GaymerX2, a convention devoted to LGBT and minority gamers and creators, happened this past weekend in San Francisco, CA. I had the opportunity to take in the con atmosphere, filled with happy cosplayers, artists, and insightful speakers. But what unites those distinct folks is gaming, and the organization devoted ample space to showcase “alternative,” as well as more traditional, upcoming games. Some of these have been released, but it’s definitely worth checking them out if you haven’t heard of them before, while others are coming soon.
Mainichi by Mattie Brice
Mainichi (which means “everyday” in Japanese) tells the daily struggles of its creator, Mattie Brice. As a transgender woman of color, appearance in public is a stressful thing. The game is about taking and losing control of daily tasks. Sim-like, Mattie needs to eat, cook, bathe, relax, put makeup on, and dress up, then often goes out to a cafe to meet a friend. Depending on how much time was spent to address her appearance, she would evoke different reactions from random passers-by. Notably, she used relatively simple resources and RPG Maker, wanting to show how accessible game design can be, inviting newer, less heard voices into the sphere as a digital form of expression.
You can download it here.
We like blowing things up, too, and Turtle Sandbox’s adorable graphics are reminiscent of Worms, meshed with tower defense games. Two players start out with kingdoms, and in active time, set up mines to start getting resources, then begin building towers while expanding the initially small spheres of influence. However, the towers don’t shoot by themselves! Each one has to be manned by the player, who pilots a ship with a unique ability. If the tower has enough range, it can start shooting into enemy structures, but all of them have a cooldown. Cannon Brawl turns into a frantically fun, panic-like battle of building, shooting, and exploding, with easy-to-pick up gameplay and accessible rules.
It’s currently in Early Access on Steam with a 40% discount.
Depression Quest by Zoe Quinn, Patrick Lindsey, Isaac Schankler
An interactive (non)fiction Twine game, Depression Quest leads you to a story that might not be dissimilar from your own at all. You’re a 20-something doing a menial job you’re not passionate about, while your real hobby is a stale computer file gathering dust for months. You’re in a relationship, but worried that you’re bringing your significant other down. Worried about being a burden, you’re less and less excited to be social. To live.
DQ pushes the premise that not all games have to be fun, and does so with a well-written, relatable tale. Its general language is particularly impressive; it doesn’t exactly define the current job or the hobby, making it easy to insert yourself. Even more interesting is how it has healthier, happier choices always crossed out. You can read them, but can’t pick them. Depression is a constant battle, the creators say, and they want to spread the awareness.
Play it here.
But almost for real. While we definitely use our mind for playing (most) video games, Throw Trucks With Your Mind literally taps into the powers of your brain to feed them into the game. A wired EEG headset (stands for electroencephalography, it records electrical activity along the scalp) is used to play the game, which governs two power bars in the game – calm and focus. The game pits the players in an FPS arena with tons of objects, like barrels and cars, used to pick up and defeat each other using the power of telekinesis.
This actually worked out in practice. The more I calmed myself, the more the blue bar regenerated, letting me utilize “force” pushes and pulls or super jumps. The second power bar, “focus,” was a little harder to conceptualize, but the way to get it wasn’t too hard. As long as I stared at something or tuned out other thoughts, it recharged. Believe it or not, this game does what it intends to do.
Triad by Anna Anthropy and Leon Arnott
This fairly simple puzzle game is a pretty difficult “riddle.” Three different people need to fit comfortably on the bed, without knocking into each other. The thing is, two of them will shift positions. For instance, the “line” person will start rolling in both directions, until someone blocks – so there needs to be a stop or they might roll off the bed. If one person suffers, it’s no good. Oh, and don’t forget about the kitty that comes in to occupy the lower left corner, it may jump on someone’s face.
Triad is about diversity and different people, as shown, for instance, by their sleep patterns. How do you reconcile such fundamental differences?
HUGPUNX by Merrit Kopas
What if games were more about hugging instead of shooting and killing? If nothing else, HUGPUNX lets you experience moments of joy via a video game. Classic 2D platformer controls subvert expectations. Press Z to hug! Walk up to as many people as you can and watch the screen explode in happy, neon-pink messages. There are cats here too, which is always a big plus.
Enjoy it here.