A WORD ON WEIRD GAMES

Discussion and presentation of unorthodox games.

  • calunio
  • 01/24/2011 05:35 AM
  • 8967 views
I guess the desire to make games comes from the experience of playing them. Sometimes, when playing a game we really like, we think "I wish I could do something like this". Or maybe when we play something we DON'T like, we go "I would change that and that". Or maybe we just want to add a bit of ourselves into the games... "Instead of Cloud, me!". Programs like RPG Maker are not ideas, they are wish-come-trues.

It is very natural that our first game concepts are very similar to the games we played and love. They're the ones which inspired us.

Suppose I really liked Final Fantasy VI. And now I can make my own game. RPG Maker allows me to make one a lot like it. I can make a sequel, or even a remake! The taste for Final Fantasy leads to a natural tendency of making something similar. If you played other RPGs, maybe you can make something that combines their elements, bringing the best in them. Wouldn't it be awesome to have a game with a story as cool as FFT and the monster collecting of SMT? Wouldn't it be cool to have a Pokémon game with a less of a childish feel and darker plot? The possibilities are endless.

Right?

People don't realize the actual limitlessness of having a game making tool at your hands. This article is not a repetitive criticism to the lack of originality in games. I'm just presenting a type of gaming that some people might not have been acquainted with. Pushing the boundaries of making a game is not deciding if you're party will have one, two, or twelve members. Is knowing that you can have no hero at all. It's not deciding if it will use a modern or a fantasy setting. Is knowing a story can happen inside a drawer. It's not deciding between linearity and multiple endings. Is knowing a game can have no ending at all.

The point here is not to say that strange and innovative games are the best games. They usually aren't. The thing is... some people make games not trying to make the best game possible, nor trying to make a nice personal version of something they've played and liked. Some people experiment with games, with the tools they have. They try to create games that convey something other than just fun. They don't focus on gameplay or story, they use both as tools to promote an EXPERIENCE to the player. They want the player to experience something.

These games are not everyone's cup of tea. Like I said, I'm not saying they're better than more traditional games. I like them mostly because I'm fed up with traditional games (not cause they're bad, but because I've played too much of them), and because I feel there's something to be learned from strange games. If you make games, no matter how traditional they are, I recommend trying some of these games below... not to copy them, but to open your mind and broaden your horizons on gamemaking. Most of these games are extremely short (5-15 minutes). So they're worth a try.

My original intent was to make a Weird Games Top 5. But I could only think of 4 games worthy of a ranking. I must emphasize that I'm ranking them not based on quality, but based on the criteria I explained above: those are games that experiment with gamemaking tools, and they convey some feeling or experience to the player.

Weird Games Top 4
by Calunio

4 - Digital: A Love Story



Digital is a game about a love story that happens online. At some point in the past, before the internet as we know it, people communicated and shared information through BBS, which were some form of primitive forum/chat mixture. All of Digital's story happens in this online world, through your computer platform. This game is very dense and appealing on replicating the experience of using this pre-historical internet... and it's also a love story. We all know that designing palpable love stories on games is no easy task, let alone in a purely textual game. And you won't be alone if you say this game made you cry.

3 - Passage



It's very difficult to talk about this game. If I say anything about the gameplay, I'll be spoiling it completely. If I say anything about the story, I'll be spoiling it completely. You might as well argue there is NO gameplay or story in this game. Still, for some reason, it leaves a strong impression on some people, a strange and somewhat disturbing feeling, like it did on me. If you're curious, just play it already, you can finish it in about 5 minutes.

2 - Clock of Atonement



In this game, you play as a crazy stalker that just killed the girl he loved and stalked. He regrets it deeply. But you have the opportunity to go back in time and change things. What will you do differently? This game features an interesting time-travel mechanic. But it doesn't come down to what you can do differently... but to what you can't. It's a very short and clever game, and it has even been featured in RMN.

1 - Loved



Loved is in many ways a very traditional platformer. There is no real gameplay innovation here. You walk, you jump, you avoid obstacles and pitfalls. The addition to this is that there are some... instructions along the way. You might notice they make no real difference to the platforming part, or your performance. But they completely change the gaming experience. This is a very disturbing game, even though it's really short.


There are some games which are not in this Top 4, but they're worth noting. They're not there because they didn't make such big impression on me, even though they might be better games overall.

Yume Nikki - Live the bizarre dreams of a lonely girl. This is an exploration game, but there's an actual goal and an ending. This game is very popular, and it outbizarres Space Funeral by miles.
Coma - "Get me out of here... get me out... of myself". Very beautiful touching game.
Covetous - A very short game about life, death and greed. It demonstrates how the complete lack of difficult can make sense.
Looming - An exploration game. Walk through a large empty field and discover information about strange alien races. My original reaction to this game was "it sucks". But the fact that I played it for hours intrigues me still.
The Company of Myself - A game about sad and loneliness. Clever puzzle gameplay that matches the story perfectly.
The Particle of Infinite Free Will - Ever wondered what's it like being high?

Final Words

I know I don't have the most unanimous taste for games. My intention was not to impose my tastes or to be judgmental about "good" or "bad" games. I just wanted to show people that there's more to indie gaming than we might think at a first look. Even if you're still making a traditional well-structured RPG, playing a game like Loved may inspire you on some important design choices. Or maybe you'll find out you can make interesting games even though you can't sprite or map or write, but you still have "ideas". That's what making games is all about.

Download Links
You can download Yume Nikki here, and Clock of Atonement here.

Posts

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I think there's a point where weird and art-y are not the same. Loved, well, Loved was definately weird. I once played a game where you played as a girl in her house and couldn't go outside (NOT YUME NIKKI), and you interacted with stuff in the house to drive the plot. That was a very art-y game, but it wasn't a weird game. I think that most people confuse the two, and I'd say that the difference is this:
Art-y is when you take a plot and remove all things relating directly to the plot, making people interpret it in their own way.
Weird is when you don't even have a plot, and people just figure out what's there, and decide for themselves what the heck that just was. Weird is also when you have a plot, but it's either irrelevant or presented in a different way. Covetous, for instance, presented the story by events that would only be understood if looked at in context of dialouge screens, which also wouldn't make sense without the events that the player had to perform in the game. Yume Nikki had something of a plot ("She's a shut-in who likes to sleep and have trippy dreams"), but it ignored that plot for exploration.
Another thing about Yume Nikki I'd like to say is that it was definately overrated, and I feel that it would've been much better if it had less of the "wander around for a few weeks of your life and then try to figure out what to do next, or, heck, read a walkthrough!" atmosphere, and instead implemented something more than just wandering aimlessly. Of course, the game wouldn't have been the same if it wasn't that way.
Anywho, I felt I should just put that out there.
Nice points.

Well, I wouldn't make a distinction between "arty" and "weird", since "weird" isn't really a gender. It's just a word I used in lack of any other. Those games are weird in the sense they're atypical. The type of games I tried to mention here were games that bend standard design rules to promote an experience to the player. I guess they could be called "art-y" if you define Art as something like

Wikipedia
Art is the product or process of deliberately arranging items (often with symbolic significance) in a way that influences and affects one or more of the senses, emotions, and intellect.


And in this sense, I guess they're all art (though not all games are art). Going back to definitions:

Wikipedia
Games are distinct from work, which is usually carried out for remuneration, and from art, which is more concerned with the expression of ideas.


On a side note, I agree Yume Nikki is overrated. It's interesting, but not that much. And it's indeed something of an annoying experience. That's why it didn't made it to my top 5.
This article made me want to make a weird game.
author=Strangeluv
This article made me want to make a weird game.


go go go go go

Or not. You just finished Leo and Leah, take a break. Go play some stuff.
Yeah I am playing some stuff before while I "gather my thoughts".

You know, I played 3 of the 4 games here. All except Passage... should play that. Digital: A Love Story was strangely intriguing.
Ive only played loved out of these, but it was good. I reccomend it.
Just found this, but I didn't quite get it. Reminded me of Space Funeral though.

I guess simplistic platformers with bizarre meanings are becoming a trend.
that Alphaland game is kind of a pain in the ass! but yeah the "message" reminded me of space funeral also

oh also i played that Covetous game since it was the only one in the article i hadn't played and
well
"FUCKAND EAT YOU CUNT SHITPIG/" ~ covetous
That was the part I liked the least and kind of took away from the game imo. But I liked the rest.
Alphaland was basically a platformer, and the world of the game you are playing in is basically alive and is unsure of what will happen to it, and the parts towards the end, I think, are the developer telling the game what will happen. My interpretation, anyway.
I just found this:

http://distractionware.com/blog/2009/02/pathways/

It's interesting, but I think the overreacting of the comments is scary.
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