1914, the game juxtaposes a light, instrumental…

Voi
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Voi wants to play architectural peek-a-boo with you

I like it when videogames play peek-a-boo with me. Yes, please, treat me like a toddler. I mean it. I am not yet beyond the delight of a magic trick; a spatial sleight-of-hand. And Voi has enough of them to warrant your curiosity. This is a game in which I spent a good five minutes going back-and-forth, side-to-side, reliving the couple seconds of the gif below in my own time, free from the never-ending repetition of the gif’s structure. First you see a lengthy hallway, next you see a black void where nothing could ever exist. Where did the hallway go?…

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A videogame about sacrificing townspeople to an unseen god

The Sacrifice, made by team foxboard for a Ludum Dare is, at first glance, a difficult-to-impossible resource management game. Players direct a town comprised of five families, assigning seasonal tasks and trying to maintain enough housing, food reserves, morale, and secrecy. At the same time, players also act as executioner. At the end of each season, one townsperson must be sacrificed to maintain the graces of their god. Morality has little to no place in your decision making. Morality has little to no place in your decision making. A murderer may be well-liked and their death may cause more civil…

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Gods Will Be Watching team parodies what they’re good at: videogame violence

Violence is commonplace in videogames. It’s commonplace in most popular media, but its role in games comes under particularly heavy fire. What strikes me as weird about videogame violence, as someone who plays plenty of violent videogames herself, isn’t its prevalence as much as its weightlessness. Violence in games is often trivial, reduced into menial tasks that rarely reflect anything important about characters or plot beyond serving as shallow narrative impetus. These acts usually result in some form of currency for the player, like coins, money, items, or points, that make them worthwhile—something to be rewarded for. That isn’t to…

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The Walls Have Ears is security theatre with a side of voyeurism

The Walls Have Ears is security theatre, but what isn’t? Body scanners at airports, metal detectors at sports stadia, fancy uniforms that imply nonexistent authority—it’s all a big show. The Walls Have Ears is about that show, but you’re a performer. More accurately, you’re a desk jockey at an unnamed intelligence agency listening to intercepted communications. The files are arrayed on your screen like flashcards: enigma, DEFCON, rail gun, military intelligence, top secret. You sit and listen to the messages. Hopefully there’s something incriminating in each one, something you can use to flag the interlocutor for further surveillance. You must…

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When everyday life is a performance

This Is My Costume explores life with a non-binary gender identity and its parallels with performative attire. It’s a short point-and-click adventure that was made by game design team Pride Interactive for a recent Ludum Dare, in which the theme was “You Are The Monster.” It begins with the protagonist, Finch, getting dressed—first by putting on a binder, then a t-shirt that reads “this is my costume,” and some cat ears. Later, during a short walk around a party, the character is shown relating more to an abandoned balloon in the corner than the other party-goers, longing to be elsewhere. Once they…

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Before summer ends, Dracula wants to go to the beach

For a character who has already died, Dracula sure is a chill dude. In Hotel Transylvania, the 2012 children’s movie that has a sequel coming out this month, Dracula is clumsily adjusting to domesticity. In Mel Brooks’ 1995 parody of traditional vampire stories, Dracula: Dead and Loving It, Dracula is…well…dead and loving it. All of this is a world away from Bram Stoker’s 19th century horror novel. But none of those interpretations are as far from Count Dracula’s origin story than Beardo Games’ Surf Monster, a game in which the famous vampire goes surfing. Seriously. That’s the elevator pitch. There…