Walk or Die and other games that are notgames

I don't spend a lot of time playing games these days. Portal sits in my computer, unfinished. A borrowed copy of Psychonauts lies unopened by a dusty PS2. I have accumulated a list of more than a hundred web games yet to try, and I haven't even checked the Jay is Games archives in several months.

So, it may come as a surprise to you that today, in a bout of either procrastination or perhaps a newly strengthened determination to make a dent in my overwhelming backlog of unplayed games, I have, in fact, gone ahead and played a handful of games. Well, technically speaking, notgames.

Not sure if I've mentioned notgames yet on my blog. Officially, they do not exist. There are no notgames, nor is there a "notgames" movement. But there is a forum. :p And a blog.

One is called Hummingbird Mind. I found it very immersive, despite - or because of? - being mostly text. Immersive like a novel. Or like I Fell in Love with the Majesty of Colors, maybe.

Perhaps it helped that I found myself in a similar mental state to the protagonist. If only I could allow myself to take a nap as I did in that game. Or notgame?

Another is Looming. Same guy who made The Majesty of Colors. The black and white pixel art brought me back to my Mac SE and calculator days. I'd like to make a game in such a style sometime.

It's a good example of distributed or embedded narrative. In fact, that's all it is, really. You are an archaeologist. Piece together clues about the past in a ruined world. Like Where We Remain. I'd like to do something similar for my own game Flydrill, eventually.

And then there is Freedom Bridge, whose author even refers to it as a notgame. Not quite Passage, but I found it very effective, particularly considering how absolutely minimal it is. I do wonder whether making the graphics more detailed would improve or detract from the experience. I'm not sure, but I'd be curious to find out. I'll be thinking about what inspiration I might take from this.

And lastly, Walk or Die, by the same author. It was this notgame, perhaps the least impressive of the four, that inspired me to write this blog post and overcome many months of non-blogging inertia in doing so.

...or die

By the way, once you try these games, you should head over to the Game Trekking website for the chance to support the author of Freedom Bridge and Walk or Die in making more experimental notgames as he travels across Asia. Less than three weeks to go if we want to get this off the ground. I've pledged one hundred dollars.


Here's why I wanted to write this blog post in the first place. After playing Walk or Die, I wrote this post on the notgames forum, which I am now reposting here, on my blog:

Finally got around to playing your notgames. ;)

I played it for at least ten minutes, while walking on my treadmill. :) I liked it quite a bit.

Actually, I really like it. I stimulated my creativity almost like a real walk would... though it helped that my real legs were moving at the same time. :D

I really like the day/night transition. I've been wanting to make a game with a five-minute day with the changing light and sounds and creatures - I've even commissioned a song for it, with morning, day, evening, and night, and I love the song but I haven't made the game for it yet. :p

One suggestion to try which might go against what you were originally exploring is requiring a steady relaxing pattern to be maintained at about the pace of an average slow walk, rather than holding the space bar.

I was thinking the same thing! Press to step, control speed, and all that. Maybe even more interesting terrain to walk on, as opposed to a completely flat surface. And I could see that being interesting, focusing on the feeling of accidentally stumbling and the fear of death.

And also I wanted to see more elaboration on the "death" part of the experience, because you can still observe, and maybe see the one spot grow and change over time though you are not going anywhere, you are transforming.

"Oh, this looks like a nice place to die. I will stop here." I thought.

And maybe combined with something like We the Giants, leaving traces for other people, seeing other people's traces. Reminds me of an idea I had about a game where you walk along a pebble beach, and you can arrange pebbles and driftwood in configurations that other people can see, or you could entropy-ishly knock over a tower someone made. And close to the waves, structures are knocked over and smoothed over naturally by the water and wind, while further, toward the cliffs, footprints and structures last longer.

Not sure how that would apply here, exactly, but it's got me thinking... :)

This is like the notgame equivalent of the game Linear RPG! :D

Now I really want to take this concept and have brontosaurus make some really nice pixel art for it! And nice sounds... No music, just high quality environmental recordings.

Procedural. I've been reading about how Left 4 Dead's AI Director works (fascinating stuff!) and I wonder now about applying it to other ends. Specifically, instead of measuring "emotional intensity" and modulating stress levels, how about modulating "boredom" or "joy" or "confusion" or "interest"? The system is really not that complex. I'm reading about it because I'm trying to do something similar for my game Flydrill.

I've wanted to make a game that feels like walking in a forest. So far The Path is the closest thing I've found. And now this.

Mind if I elaborate on this concept with a real (not)game? :)

Hum. By the way, I finished two new narrated video tutorials for my origami zergling and hydralisk. They are slow, and for the first time people are actually getting all the way through to the end! I'll post about them soon...


Jordan Magnuson said...

Thanks for the plug Alex, and for pointing me to another fascinating notgame which I wasn't aware of (Hummingbird Mind).

I'm afraid my game playing has gone much the way of yours these last few months :(

axcho said...

You're welcome! Thanks to brontosaurus for recommending Hummingbird Mind. :)

Games, notgames...