hazy days
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A videogame that humanizes China’s smog problem

Sign up to receive each week’s Playlist e-mail here! Also check out our full, interactive Playlist section. Hazy Days (PC, Mac) MIKE REN Mike Ren has been living in Shanghai, China for over a year now. “The city is great,” he says, but the air pollution, well, that isn’t so great. The smog of China is a matter that has reached global news. It even went viral in 2013 due to a photograph that could have been mistaken for a still from the 1982 movie Blade Runner. But Ren isn’t happy with this coverage in the media and has sought to humanize the issue through…

darkest dungeon
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Darkest Dungeon knows your weak point

Sign up to receive each week’s Playlist e-mail here! Also check out our full, interactive Playlist section. Darkest Dungeon (PC, Mac) RED HOOK STUDIOS We’re all pretty fragile, aren’t we? Never mind being mauled by fang and claw, merely being in the dark for a short time can deteriorate our defensive capacity. We grow paranoid and mad. Authors have long known this and picked at it with their words. Lewis Carroll used the language of nonsense to invent an unknowable monster, the Jabberwocky. The unknown is scary to us. And it’s this that H.P. Lovecraft so brilliantly exploited with his vast, unimaginable…

oxenfree
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Visit the ghost of high school past in Oxenfree

Sign up to receive each week’s Playlist e-mail here! Also check out our full, interactive Playlist section. Oxenfree (PC, Mac, Xbox One) NIGHT SCHOOL STUDIO Ghosts haunt all high school kids. Whether its that publicly humiliating story you can’t shake from your preteen years, or the apparition of “what might’ve been” if you’d asked your crush out; adolescence is a haunting experience. So maybe that’s why we keep torturing our teens in horror movies, games, and novels. The branching narrative game Oxenfree explores the more existential questions of teen horror: rather than a pure whodunit, the game keeps you enticed through clever writing and…

that dragon, cancer
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The game of grief

Sign up to receive each week’s Playlist e-mail here! Also check out our full, interactive Playlist section. That Dragon, Cancer (PC, Mac) NUMINOUS GAMES Many people pretend to know how you should grieve. Endless self-help books and articles give instructions on what’s “normal” and “healthy” and “expected.” But in an actual experience of grief, you learn something much more terrifying: there are no rules for losing a loved one. No one knows how to get through it. That agonizing uncertainty is about the only commonality. Whether you scream or stay silent, feel numb or like you’re on fire—everyone grieves differently, each experience…

inruins2
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A love letter to the stony architecture of Ico

Sign up to receive each week’s Playlist e-mail here! Also check out our full, interactive Playlist section. In Ruins (PC, Mac) TOM BETTS The craggy, mysterious ruins of Ico’s fortress-like castle are known for their wind-blown eeriness. Tom Betts has taken that game’s architecture and used its melancholy character as a model for one of his experiments into procedural generation. The idea, he says, is to interpret the work of Romantic landscape painters, such as Thomas Cole and Caspar David Friedrich, as a sublime videogame. The result is an island of broken ramparts, cold beaches, and overgrown pathways that lead to crumbling…

langeskovimg
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The epic theater of videogames

Sign up to receive each week’s Playlist e-mail here! Also check out our full, interactive Playlist section. Dr. Langeskov, The Tiger, and The Terribly Cursed Emerald: A Whirlwind Heist (PC, Mac) By Crows Crows Crows Davey Wreden’s follow-up to his videogame satire The Stanley Parable earlier this year, The Beginner’s Guide, was an introspective game essay on expression and creativity through games. It was solemn in tone and seemed to speak specifically to the aching hearts of game creators. The other person behind The Stanley Parable, William Pugh found a new team, called it Crows Crows Crows, and together they’ve put together a response…

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Decide which pets are useless in Animal Inspector

Sign up to receive each week’s Playlist e-mail here! Also check out our full, interactive Playlist section. Animal Inspector (PC, Mac) BY TOM ASTLE Ever seen a useless pet? There are plenty around. For every Lassie and K-9 there’s a cat as round as a bowl doing absolutely nothing. Adorable, sure, but also completely pointless. If you don’t know how to identify a useless pet then Animal Inspector is for you. It won’t teach you, mind, but it’ll send your mind racing with judgmental thoughts on the topic. This cat with its jaw hanging, is it useless? How about this goldfish won at…

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Chesh reinvents Chess for the people

Sign up to receive each week’s Playlist e-mail here! Also check out our full, interactive Playlist section. Chesh (iOS) Damian Sommer It seems nothing is safe from the dubstep-happy clutches of remix culture, not even the ancient and tried game of chess. Damian Sommer’s new iOS game Chesh can be thought of as chess if chess was a person who went to Firefly, took MDMA, and had a “life changing experience” while listening to DEADMAU5. Like many remixes, Chesh is pretty selective about what it borrows from the original. There’s still a heavy turn-based strategy element to the board. But instead of…

goodgardener
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Stay a while and be a good gardener

Sign up to receive each week’s Playlist e-mail here! Also check out our full, interactive Playlist section. A Good Gardener (PC, Mac, Linux) IAN ENDSLEY AND CARTER LODWICK Unlike games like Harvest Moon, A Good Gardener is not your grandma’s gardening game. Well, actually now that I think about it, the story of A Good Gardener might be most recognizable to someone like your grandmother. Set during WWII, the game puts the player in the role of someone planting a “victory garden,” which is the term the US government used to encourage citizens to join the war effort by growing their own food. In A Good Gardener,…