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March / April 2016

No. 3



Dear Readers,

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Death in all its different shades is obviously a big part of our videogame world. There are many points of interest as to why we chose this



deadly theme. Personally, I believe we are beginning to see a slow change in what death means to players and non-players. As the line between virtual realities and real-world scenarios blurs, virtual life is becoming as relevant as our real-body existence. Personality is becoming a new quality and death a new idea. As game narratives become personal and as we (players) experience real lives and losses expressed in that amazing interactive art form, I’m curious how this will affect the audience, the player, and the industry. With upcoming technology opening up new possibilities, we are becoming not only worldbuilders or system-builders – we are becoming life-builders. This new way of creating emotions in virtual realities and computergenerated worlds is completely

changing the way we consume and feel games. What an exciting time! In this issue, we drew heavily from submissions received through our open call. We see A MAZE. Magazine as a curated platform for thinkers and creators in the field of games, play, and digital culture. We like inviting people (not just journalists) with a relevant eye to share diverse points of view on topics that are uncommon and culturally un(der)discussed. In the name of editors Krystle Wong and Franziska Zeiner, I'd like to thank all contributors for their play, their trust, and their great work.  

Correction: In an earlier pr int r un of this issue, we misprinted a draft of the i l l u s t r a t i o n b y Tr o y D u guid on page18. The pictured illustration in this issue is the version intended by the artist. The editorial team regrets the error and thanks the artist ver y much for his valued contr ibution to the magazine.

Inhale A MAZE.. Exhale wisdom. Stay healthy, Thorsten S. Wiedemann Editor in Chief

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August 15 + 16, 2015 Dock.ONE, Cologne

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Welcome to the third issue of the A MAZE. Magazine. Welcome to the other side. This time, we asked contributors of the digital and playful generation to illustrate, write, and talk about DEATH. There is obviously a different meaning when it comes to death in the real and virtual worlds. In this issue, you will find some answers and raise some questions that will lead you into a socio-critical, artistic, and subversive debate on death in our presence. This magazine is about the "Adventurous Art Of Playing." With this, we want to encourage an open, reflective, and artistic discourse about death.



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Content 4 Let There Be Blood 7 The Gamer Isn´t Dead

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12 Give Me A Good Death Anytime

23 Your Many Lives Are Meaningful

32 A Maze./ Awards 2016, Nominees

14 We Wish To Inform You That We Are Dying

24 That Grief Game

34 Type in Game

26 En(d)joy The Flight

35 Poem

9 Oblivion Is statistically significant 15 In That Last Second 10 16-17 How to make an Mixed Origami 11 Comic


from right: Franziska Zeiner, K r y s t l e Wo n g , Thorsten S. Wiedemann

36 27 Morituri Me Salutant Colophon If Death Were A Game Designer

20 Here Lie The Games I Once Loved

29 These Are Happy Tears, ok? 3

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Let There Be Blood I

love fights. I’ve seen boxing heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko at Madison Square Garden. I've watched wrestling and Taekwondo at the Beijing Olympics. I’ve seen underground MMA in Tokyo. I’ve been to the church that holds Muay Thai kickboxing bouts in their basement in New York City on weeknights. I’ve walked around an ancient Roman arena in Paris. I just love fights. But I had never seen an actual blood sport, one that by definition required something to bleed and die. I’d never seen bullfighting or cockfighting. Part of me wanted to see cockfighting to analyse it as a game designer. Death in games is rare. Losing something, permanently, in a game is rare. Games are usually about gaining something: Points, levels, new loot or gear, wins, championships. Not many games are about loss. Real loss. As in, you, the player, losing something. This is very interesting to me. Loss is prevalent in cockfighting. The loss of life for the animals, the loss of money for the gamblers. Is it too much to say that it’s the highest-stake game? Cockfighting – or “Sabong” – is huge in the Philippines. My wife is from the Philippines, so every year or so we travel there. Mostly because she misses her friends and family, but also because she has a strong connection to her land and her country. Once, when we were walking through Mall of Asia, a fairly posh and absolutely humongous mall in Manila, we strolled by a cockfighting store. Do you remember how old video game stores at a mall would play video games on little TVs in the windows? This was just like that except instead of Super Mario World it was cockfighing. I stopped in my tracks, but my wife and all her friends kept walking like it wasn’t a big deal. It’s normal there, like we were passing an Orange Julius.

0 ---------------------------------------------------------------------bleary eyed, but well rested. The sun shines a bit too brightly. »Must be Saturday,« you mutter to no one. You smile, realising it isn›t just any Saturday, but your sixteenth birthday. Your eyes slide from the window to your left wrist, laying palm up, and you see…

The Fight

by Jonathan Zungre The Arena The first thing that surprised me about cockfighting is how legitimate and established a sport it is. The arena we went to was a professional space. It was large. I had imagined the place as a dirt-floored building or a back alley. I thought I’d be peering over a ring of people to see the fight. This place was a small sporting arena and had concession stands, tiered seating, and air conditioning. It probably seated more than 1,500 people and felt like an arena where you might go see a minor league basketball team or hockey team play. The biggest cockfights have been held at Araneta Coliseum, a 25,000-person stadium that hosted the famous Thrilla in Manilla boxing match between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier.

I was immediately interested, but I was also afraid. Afraid of what it would do to me. Afraid of what it would look like. Afraid that people would judge me when they heard I had gone to one. I was also afraid of the gambling aspect. Not because I have a problem with gambling too much, but because outside of a few poker games and slots, I haven’t had a lot of experience with it. What if I did it wrong, and accidentally bet too much money? What if I got hustled?

Even though the place was professional, I was still intimidated. A couple of tough-looking Filipino guys were staring at me. I tried to play it cool, but how can you? I wished I had some tattoos and looked like the type of guy who did this all the time, for whom it wasn’t a big deal.

My wife’s uncle told me a story about how he went to his first cockfight. There was a guy on the other side of the arena who kept pointing at him and trying to get his attention. So my wife’s uncle nodded to acknowledge him. After the cockfight, a wad of money came hurtling through the air across the arena and hit him in the chest. He had just won a bet that he didn’t know he had placed. But what if he had lost? He took the money, but made sure he didn’t look anyone in the eye afterwards, afraid that he might accidentally bid his life savings and get beat up because he couldn’t pay.

I was the only white person there. There were no women in the arena. This is a place for locals. I was wearing a t-shirt and shorts; my brother-in-law said he felt that he was dressed too nicely in his collared shirt. Even as Filipinos, they felt a little out of place. There was a reason they had never seen Sabong: This is not something people in their circles do. There was a man in the upper deck of the arena who was getting a massage while he watched the cockfights. Not a full body massage, but he did have his shirt off.

That’s probably what I was most afraid of – accidentally betting money and getting beat up. Or what if they just wanted an excuse to beat up the white American guy for the heck of it? That might be a fun diversion, right? Beat up the little American guy in between cockfights? I’d be like the halftime show.

f r o m t h e g a m e “ DY G ” b y B u r g e s s Vo s h e l l

When I’m simultaneously afraid of and interested in something, I usually convince myself that it’s something I need to do. I told my father-in-law that I wanted to go to see Sabong. Through my father-inlaw’s connections (a lot things in Manila are done through connections), he got us tickets and a guide for the next big cockfight. I arrived with my father-in-law and brotherin-law just a few minutes before one of the year’s biggest cockfights – or “hackfights” as they are called there – was about to begin. I was nervous.

My uncle’s guide greeted us at the door of the arena and got us through security, which involved metal detectors. He was a “Kristo” – a bet taker – whose title comes from taking bets with outstretched arms, in the manner of a crucified Christ. He seemed to be in his mid-forties and was an obvious veteran of this world. I felt a little safer. When we got to our seats, I immediately noticed that the cockfighting pit wasn’t really a pit at all. It was a raised square platform a little higher than a boxing ring, but instead of ropes it had a clear sheets of plexiglass to contain the fighting cocks. The floor wasn’t canvas, it was dirt. But it didn’t look messy; it was clean, like a sumo wrestling platform.


----------------------------------------------------------------------› Smooth, unblemeshed skin. (go to 8)

The second thing that surprised me about cockfighting is how many fights there are. An average MMA fight card has around nine or ten fights. A boxing card sometimes has as little as four or five. The hackfight we saw had 50 scheduled! 50! And I’m thinking that it’s not just the losers of the fights that die. A lot of times the winners also get very, very wounded. They have surgeons that stitch the winners up after fights, but I’m sure some of them don’t make it.

Te x t G a m e : T h r e e L i v e s by Jerr y Belich

The Bet So how do you pick a winning cock? What makes a rooster look tough? Picking a winner is actually perhaps the most enjoyable part of the cockfighting game experience. What can you relate it to in video games? SaltyBet? But it’s better than SaltyBet. You’re betting real money with real people sitting around you. And you’re trying to figure out which animal is stronger in the most primal sense. How do you determine which is going to win a fight to the death? Since cocks are matched up based on weight, you can’t go by size. Color of feathers? Which farm or team the cock is from? Temperament? Do you look for confidence? What does confidence look like on a chicken?

Before the cocks fight, there is a raucous round of impromptu wild betting. It sounds like a Wall Street stock exchange floor. It's thunderous. You make bets with people around you, with official Kristos down front. It’s obvious that the Kristos know what they’re doing, so we made all our bets through our guide. I avoided eye contact with the bet takers, because I didn’t want to accidentally bet my way to a beating like my wife’s uncle almost did. Another surprise is that cockfighting revolves more around the betting than it does around blood. Without the risk of losing money, cockfighting wouldn't be that interesting. With a couple of exceptions, all the fights I saw were bloodless and very short – on average 30 fleeting seconds of feathers flying. Nobody’s there to see blood; they’re there to gamble. The 50 cockfights scheduled aren’t 50 opportunities to see carnage. They’re 50 opportunities to make money.

I bade my time by watching a bunch of fights, trying to spot a common factor shared by the winners. The two cocks were always separated into one of two corners: Meron and Wala. “Meron” means “having” in Tagalog, meaning the cock already had bets on it, indicating that it’s the favorite to win. The “Wala” – or “without” – corner means the cock didn’t have any bets on it yet, and was the underdog. I did see some “Wala” underdogs win some fights, but it was pretty rare and I didn’t want that. I wanted a sure thing.

That’s not to say that the cockfights aren’t violent. They’re kind of like chicken swordfights. Each cock has a two-inch blade fastened to its natural heel spur. The blade makes the fights go quickly, I’m guessing, so that more fights can fit on a card. With every ten fights there is a more high-profile cockfight, like a main event. Sometimes this pits two “fastest kill” award recipients against each other, which means both cocks have had the fastest kills at a previous event and have lived to fight again.

At some point, I saw them change the name plates to say that a “Meron” named Aimee was about to fight. Nice name. When Aimie showed up she arched her neck and crowed loudly, almost as if she was claiming the arena as her own. Now that's what I’m talking about, I thought. Confidence. This was my cock. When we told our guide that I wanted to bet 500 Filipino pesos on Aimee, he nodded without much reaction. No enthusiasm. I later realised after a few more bets that we were betting laughably small amounts of money. We were playing penny slots amongst high rollers. Our Kristo was respectfully indulging us. Still, people took our bets, perhaps out of novelty.

The main events make the already riotous betting go up to a whole new level. I saw one Kristo turn to the others and hold up a few fingers on each hand, indicating he was offering a good bet for a ton of money. More than five Kristos ran to him to take it. They came at him so hard and so fast that they slammed into him and jammed his extended fingers. Someone got the bet, but the poor Kristo was shaking his hand and cursing like he had stubbed it on a basketball. The Kristos moved faster than the cocks.

Aimee was going up against an intimidating black and brown opponent named “Emperor,” which is a scary-sounding name, but he was the “Wala” so he couldn’t be that good, right? 5

Emperor came out hard against Aimee and tried to strike her with his spur. When the cocks fight, they often jump in the air at the same time and there’s a furious ruffling of feathers. Or, if one stays grounded, they sometimes jump over and land behind each other. Strangely enough, it resembles the fighting in Street Fighter 2. Street Fighter 2’s verticality makes it look a lot more like cockfighting than real street fighting. Emperor and Aimee clashed in the air and fell to the ground. Emperor stayed upright while Aimee fell to her haunches, head slightly bowed, like a mother hen on her eggs. This is how you know one cock has landed a damaging blow. Aimee had been stabbed. Most cocks don’t recover from this. When cocks get stabbed and fall to their haunches, it looks like they’re finished. They look defeated. But when the attacker draws near, they spring back to life like the fight has just begun. It looks like what we would describe as “heart” in human sports. It’s strangely inspiring. The cock is literally dying, but will not give up the fight. When Emperor drew near, Aimee leapt high into the air and, in one motion, struck Emperor with her spur. An instant kill, and a remarkable and rare come-from-behind victory for Aimee. You could hear the shock roaring through the crowd.

1 ---------------------------You both leap off the old train bridge, sunlight on your backs. Eyes now fixated on the water directly below you, you realise that just beneath the surface are sheets of rusty metal. The only thought you have time for before being eviscerated is how glad you are that Lillith is just far enough over to avoid the nasty fate. -----------------------------› If you have two tickmark tattoos…(go to 7) › Otherwise... (go to 14) ------------------------------

2 ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------“Hey, can you pin my fez on top of the helmet? I can see a few holding your tunic together.” You add a smile: “It’s my birthday.” The knight grins and takes the fez. “Would be my pleasure” He pulls out a few pins from his own costume and pushes them through the fez and into the helmet already on your head. Beaming, you turn to face the field, a knight in black waiting at the opposite end. The ‘King’ proclaims something, unintelligible through your helmet, and both horses charge toward each other. You brace yourself as the knight approaches, but the unexpected sight of the fez seems to distract your opponent and, instead of aiming for your shield, he aims a bit too high, taking the fez right off your head with his lance! Your horse comes to a quick stop, and you hear a *tink* as the shield bolt breaks from years of built-up fatigue, and you hold it loose in your hand, snickering to yourself. Lillith shows you the pictures she took of the whole thing and neither of you can stop laughing. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------› Continue…(go to 3) --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The Money Our Kristo walked over to me and gave me the 1,000 Filipino pesos that I had just won from my nameless, faceless bet taker. It was absolutely exhilarating. I leaned over to my brother-in-law and, in a state of shock, said: “I just bet and won money at a cockfight.” He was as surprised as I was. I can say without a doubt that betting and winning money at a live cockfight was one of the most intense game experiences I have ever had. I can understand why hundreds of years of culture can exist around this game. It’s bonkers. There’s something about the risk of betting money that’s intrinsically exhilarating, but it’s amplified when you’re betting on something as high-stake and as final as life and death. From a game design perspective, death – real death – is an interesting game mechanic, and it helps the betting process. First, it’s decisive. There’s never any question as to which cock won the fight: One is walking around and one is not. For the first time, I began to see why cockfighting is an international phenomenon. It’s not because the people watching it are sadists or barbarians. It comes down to the appraising of the fighters, the betting of real money, the beating someone else, and lastly, maybe least importantly, the real-world profit. When you win, you win a gambling game and a strategy game against another real person for real world gain. You were smarter and gutsier and for that you are rewarded in cash. It’s absolutely intoxicating.

The Toll

The End

A toll started to take place. Most cockfights had seemed bloodless, but suddenly in one fight a cock from the “Wala” corner had its pure white feathers turn bright red. Worse, it twitched and flapped its arms while dying. It was gruesome and sad. I then realised perhaps the dark plumage of earlier birds had disguised all the blood. People didn’t come to see blood, but there was plenty of it.

I picked a “Wala” corner. I thought it might be even more exhilarating to bet on an underdog and win. A risky bet, maybe a sloppy bet. I picked a great “Wala” named Big Hoss from a cock fighting farm that had Texas in their name. I didn’t know if this meant that the fighting cocks were from Texas or that the farm was Texan in spirit. What I liked about Big Hoss was that he was the only cock I had seen that acknowledged the presence of the crowd. He stared at the crowd and attacked the plexiglass. Big Hoss was a renegade and would not be a pawn in our game. I imagined Big Hoss was giving us all the middle finger, and at that point in the night, I kind of liked that about him.

A dilemma: What do you spend blood money on? A nice necklace for your wife? A six-piece chicken nugget set at McDonalds? Winning money from cockfighting was exhilarating, but the thought of using any of it felt terrible. Blood money felt dirty and it felt like I had to spend it on something dirty or wasteful. This is probably why criminal king pins buy yachts, cocaine and tigers. Could you ever spend ill-gotten gains on something mundane? It’s interesting to imagine hitmen out there paying for their Netflix subscriptions with assassination money.

Unfortunately, Big Hoss was large and got pitted against another heavyweight that absolutely destroyed him. It lasted less than 30 seconds. When they separated the cocks, they had to pull the spur out of Big Hoss’ body – it was lodged so tightly. The gambler I lost to didn’t have to try nearly as hard to separate my money from me.

After ten minutes the high of winning money faded, and I could feel the weight of the money in my hand. I wanted to lose it. My father-in-law hadn’t fared so well in the betting, he was a thousand pesos down, and my brother-in-law hadn’t bet at all. I offered him my money so he could bet, but he declined. I decided to bet my winnings on another cock and let the gods of the arena decide if I should be set back to zero.

We left about one-third into the night. As we left, we tried to give the rest of the money to our Kristo guide, but he declined. I don’t really know why he indulged us and our small-time bets all night and then refused the tip. As we left the arena, I started to process cockfighting as a game, and real death as a mechanic. What does real death add to this game? I have two ideas. First, it’s incredibly decisive. There is never any dispute as to which cock won the fight, and which gambler has won money. A problem with modern boxing is that often it’s hard to know who won the fight. It’s not as decisive as a game about punching should be. When I saw Heavyweight Champ Klitschko at Madison Square Gar6

Leigh Alexander

den, I had a hard time judging who won. Klitschko and other current boxers have great defense, and when only a few punches are landed each round, what decides the winner and the loser? In a cockfight, the loser is dead. Second, real death gives the game intrinsically high stakes. There’s a seriousness and danger to cockfightbetting that isn’t present in other forms of gambling. When you appraise a fighting cock, the bet you’re making is literally a life-or-death decision. That creates an intensity absent from a lot of betting games. It feels something like the best part of drafting games or the choices in deckbuilding games, amplified by several magnitudes. In video games, we have nothing like cockfighting. Nothing as intense, nothing as dangerous. Even “hardcore” games like Bloodborne give you infinite deaths. Rogue-likes and other games with permadeath let you start over. There aren’t a lot of digital games that make you lose something permanently, or that replicate and leverage the seriousness and finality of death. The game mechanics that exist in real-world games have yet to make their way into the realm of digital games. As a game designer, I have to wonder: Could we borrow from cockfighting to make our games better while leaving out the problematic elements? Could we design digital fighting games where the created characters' files are deleted after they lose one too many fights? Can we even design new games that have valid or compelling betting mechanics? For real money? Based on the compelling experience I had watching Sabong, I think it’s only a matter of time.

The Gamer Isn´t Dead W

hen I was asked if I would interview Leigh Alexander, I jumped at the chance. As a media theorist and UX researcher in games, games culture, social media, and harassment, I really adore Leigh’s work. From heading Offworld to now also writing for the Guardian, her knowledge base spans the entire web of technology – from online culture, to video games, to interactive art, and new emerging literature. Leigh’s own personal work is not just in critical theory, but in art itself: She is a published novelist and a journalist. All around, Leigh’s commitment to emerging voices in video games, as well as pushing the medium of games to the ultimate extreme of experimental narrative and interactive art, makes her just kind of my tech hero. She’s really a person after my own heart. We got into a fantastic conversation about the future of games, technology, and what is on Leigh’s plate for 2016.

L: I think even saying “indie games” doesn’t really work anymore. Indie used to mean “you can make money without a traditional publisher.” Now there are games out there that are wholly noncommercial. I think this is the most important thing to happen to games – that they get this right to exist as expression or commentary from their creator, without being some kind of Customer Service Product that must cater to the explicit needs of a consumer.

by Caroline Sinders

C: What are you working on right now?


3 ---------------------------After a few more hours of goofing off with Lillith, you wave goodbye after dropping her off at home. You fiddle with the radio a bit until a tune suitable to your elated mood and the setting sun filters through. Sunglasses are adjusted, your red fez tilted just so, tassel practically glowing in the light. You drive home feeling hopeful that no matter how many lives you have left, or even if this is your last, you dont regret one second of it. -----------------------------THE END ------------------------------

L: just wrote a novella about my favorite faction in the Android universe – I think I really love worldbuilding and am going to be doing lots more of it – and I’m starting a technology and culture column at the Guardian. By the time this gets published there’ll hopefully be an Offworld features collection out in the wild, too.

Although I’m often accused of writing about how “gamers are dead,” though, I must clarify: No term involving death was ever used anywhere in my piece. The word I personally chose was “over,” as in passé, as in irrelevant. The marketing category of “gamer” is so out of step with taste, and with this new and modern spirit of games, that it seems unfashionable at best, culturally backward at worst, to try to please that person in the traditional way.

C: What are your thoughts on the current state of games and in particular, indie games? You wrote a piece about “the death of the gamer” and that really resonated with me. Movie fans don’t call themselves “moviers” or “filmers” but they enjoy the medium. And to push the analogy further: While there is a separation between mainstream and arthouse indie film-goers, the latter are not considered at contentious odds with fans of big budget action films. Games are simply a part of mainstream culture.

C: Fred Ritchin, in his book “after photography,” mentions “we’re all photographers now,” in reference to the creation of the mobile camera and the prevalence of mobile phone images. I feel this with games and mobile games – the gamer is dead because we are all gamers now. Games are a huge part of smartphones, and most smartphones come with a reloaded game center app. It’s a ubiquitous part of digital culture at this point...


L: Yeah, you’re right. The ubiquity and accessibility of games (and the tools to make them, importantly) mean games are poised to actually play a role in broader digital culture beyond what they’ve done in the past. You’d think this would be good for everyone, but it’s the “gamer” attempting to strangle this potential by locking the word down so that it only applies to something that is familiar to them. C: John Sharp recently stepped down as the Chair of IndieCade and gave two really insightful quotes – “ like IndieCade and GDC’s diversity track give these developers and critics a platform to share their work, but I fear these events are not providing sustainable, long-term benefit to those outside academia and game development companies...” and “Academic conferences operate within the larger ecosystem of higher education, from which we can return to our jobs as faculty or our studies as graduate students. But gamemakers outside academia and game companies leave Culver City to return to… what, exactly? There simply isn’t an infrastructure there to provide a basic, sustainable quality of life...” What are your thoughts on this as a games critic? Should entertainment media be constricted to provide sustainable lifestyles? How could we start to provide or redesign a system to allow for it? Can that even happen with games? L: Well, on one hand, I think unfortunately there are all kinds of ways to value labor, and people will try to get out of valuing it with money whenever they can. I think it’s wonderful there are now so many avenues for people who care about art to fund the game-makers they care about. But the arts have always been starved, and even though there are more channels to fund creators, like Patreon and things, there are also more channels by which people can just have things online without having to pay for them, like music or videos as well as games. In light of that I often have to bite my tongue when I hear game-makers

Oblivion Is statistically significant

print journalism jobs, etc). I feel like games are going through something similar, especially with a lack of infrastructure for jobs, and games jobs that do provide a sustainable quality of life. L: Yeah. C: This year has seemed really exciting for you – you’ve stepped in as editor for Offworld – how has that been? What are your hopes for the future with the site? L: I’ve been editor-in-chief of the relaunched Offworld, yeah. It’s been wonderful to launch and manage a games site that publishes primarily games work from women and people of color ( – on topics other than “what it’s like to be marginalised,” which is a frustrating restriction that often gets placed on us. We have also focused on noncommercial and unconventional games. The site has been terribly successful, with some 750,000 visits a month, and Laura (Hudson, senior editor) and I are very proud of it. We’ll be immortalising some of our features with a physical collection at the beginning of this year. C: Your novel sounds fantastic and congrats on the Guardian! Are you still writing for Offworld? What do you hope to do with the Guardian? Will it be focused on games at all or will it be much broader – really just tech and culture?

death animation “Hurt me plenty”. by Dawid Strauss (Ar t) J o n a t h a n H a u - Yo o n ( A r t ) Filip Orekhov (Art) Evan Greenwood (Programming)

say: “Well, I’m working very hard, and I’m being told my work is important, therefore if i don’t make enough money doing this to live in e.g. San Francisco, it means this industry is unjust.” The presence of expressive, artistic games is profoundly important, but usually commercial income only comes alongside commercial works (We have many exceptions, which is either heartening or deluding depending on how you look at it.) However, as a critic rather than a creator, I have the luxury to say that the inherent validity of noncommercial works is all that matters. John’s post about IndieCade was terribly necessary and important. I’ve seen this emotional labor economy spring up particularly around new voices, marginalised creators, women, people of color, etc, and I think it’s a tragedy of the industry’s ongoing

L: No, I won’t be writing about games at the Guardian. I’m interested in other ways we derive culture from tech and media. I always felt the 90s-’00s product-focused approach to games (the hardware! The software!!) is part of why games mostly have a consumer culture (what’s the score? do I buy it or not?!) instead of a culture-culture, and why most tech writing is about products as well. I’m interested in exploring interaction and behavior on online platforms, now that so much of our lives happen there. C: You’ve been in Europe for the past year. What are the differences between the games scene in Europe (or the UK in particular) compared to the US?

diversity efforts that it doesn’t often get talked about. No doubt these new voices are absolutely essential to building both a creative medium and a professional commercial industry that expects to be taken seriously – and yet broadly this positive surge of focus on representation has stalled. The “representation” is allowed to enrich events, and help organisations avoid criticism. It provides them with the industry’s leading-edge creative works, but what does it do for the creators? These events don’t often offer compensation, travel, etc. No one is entitled to a sustainable lifestyle based on talking at independent game conferences, of course. But the industry is, in one breath, telling some people that the industry desperately needs their voices, and in the next breath, telling them that they must put themselves into debt to “be seen” and to participate.

L: The UK is smaller and so its indie scene is more closely-knit and community-oriented. I once thought it’d be hard for Britain to produce, like, a real creative leadership, because being direct, pushing ahead, and attracting attention to yourself is so frowned-upon culturally here. But when I think about it, my friends here produce way weirder and more exciting events than the folks back home, and, importantly, they work tirelessly to get games into places where there are not normally games: museums, cultural centers, family days, important theatres, etc. Marie Foulston is doing a wonderful job curating at the V&A, Holly Gramazio never runs out of ways to be inventive in

C: Photography went through a similar phase with the onset of technology and more easily accessible digital tools. It has really transformed this idea of the “educated and learned creator” to that of an accessible creator, thus creating sooo many photographers (and so many different kinds of photographers), and not enough jobs for those photographers (given the move towards cheap digital media, and less 8

public spaces, and everywhere there is something cool going on you find George Buckenham had something to do with it. London is where the Wild Rumpus was born, and where my partner Quinns started getting Netrunner tournaments out of the basements of card shops and into bars and social venues with cool music. My friends in America are content to have indie conference after indie conference, but there is a lot of innovation going on here in terms of how to engage with games and present them to other people.

by Aaron E. Freedman, Secret Crush

6 -----------------------------

ation of the player that later affects the outcome of the game. Since death is the objective of the game, that the crew die by incineration does not matter. The sun could easily be a wormhole and the game would still be coherent. During development we flirted with replacing the sun with some other objective. We rejected the change, though, because death in Sunburn! is more than a mechanical superficiality. The players and crew are never truly in danger, for they die and return with no real consequence, yet the implication of true death alters the player's actions and the crew members' statements, making it more impactful. Some of the crew seem completely oblivious to the situation and others frightfully aware that they are about to die.

C: What are you most excited about with the future of modern games? L: Let’s see what happens? C: Any favorite game designers who you think are doing fantastic work and why? L: This year my favorites were Robert Yang and Kitty Horrorshow. I wrote a lot about their games on Offworld. C: Favorite games you’ve played this year? L: Wheels of Aurelia and Bloodborne

4 --------------------------As usual, the thrift store is full of the most amazing junk to ever waste your hard earned dollars on. A faceless robot teddy, a sincere painting of white Jesus, and more! After running up and down the aisles a bit you both stop in front of a selection of hats. Lillith glares at you as you fondle the bright red fez. »Just buy it already! Youve been eyeing it for weeks.« ----------------------------*IN-PAPER PURCHASE REQUIRED AT ----------------------------› Purchase the red fez! $1.00* (go to 15) › Nah, mayber later. (go to 11) -----------------------------


unburn! is a mobile game in which the crew of a destroyed spacecraft are stranded in space and doomed to die. The game uses death in three ways: First as the theme, then as a game mechanic, and finally as a confrontation. Sunburn! is a game about death. Although the game uses narrative sparingly, the story provides some context for how the player is tasked with solving each level. Your friends – the crew – are stranded in space. You are all dying, slowly running out of food and oxygen. If you do nothing, you will all die alone on the bleak unpopulated planets on which you have found yourselves. Gather-

Failing to bring all the crew together can be heartbreaking–the crew chides the player and comment on their loneliness. Upon successfully ending their lives together, the crew reflects upon their new ghost bodies, asking the same questions as they would have if they were still alive. A result other than death would remove the tension that allows death in Sunburn! to be funny. But it provides ample opportunity for the crew, and sometimes the player, to reflect on their mortality. A crew member ponders out loud: "I wonder if our deaths are statistically significant?"

ing the crew and jumping into the sun together is the single imperative confronting the player. In the first level, the character Lieutenant Davis implores the player to jump: "We made a pact!" In response, the player has to connect her electromagnetic tether to Lt. Davis and fly them both into the sun. Death is the only way to beat the level. And each level is a repetition of this storyline. Sunburn! presents death as a mechanical necessity, and as such, death is only superficial: Jumping into the sun is simply how you beat a level and eventually beat the game. Every level in Sunburn! ends the same way. There is no moral evalu-

Ultimately, our presentation of death in Sunburn! confronts the player with an uncomfortable transgression: In order to win, you must die. The goal of every level is the same and never hidden from the player, yet the apprehension with which most players approach the initial levels betrays the moral conflict they are attempting to resolve in their minds. Most players come to terms with the mechanical necessity of death in order to continue playing. These players approach the first level with caution, and then with shock when they see the Captain and Shimura burning to a crisp.

5 ---------------------------------------------------------------A knight in black armor sits on a horse at the opposite end of the field, waiting patiently to begin. The ‘King’ proclaims something, utterly unintelligible with your oversized helmet on, and both horses charge toward each other, with you just along for the ride. The shield and lance jar up and down, only staying in aim thanks to the mounting hardware.Unfortunately, the shield bolt has weakened from years of demonstrations and when the knight strikes it with his lance, it breaks free, striking you in the neck between armor and helmet, and you hear a loud *snap* before falling limply down into the dirt, with gasps and screams filling the air, the king yelling to check how many ticks you have. ------------------------------------------------------------------› f you have two tickmark tattoos… (go to 7) › Otherwise… (go to 14) ------------------------------------------------------------------

With each passing level, though, as players continue, their shock transforms into a glee that comes from doing something naughty.


You drive Lillith and yourself about an hour outside of town to the Medieval Fair. It’s a beautiful day, full of people dressed in all manner of historically inaccurate garb. You laugh at a jester doing magic tricks in the mud, eat a pair of turkey legs, then proceed to get dragged to the jousting field. Lillith wears a mischievous grin. “When you were in the ba- I mean privy, I paid for you to get to be part of the jousting demonstration! Happy birthday!!!” Before you have a chance to react, a large knight in gleaming white armour takes your arm and lifts you up to a podium for you to get dressed and mount your horse. “Worry not,” he explains. “The shield and lance are mounted, and the tips are padded.” ------------------------------› IF »Red Fez« IS IN INVENTORY (go to 2) › »Giddyup I guess!« (go to 5) -------------------------------

First developed in 2014 by indie developer Secret Crush, Sunburn! was conceived by Aaron Freedman, D i e g o G a r c i a , a n d To n i Pizza, three NYU Game Center alumni.



Give Me A Good Death Anytime

That said, there are a bunch of games that do use death in mechanically or narratively interesting ways, and it’s exciting to see developers really thinking about death as a part of game design. In a sea of video games using traditional death mechanics, it’s interesting to look at which games are using death differently and how they allow players to really think about and come to terms with their own mortality.

by Gabby DaRienzo


hen Maxis’ simulation game The Sims launched in 2000, my friends and I (aged 10) quickly became obsessed with it. We spent hours in the game customising Sim-versions of ourselves, building elaborate homes, and watching their (our?) lives play out. The game had a great many innovative gameplay mechanics for its time, but my friends and I were mainly interested in one feature: Your Sims could die. At first it was a tragic and heartbreaking discovery. But very soon afterwards, we were excitedly creating horrible and tragic deaths for said Sims. While our parents were disturbed by our morbid fascinations with killing off each others’ Sim lookalikes, my friends and I were excited about the game’s death mechanics. There were other games at the time that included death and dying, but The Sims dealt with death in a very different way from most other games. It not only encouraged us to think about death in video games, it also gave us the opportunity to come to terms with our own mortality. In video games, death can serve multiple mechanical roles. It is most commonly used as a thing you want to avoid, a goal you need to accomplish, or as a narrative device. While death is prominent in many video games, we generally give it much less thought and treat it with much less seriousness than actual death, especially when it comes to player death.

Of the growing number of deathpositive games out there, four in particular are stand-outs. One is Drinkbox Studios, the Torontobased game studio responsible for bringing us Guacamelee! and the upcoming Severed. Developed in 2013 by Drinkbox, Guacamelee! is a rare game that not only shows death and the afterlife in a positive way, but does so beautifully and hilariously. An action-platformer game that is heavily inspired by Mexican culture and folklore, Guacamelee! features a cast mostly made up of skeletal calaca figures. The game stars Juan, a farmer-turned-luchador who must save his love interest and El Presidente’s daughter from an evil charro skeleton. Halfway through Guacamelee!, Juan unlocks the ability to teleport between the world of the living and the world of the dead, which allows him to solve puzzles or fight specific enemies.

This could be from a lack of permanence in most video games. Mechanics like “life systems” (a certain amount of retries designated to a player after they’ve died) and “respawning” (when a player reappears at a fixed point in the game, after they die) are a staple in many video games, but these remove the seriousness and finality of death. Rather than dwelling on the actual consequences of death, they turn death into an interruption or an annoyance. I think this is why I (and millions of others) was fascinated with killing our Sims. Their deaths were permanent, they meant something, and they directly affected the gameplay of The Sims. A recent movement that’s gaining popularity called death positivity (or “death acceptance”) is encouraging people to face their own mortality and be open to talking about death, addressing and demystifying it. The movement was started by a group of young morticians and funeral directors whose goal is to lift the veil on death and encourage us to explore our thoughts, feelings, and fears about mortality.

The act of teleporting between these two worlds is quite aesthetically pleasing. Each time you teleport to the world of the dead the music changes to a gorgeous ethereal version of the living world’s music. The scenery in the world of the dead mirrors that of the living world, with subtle details like decorations or internet memes (the game is famous for being chock-full of them). When you shift from the world of the living to the world of the dead, you meet the animated skeletons of deceased citizens who used to live in the same towns and villages. These friendly non-playable characters (NPCs) are often more energetic and alive than the living citizens. Although Guacamelee! features classic death tropes (Juan has a health bar and respawns after he dies) the shifting between the world of the living and world of the dead, and the beautiful and colorful depiction of the afterlife, all make Guacamelee! a truly great example of a death-positive video game. Next is Drinkbox Studio’s upcoming game Severed, which is slated for release in 2016. Severed centres around a young woman named Sasha who must exact revenge on the monsters who murdered her family and severed off her arm. In a conversation with Drinkbox’s concept artist Cuxo Quijano a few months ago, he explained to me that in the game death appears as an anthropomorphic character who is designed to be neither good nor evil. Cuxo remarked that death is often depicted as an evil or Machiavellian character in games, and that it made more sense for Severed’s story to personify death as accurately and as positively as possible — as a truly neutral character who can help Sasha through her grieving process.

• Sunburn! developed by Secret Crush in 2014 is a mobile puzzle game in which you play a captain of a space vessel that has crashed. Knowing that you and your crew are all doomed, your goal is to gather your crew and to plummet into the sun, dying together. • Gravity Ghost developed by Ivy Games in 2015 is a physics-based puzzle game in which you play the ghost of a young girl, reuniting animal spirits with their physical bodies and uncovering the story of your death and the deaths of the animals you’re helping. • Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask developed in 2000 by Nintendo is arguably the darkest game in the Legend of Zelda series, with the subject of death and doom being central to the gameplay and narrative. You play a child version of the main character Link, who must repeatedly travel through time and use transformative masks to solve puzzles and stop the moon from crashing into the earth. • The Graveyard is a game developed by Tale of Tales in 2008, where the player assumes control of an elderly woman walking through a graveyard to a bench. The game is slow and beautiful and easily one of the best examples of a death-positive video game. • Fate Tectonics is an upcoming world-building strategy puzzle game by Golden Gear Games launching September 9th. The player can build up a world and attempt to appease the gods, but also has the ability to destroy said world. There is no death or “game over” state. Instead, pieces that fall go back to “the void” – a place where your world starts and ends, a place of both life and death.

8 -----------------------------Youve made it this far without a single death. You try to feel impressed with yourself, but for some reason kids at school with death-marks make fun of fulllifers, calling you a wuss for never taking any risks. »Whatever,« you mentally sigh. »Better than being noosed.« You feel briefly sorry for the handful of kids at school that have already lost two lives. Other kids call them noosed, since they are just waiting to drop, for good. -------------------------------› Continue… (go to 9) --------------------------------

Another is Rogue Legacy, by the studio Cellar Door Games. In 2013, the team brought us Rogue Legacy, a platformer with a fascinating take on the mechanics and narrative of death. In Rogue Legacy the player must explore randomly generated dungeons and fight off randomly spawned enemies. The game uses permadeath (or “permanent death”) so when your character dies, they’re gone for good. After your original character has died, however, the game allows you to play as one of their heirs. These descendants each have unique characteristics and abilities that affect the gameplay . For example, if your descendant is colour-blind the game will be presented in black and white. Also, the gold you collect during the lifespan of your original character has been passed down to the heirs, and can be used to improve the abilities of successive descendants. This unique mechanic makes Rogue Legacy not only an incredibly inventive game, but a death-positive one at that . It allows the player to acknowledge and accept the deaths of their characters, while at the same time letting the player continue the adventure with unique heirs and descendants, all of whom will also inevitably die.

Finally, a game that allows players to understand the true consequences of death is Undertale, the critically-acclaimed game developed in 2015 by Toby Fox. Undertale is a role-playing game (or “RPG”) in which you play a human child who must navigate a fictional world filled with non-humanoid characters referred to as “monsters.” In the game you can choose to kill the monsters or “defeat” them nonviolently, but your decisions to do so affect the story and gameplay. The most interesting thing about how death is treated in Undertale is how (almost) realistic it is – choosing to kill the monsters lead to serious consequences that would normally be ignored in traditional RPGs. It not only encourages the player to think about death, but its twist on traditional death mechanics allows players to consider how death is normally treated in games. There are a growing number of death-positive video games I could go on and on about  –  g ames that really broach the subject of death in mechanically or narratively interesting ways. More games I consider to be death-positive that I highly recommend checking out:

Games like Guacamelee!, Rogue Legacy, Undertale, and these mentioned above give me hope that video game developers can use death in creative and mechanically interesting ways that stray from typical and often tired tropes, giving players an opportunity to think about death and possibly even come to terms with their own mortality. I’m genuinely looking forward to the future of “death” in the games industry, and hope to see other developers use it in unique and interesting ways too.

7 ----------------------------------------------------------------There is no pain, just the sensation of being emptied, hollowed out. You realise this isn’t a thing to be feared, because your body has simply been a vessel. It was the jar, and the real you, the part that matters is what empties into the black unknown. Soon after this realisation, you feel at peace, and let go of your thoughts, of everything.

As a person who has been quite accepting of death and her own mortality since she was a young child, I am totally on-board with this whole death positivity movement. I’m particularly interested in how it applies to video games. The interactivity of video games makes it a great medium for getting the player to directly deal with things like death, yet a lot of the time it seems developers aren’t really considering it mechanically when designing their games.

------------------------------------------------------------------THE END -------------------------------------------------------------------

by Storno



I’m absolutely positive I’ve missed a few examples of death positive video games, so if you can think of any that I’ve missed or i f y o u ’d l i k e t o s h a r e y o u r thoughts on death and video games, please hit me up on twitter: @gabdar.

9 ----------------------------Your cell buzzes, and your friend Lilliths face appears on the screen, her middle finger stuck up her nose. »Heeeey! Happy birthday!« she yells. Lillith continues: »Now get up or we won›t have time for our usual Saturday thrift stop before birthday fun! LETS GO!« ------------------------------› »To the Quick Thrift!« (go to 4) › »Let›s skip and just go have fun!« (go to 11) -------------------------------

We Wish To Inform You That We Are Dying Developed in 2014, Burn The Boards is a mobile game designed by Causa Creations to expose the reality of the informal worker breaking down e-waste for a living. w w w. b u r n t h e b o a r d s . n e t

In That Last Second by Jeroen Janssen, J o o s t Va n d e c a s t e e l e , H a p p y Vo l c a n o


by Georg Hobmeier, Causa Creations


ello, my name is Arun and I recycle electronic waste. I don't exist, but there are many like myself. We live in China, India, Vietnam, Nigeria, Ghana, and many other countries in the Global South. You find us in shanty towns, on the outskirts of the big cities, in dirty backyard workshops. We handle trash for a living. Expensive electronic trash. The kind you probably have in your pocket, you know? All that contains copper, gold, platinum, and many other substances. We harvest and recycle components to meet the world's increasing demand for cheap electronics. We burn boards. We burn cables. We dump transistors in acid baths. We sand old televisions. We don't get protective equipment to do any of this. No one tells us about the dangerous fumes that are created when we harvest trinkets and toys from the first world and our own rich locals. We don't know what inhaling lead can do to our bodies, how bromium can destroy our lungs even on first exposure. Most of us have never gone to school and

by GJ Lee

hat if "YOU DIED" appeared on your screen and you hadn't even started playing yet? What if after the end credits finally end, you’re asked to press "START"? What if death in a game wasn't just a "GAME OVER" screen, but a different dimension influenced by opinions about death – in fiction and in religion – all yours to explore?

have never heard of dioxin and what damage it can do.

have to leave nevertheless. We're all "trying to make it in the big city."

the backyard factory down at the river to work for Mister Chopra.

Some of us are young and should be in school. I'm told we should be learning how to read and write instead of burning cables over fires made from styrofoam and plastic. Instead, we spend our shortened lives in the trashyards, until our lungs burn when breathing, our eyes stop working from chronic lead poisoning, until our short life ends somewhere in the gutter. We are all dying, and we don't even know it.

I'm a character in a game where people can have a go at what I'm doing every day. It's pretty strange, thinking of people enjoying this – my life, my work – as a game. I've tried but it's tricky to show you the toxic fumes I inhale every day through a screen, you know? Someone clever designed a score that shows my health. It's a little red bar that goes down every time I go to work. But I get that it's hard to describe how that feels physically. I get how someone playing a day of my life for a few minutes, somewhere in a subway or a café, will find this stuff pretty simplistic and morbid.

Don't get me wrong, he's not a bad man. I don't mean to complain. We are in fact quite lucky. A lot of people in other scrap yards work hard and die young. They have no chance at all. With Mister Chopra, there is at least progress, even some sort of hope. But, well, he's not real either.

I came from a village, somewhere in the dry planes. Or at least that's the story someone wrote. There are many like myself. People thrown out of their houses or off their land. Farmers with a small field and garden, robbed by powerful and greedy neighbours. Some of us are escaping violent unrest. Some of us are just unlucky. One season without rain means can mean fleeing to the big city to feed our families. Sometimes there are big infrastructure projects that are supposed to bring prosperity. Huge mines or a powerful dam. It doesn't matter to us, we

There are a few buttons for someone to manage my daily business, but that's as close as you get. It's a good thing, too! This is a job? A lifestyle? A thousand coughs, my skin itching, my hands full of heat blisters. The little red bar doesn't take into account that I walk for miles every day, starting out from the little room where my family lives to reach 14

We're figments of someone's imagination, inspired by a dire reality. We are millions and we handle 50 million tons of electronic waste. That's the amount produced by the world in a single year. I'm told a lot of the parts I handle come from companies elsewhere who don't follow the law because exporting the waste to "the Global South" is cheaper. It makes sense. We don't make a lot from this work. I guess someone else gets the profits. I guess that's what it takes to keep product costs and life expectancy low. We are all dying. We wish to inform you, too.

Asking those questions about game narrative led us to the creation of a cold and otherwordly place. In Winter, death is the narrative, the setting, and the mechanic. It is represented viscerally in the game world as a circle of houses surrounding a forest. Each house is constructed by the distorted personal memories of the individual who wakes up inside it. The forest serves as a gathering place for the deceased – all of whom have died in the same second. The house and the forest are two stages of the game. The main character is a young girl who has drowned following a troubling divorce between her parents. The entire game is about this one restless soul, but you never see her. Instead, you live in the one second between her life and her death – stretched for as long as the game lasts. In that one second while dying she must choose between life or death, between reuniting with her deceased father or continuing to live with her emotionally unstable mother. Every choice is equally difficult to make. She begins dead. Or dying. Or dead. Your – or her – house is slowly filling up with snow that enters through the cracks of broken mirrors and television screen static. The snow is her death: an otherworldly representation of the cold water in which she drowned. She has to escape the house and find her

To enhance a feeling of a truly bizarre and unpredictable world, we kept the artwork reminiscent of a child’s pop-up book.

way through a bizarre forest. In the forest, the girl finds traces of her own memories and those of other dead people: some reassuring, some scary.

In Winter, different deaths animate different circumstances. We tried to show this by having everyone who arrives in the woods bring with them his or her final thoughts and belief system. Someone who dies a violent death can conjure up a dark and frightful area in the forest. Someone who dies peacefully, convinced of a heavenly afterlife, can experience his or her dying wish. In this dimension of death, everybody gets their own personal version.

As fans of indie horror, we are all familiar with the established clichés of haunted house walking simulators. But Winter isn't about horror. It's about the sobering fact of death and the choices that can alter a final state. Death is not a bunch of diary excerpts found in the cutlery drawer; not a spooky shivering lady in a white dress lurking in the corner. We wanted an unsettling exploration of a colourful purgatory created by the collective minds of everybody who has died in the same second.

The game Winter has the ambition to set a slow place by using a thoughtful inner monologue and beautiful graphics. So the player isn’t motivated by fear to move forward, but by a sense of wonder.

It can be a struggle to remove the horror element from a typical horror idea without making it less exciting. We knew from the beginning that we wanted a colorful visual style and game mechanic. The game world can be explored from an isometric viewpoint, from which only one tile of the game world is visible at a time. Each tile can be turned around for hidden clues. 15

Winter is a narrative exploration game develo p e d b y H a p p y Vo l c a n o i n cooperation with Flemish a u t h o r J o o s t Va n d e c a s teele. Winter will be released on desktop and mobile in Q1 of 2017. w w w. h a p p y v o l c a n o . c o m

by David Calvo

Congratulations! You have died. ▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓ ▓ ▓ ▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓ ▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓ ▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓ ▓▓▓ Failure ▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓ YOU HAVE FAILED. ▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓ ▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓ Mission Failed ▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓ ▓ ▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓ ▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓ ▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓ You Crashed! ▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓ ▓ ▓▓▓▓ YOU FUCKED UP ▓▓▓▓ ▓▓ ▓▓ ▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓ ▓ ▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓ ▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓ ▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓ Your life ends in the wasteland... ▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓ IT'S A SAD THING THAT YOUR ADVENTURES HAVE ENDED HERE!! ▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓ ▓ ▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓ ▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓ ▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓ YOU HAVE FAILED! THE CASE REMAINS UNSOLVED! ▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓ ▓▓ ▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓ ▓ ▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓ ▓▓▓ ▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓ IT LOOKS LIKE YOUR LUCK JUST RAN OUT. ▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓ ▓ ▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓ ▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓ ▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓ ▓▓ ▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓ You have perished. ▓▓▓▓ ▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓ ▓ ▓▓ ▓▓ ▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓ YOU AND YOUR FRIENDS ARE DEAD. ▓▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓ You were doomed from the start ▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓ ▓▓ ▓▓▓ ▓▓ ▓▓▓▓ ▓▓ ▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓ ▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓ ▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓ ▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓ You have failed to stop the alien onslaught. ▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓ ▓▓▓▓ ▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓ ▓ You fool. ▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓ ▓▓ Too Bad! ▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓ ▓▓ ▓▓▓ ▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓ You've met with a terrible fate, haven't you? ▓▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓ Good Night! ▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓ ▓ ▓▓▓ Nice Try! ▓▓▓▓ ▓▓ ▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓ ▓ ▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓ Loser ▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓ YOU ARE WORTHLESS AND WEAK ▓▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓ ▓ ▓ ▓▓▓ ▓▓▓ GIVE UP, STREET RAT ▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓ ▓ ▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓ YOU BLEW IT! ▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓ YOU ARE DEAD! ▓ ▓▓▓ ▓▓ ▓ ▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓ ▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓ You have died of dysentery. ▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓ ▓ ▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓ WOW! YOU LOSE! ▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓ ▓▓▓ ▓▓▓ ▓▓▓ ▓▓▓ ▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓ ▓ You have lost your mind. ▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓ *** You have died. *** ▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓ ▓ ▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓ YOU DIED ▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓ DEAD ▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓ LOVE IS OVER ▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓ ▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓ ▓▓▓ ▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓ ▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓ AND YOU DEAD ▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓ ▓ ▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓ ▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓ ▓▓▓ RESTART, RESTORE, or QUIT

10 ----------------------------------------»Haha, okay! Just as long as you don›t go all Of Mice and Men ‹Lennie› on me,« she jests. »I wont!« you promise. »They only get one life, so NICE squeezing.« You laugh and reminisce about the last visit to the rescue briefly, then hit the road. After you arrive, one of the employees informs you that they just took in an injured puma that was found close to town. Your eyes both go wide, and you exclaim in unison: »CAN WE SEE IT?!?« The employee›s smile drops. »Unfortunately, no. It›s being treated at the moment.« You wander off disappointed, but notice a sign leading to the treatment area. With two devilish grins you fol

d e a t h a n i m a t i o n b y P a u l Ve e r

low it until you can see the sedated puma through the small glass window of a locked door. Lillith motions to you as a vet leaves another door to the same room, and you both rush to stop it from closing. You slip inside the room, looking back to make sure Lillith gets in ok. After a brief moment of snickering together, you step close to the sleeping, chained puma. »It›s out cold! Com›on, pet it, it›s your birthday!« Lillith whispers excitedly. -------------------------------------------------› IF »Red Fez« IS IN INVENTORY (go to 2) › »Shhhh! Hurry!« (go to 5) -----------------------------------------

“I wanted to show that Mom is really just filled with goop, so I added that big splash. I t ’s p r o b a b l y o n e o f t h e m o r e g r o s s animations in Nuclear Throne.“

left page by Pippin Barr 17

11 -----------------»Ok, so what should we go do then?« Lillith inquires. -------------------› »Let›s go cliff diving!« (go to 16) › »The Medieval Fair is still happening! (go to 6) › »Pet shopping, FUZZY THINGS!« (go to 10) ---------------------

b y Tr o y D u g u i d 18

by Eleanor Snippy

3 Waiting for Godot, Mike & Jeff Rosenthal, November 2009

6 Darkfate, Kevin Soulas, February 2010

9 Rock Paper Scissors, Àngel Quijada Àlvarez, Mars 2011

Waiting for Godot (later renamed Waiting for Grodoudou due to a cease-and-desist letter) had many fine qualities, but patience was definitely his greatest strength. Being endless, one can say he was even more patient than the Beckett play from which he borrowed his name. Endless, however, doesn't mean eternal: The game died from a Unity update, and Godot Grodoudou didn't even show up at his funeral.

Darkfate was dark, but not grim. Linear, but not boring. Complex, but not far-fetched. Generous to a fault, he made every minute of his half-hour playthrough count, telling us a story of hope, time-travel and regrets. Suffering from chronic amnesia, Darkfate's protagonist might not have remembered the time we spent with him, but we'll never forget any of his four pixels.

Created for the mini Ludum Dare 25 whose theme was “The Worst Game I Have Ever Made,” Rock Paper Scissors was a failure since it was actually pretty OK. It was a game about memories, old toys, childhood, and how having fun was simpler back then. Now all we have left is the memory of it, and that awesome screenshot that pits a LEGO cosmonaut against a two-headed monster.

1 Minotaur China Shop, Blurst, November 2008

4 We the Giants, Peter Groenwig, December 2009

7 Cow Clicker, Ian Bogost, July 2010

10 The Child, Christopher “Jack” Nielsen, May 2011

Web player updates can be deadly, even for a brave, strong, brutal and yet delicate minotaur. On December 3rd, Minotaur China Shop passed away, along with his brothers Time Donkey, Jetpack Brontosaurus and Off-Road Velociraptor Safari. May they rest in peace in the Heaven of weird-animals-doing-stuff-they-arenot-really-supposed-to.

Them the giants weren't that big, but they were very wise. They went extinct on June 11th, 2013, leaving behind them words full of wisdom, such as “Love yourself before you venture to love another,” “Don't fart while sneezing,” ”Use old ketchup bottles to squeeze pancake mix onto the frying pan,” “up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A, Start,” and “Don't die in vain.”

Born on July 21st, 2010 Cow Clicker met its doom soon after its first birthday when its creator cruelly abducted all of the cattle. Now the barns stay empty, Zynga's future in jeopardy, and the satire lost, but the clickers will always remember their beloved stargrazer and will keep clicking 'til the cows come home. Ironically of course.

Born on May 1st after 48 hours of intense labor pain, The Child had a brilliant future ahead of him: An episodic series, filled with terror and mystery. But fate decided otherwise, and while we were still waiting for episode one, episode zero passed away peacefully in his father's arms, quickly followed by his younger brother Escapology.

2 Hell is Other People, George Buckenham, October 2009

5 Hey Baby, Suyin Looui, June 2010

8 Tiny Robot, Armel Gibson, Novembre 2010

11 Mountain, Thomas Purnell, December 2011

In Hell is Other People, players were trying to shoot down their predecessor's ghosts, thus writing the smooth moves that their own ghosts would repeat ad infinitum. A Unity update made the game impossible to play, but its server is still up and running, and it's sad to think that the ghosts are still stuck in this hell, waiting to face someone that will never come.

Graduate of the School of Hard Knocks, Hey Baby had her very own way to deal with catcalling, and not a very gentle one. She took care of hundreds of street creeps with her machine gun, engraving their obnoxious one-liners on their tombstones as a reminder of their dorkiness. She left the world a better place, fulfilling many players' fantasies.

Armel Gibson's first game, Tiny Robot, died after his host shut down, and the deficient external drive containing his sources wasn't able to save him. He was known for his dark setting and his character's cute jumping pose. At the funeral, Armel Gibson swore he would make more games in memory of the little robot, and thus he did.

Many died in the Mountain, bringing light where their body fell and shouting their last words to the world. Words of advice: “Don't even go near those spikes.” Words of sadness: “Got lost :(“ Words of exaltation: “GERONIMO!” And words of anger: “Shit.” As for the Mountain, it left in silence, and now there is only darkness.

M i ss i ng L i nks

Here Lie The Games I Once Loved by Pierre Corbinais


housands of video games are born every week. Big games, small games, AAA games, jam games, computer games, console games, mobile games...all kind of games. But how many video games die in those same weeks? We don't know, because most of the time we don't even notice. Video games don't die when there's no one to play them; they die when there's nothing left to play. When the links pointing to them only lead to addresses not found and internal server errors, and when there's no one to put them back online. Big commercial games don't die easily. Even if they generally have a short and successful lifespan, they keep on living through the cartridges or CDs they're engraved on, through strong and reliable servers, through ports, through abandonware communities, through emulation. Tiny alternative games are

much more fragile. A server crash, a broken hard drive, a web player update, and they could be lost forever. If they're lucky, their legacy will subsist through screenshots, reviews, video playthroughs... If they're not, well, they'll only live in their players' memories.

and this is the saddest part, they just don't care. The leading cause of death for small indie game isn't server crash – it's abandonment. Why wouldn't they care? One can imagine a lot of reasons. Maybe they think no one will notice, that this game was created years ago and that it didn't have much success even then. Maybe they're ashamed, because this game reminds them of the crappy developer they think they used to be. Maybe they moved on, and have much more important game projects to focus on. Maybe they're just lazy. Maybe they never find the time. Maybe they think resurrecting this old project isn't worth the hassle.

Having reviewed small indie games for six years now, I've witnessed a lot of deaths. They weren't unfinished prototypes but fully fleshedout games, most of the time from game jams. They were out there in the wild wild web just one minute before and then they were gone, leaving only a broken link. Sometimes, their creators don't even know and may never know without a disappointed player waving at them. Sometimes they do know, but hadn't been careful enough to keep the original files, or are unable to update the build for the new web player. Most of the time, however,

But it IS worth it. Those broken links are the missing links between the aspiring game developer they were and the person they are today. A step forward. The witness of a 20

precise mindset and skill-level. However great and successful a developer's latest game might be, it cannot be more important than all the previous games that led them to make it, least of all their very first one. If not for their creators, such games should be kept alive for their players. Those from the past, whom they shaped in their own tiny way, and those from the future, who may be interested. Some dead games don't stand a chance of being brought back to life, because their files are irremediably lost, or for much sadder reasons. But some do, and I really hope their creators will take the time to give those games a second chance, and a third, and a fourth. Of all media, video games are the most vulnerable to obsolescence, but it doesn't have to be that way, and even the tiniest creations should be given a shot at eternity.


Jumping Rocks Jump died just like he lived: Without anyone giving a single fuck. Its creator cared so little that he created it in three hours and gave it a randomly generated name. Jumping Rocks Jump will however be remembered by its 14 players as “that crappy game with the talking rocks that couldn't even jump.”

heart disease. But even if his sweet whistling game isn't available anymore, Stewart Hogarth can still be remembered through his other creations: I Am Level, Ducky Fuzz, iON Bond, and Sid the Snake.

12 The adventures of Glowy Cuberton, Zed, February 2012 Glowy Cuberton only had a couple of sprites, but he went on many adventures and experimented with many gameplays. Platformer, tactical shooter, genre was too hard for him. This squared gentleman is now lost somewhere on a memory stick, and is probably living more adventures on his own.

20 Gaming Cockroach, Jonathan Ellena, February 2014 15 Adrift – A real time castaway simulator, Tom Campbell, September 2012

18 Utopia of a Tyrant, Ahmet Kamil Keleş, June 2013

Put to sea with neither sail nor engine, this frail skiff was condemned to drift nights and days in the middle of nowhere, with the player as her only companion. After years of inspirational sky-watching and relaxing not-gaming, Adrift peacefully sank in the arms of the ocean, “her only friend, her bitterest foe,” and probably would have wanted it that way.

Utopia was brought to life in Istanbul's Taksim Gazi Park a few days after the government's violent response to the 2013 peaceful protests. Along with its comrades from the GeziJAM, it tried to raise awareness of the police brutality in the country and, hopefully, succeeded. The Gezijam's website was taken down a few months later for unknown reasons.

Friend to the friendless, Gaming Cockroach dedicated his whole life to raising awareness within the game industry of the importance of making games accessible for insects, showing how a simple game of Tetris could be a hassle for the tiny six-legged creatures. Truly one of a kind, he was loved by people from all crawls of life and will be deeply regretted by them.

Your Many Lives Are Meaningful


t feels cliché to start with an opening about a recent death. But it just so happens that, at one point between researching and starting to write this essay, a long-time friend committed suicide after a long fight with clinical depression. It feels almost fitting, in a macabre way, that as I write about finding meaning in seemingly meaningless repeated deaths and do-overs in games, I am faced (again) with the notion that death is not infinite; that in reality there are no do-overs. That death is meaningful because it is finite, because you only get one chance to do everything right, because death is not a reset function. Contrast a real death with a video game one and the latter instantly feels cheap, absent of meaning. Repeated death as a game mechanic has become nothing more or less than a constant, infinite metaphor for our failures. A fail-state that allows for the system to reset itself and for us to start over and for the player to learn from previous mistakes. Unsurprisingly, video game death is often thought of as meaningless action, a way for the system to communicate a player’s failure and nothing more. But is repeated death really so meaningless? Although repetition and reanimation can make each lifetime feel less meaningful, I think repeated death is a meaningful mechanic if we look at its impact on the character and storyline as a whole.

by Yifat Shaik


13 Dead Balls, Lee Petty, Drew Skillman, Alex Vaughan, Bill Gahr, Patrick Connor, April 2012 A literal interpretation of Peter Molydeux's tweet “Survival Horror combined with Bowling,” Dead Balls was identified in 2012 as a victim of the Molyjam website's catastrophic server issue, which caused 87 young games to meet an early and unfortunate end. He's probably in Hell now, enjoying a bloody bowling game with Satan and his devils.

16 Ultimate Evil King, Marcus Horn, October 2012

Other forms of entertainment have started to widely incorporate repeated death as a mechanic, showing us a new way of seeing death in video games. This year at the Toronto International Film Festival, I had the pleasure of watching Hardcore, a movie that is basically a video game in the form of a film. (I highly recommend it just for sheer fun.) It struck me that video game mechanics are showing up in the narrative choices of cinema. In the past, video games referenced specific narrative and aesthetic film dogma. Now, films are drawing inspiration from video games. While not yet widespread, aesthetic choices such as using first-person and point-of-view cameras and manipulating space and regeneration are popping up in films more and more.

19 Chain Game, Copenhagen Game Collective et al., September 2013

Born on October 28th, 2012, during the first zero hour game jam, Ultimate Evil King lived a short but fulfilling life beheading his loyal subjects, when he wasn't enslaving them. He passed away with no heir and will be regretted by none of his vassals. He will however be missed by his players who enjoyed his simplicity and his silliness.

While most small indie games are raised by couples or single parents, Chain Game had more than fifty mothers and fathers to take care of him. Everybody added their own piece to the quilt and the one known as “the Mario Party of the people” lived happily doing what he loved the most: Entertaining 4 players simultaneously through a collection of button-mashing mini-games.

Often, repeated deaths in film take the form of the time-loop plot device. In the 2014 movie Edge of Tomorrow (Live. Die. Repeat.), Tom Cruise is a soldier stuck in a time-loop reliving over and over again the day preceding a battle between humanity and an alien race trying to destroy it. Edge of Tomorrow echoes game mechanics closely by having a “ reset button,” in this case the character’s (often creative) repeating deaths. This is no coincidence: Edge of Tomorrow was based on the Japanese Science Fiction Novel All You Need Is Kill, which the author Hiroshi Sakurazaka himself explains was inspired by gamers’ accounts of repeating death in games and how it leads to constant player improvement.

14 Whistle Wave, Stewart Hogarth, July 2012 The loss of a video game is always sad; the loss of a young game developer is a tragedy. Whistle Wave will probably never be back online since its creator passed away on September 15th, 2015, from a congenital

17 Jumping Rocks Jump, Pierre Corbinais, January 2013

by Messhof –Cowboyana death animation



In the even more popular example Groundhog Day, Bill Murray’s character “magically” gets stuck in a time-loop, so that he relives the same day (February 2nd) over and over again. The “reset button” in Groundhog Day is just sleep. But though Murray’s character does kill himself in order to leave the timeloop at certain parts of the movie, thus interrupting sleep as a metaphor for death, its usefulness as an analogy for video game death is far from perfect: Death, even repeated death, is a far more violent and dramatic concept then sleep. In both movies, the time-loop creates opportunities for selfimprovement. The heroes start out incomplete and unhappy individuals, and slowly over the course of repeating the same events over and over again, become a better person. Bill Murray’s Phil Connors is a misanthropic and arrogant meteorologist, who by the end of the film finally manages to to leave the timeloop by completely transforming his character. He becomes a happier, kinder person, and even finds love. Tom Cruise’s character, on the other hand, starts out as a cowardly, inexperienced soldier who joins the battle after using blackmail to get out of serving in the battlefield. He ends the movie as a strong, experienced, and brave soldier who saves the world from the alien invasion. In this was, the time loop is used as an interesting framing of a character's personal journey and growth. By showing how a character reacts to the same events, and how he differentiate each time as the character grows and changes, his personal journey becomes more obvious to the audience. Maybe self-improvement is the answer to the search for meaning in video game death. Each time you die in a game, the game resets and you get to do the same thing again, but better. Until eventually, you get good enough to avoid death and then move on to the next level. To, metaphorically, be out of the timeloop and possibly enter a new one. For me, the metaphor doesn’t have to end there. It is not just the player that improves; it is the in-game character, the player's avatar. If you really think about it, the in-game character changes and develops at the same time as do you, getting stuck in the same “time-loop." The avatar gets better and more complex as the game progresses, picking up new skills and developing better combat ability, and in so doing, developing a new narrative and complexity. While repeated death is not the only factor to contribute to self-growth, I will argue that without death there can be no growth. Without death, the avatar will not encounter any difficulties, will not change, and will certainly not strive to be better. Therein lies the meaning of our many deaths.

by Heiko Nerenz

That Grief Game

ing on Team God ostensibly makes death a win-win situation. Not only will Joel defeat the Dragon by paradoxically leaving it alive, he’ll gain his ticket to Heaven.

Released in Januar y 2016, That Dragon, Cancer is an autobiographical game created by Ryan and Amy Green about their terminally ill son Joel. Diagnosed with cancer when he was twelve months old, Joel lived much longer than doctors predicted. He eventually succumbed to the cancer at the age of four in March 2014. by Sabine Harrer


wo years ago, when I told people that I was doing a PhD on loss and mourning in video games, they started dropping a single reference: That Dragon, Cancer. It’s That Game About Grief, they said, tackling a father’s real experience of dealing with his son’s terminal cancer. It’s really intimate, like a personal confession, I should check it out. What they seemed to know about this game surprised me. After all, until quite recently That Dragon, Cancer – a project by Amy and Ryan Green and their company Numinous Games – was still in production. That it had made it into our collective unconscious prior to release surely had to mean something. Did it indicate that gamers were actually craving more representations of death and tragedy in their favourite medium? That they wanted games to become a new memorial technology for dead children? I personally hoped it would mean a new platform for many other bereaved parents as well. That gamers would collectively embrace the fact that dead kids are ordinary, and as such, a part of their surviving parents’ everyday life. That people who wanted to play That Grief Game would want to play games about my story, too. I’m reluctant to use my experience of losing a child, but highlighting my

ex-motherhood is relevant to understanding some of my struggles as a player of That Dragon, Cancer. It is also relevant to understanding why I needed that very project to happen. And why, even though I am proud to be a Kickstarter of the game, everything in me protests against its ambition to represent me.

could be compelled to insta-cure Nicolas while leaving the rest of the world’s terminally ill children to die, I wanted nothing to do with him. For all that it’s worth, I didn’t take any particular issues with God after the miracle did not happen. I was angry with noone when Nicolas quietly died on my lap. And now, 10 years later, I was deeply alienated by a simple, genuine request like the Greens’: “pray for a miracle”. I felt with them, profoundly, deeply. But there was also a feeling of growing discomfort: What if I did not share any of That Grief Game’s agenda either? What if the Greens’ struggle with death did not have anything in common with my own experience?

It wasn’t long after I became a backer that Amy and Ryan Green broke some bad news to us. Joel’s condition had worsened; it did not look good. When I first saw the message in my email, I thought back to that moment when we were ourselves confronted with the fact that Nicolas wouldn’t make it. The brain scan that proved the meningitis had left no cells intact. The insight that all the free medication, incubation, stabilisation available to a kid in a privileged 21st century Europe had failed. I felt a deep sense of connection and sympathy with the Greens.

Filled with hopes and doubts, I open the early Beta version of That Dragon Cancer. Soothing piano and string arpeggios, a surreal park at the sea, and a camera on rails. I’m listening to Ryan’s soothing voice while he invites me to explore Joel’s journey in 14 vignettes. Joel likes feeding ducks and riding carousels, he wants “more”. I’m let into the family’s most intimate worries: Why is Joel’s list of words is finite? Will he ever grow up to become like us? the siblings ask. I’m established as a trusted listener, but already now I’m struggling to make sense of the visual and interactive remainder. The metaphorical landscape, the

But reading the email to the end, I was startled. There it was, a nonchalant invitation to pray for a miracle for Joel. Memories of a different kind returned. My Catholic parents praying for a miracle as well. My sister’s protest: He cannot die – he is your son! Even back then, such reactions made me uncomfortable. Even if there was a God that through my worshipping powers 24

sounds, the lighting – all of those appear to be references to a personal context, the details of which are unknown to me. At several points I feel uncomfortable for technical reasons; the often clunky movements break with the magnificent art style and fragile, contemplative atmosphere. Sometimes, the action feels unaligned to what I am told in the voice-over. At the playground, for instance, which is supposed to be an intimate family scene, I am reluctant to touch Joel out of respect for his personal space. Here I am, a stranger in his parents’ land. How much does this entitle me to interact with Joel? Shouldn’t my actions here be restricted by something like posthumous personal rights? Ultimately, I am caught in an awkward space between the desire to listen and connect to Joel’s parents, and a disconnection with the religiously charged symbolism through which they choose to speak.

This story was particularly hard to take for me, since it conjured up a series of well-meaning comments I had received after Nicolas’ death from Austrian Christians: He died because he had learned enough in this world. He died because he chose to die. He was an old soul that God wanted back. He was an angel now looking down from a cloud. With all the distance I now have to the loss event, I can wholeheartedly say that any of these “Godsplanations” have felt nothing but hurtful and disenfranchising. For me, there simply was no reason why a mini-human, who was supposed to grow, learn, fall asleep in awkward postures, sigh with pleasure after a milk feast, would suddenly have to disintegrate next to other corpses six feet under. In my emotional reality, this was a brutal and inexplicable circumstance I needed to surrender to, not explain. Without much doubt, That Dragon, Cancer had a strong impact on me and left me with several questions. First, how would a game called That Dragon, Meningitis have affected me 11 or so years ago? Would it have been part of the canon of religious disenfranchisement? Would all the God and the Lazarus quotes in this

graphics and audio, with all the heavy prayer, church scenarios, and biblical references that I know from my disenfranchising commentators, I have to close the game and go for an angry walk.

game have a similarly alienating effect on other atheist bereaved parents who started the game because of it being That Game About Grief? At the same time, the only thing more tasteless than criticising someone’s religious conviction is to criticise it while they’re grieving. Since this is not my intention, I confessed some of my problems with the game to Amy and Ryan Green via a voice call. But I was not able to verbalise my experiences with the religious disenfranchisement.

But is it even fair to expect TDC to represent me? Is that even what the makers want? It is my impression that they do, and this why I felt so bad about not feeling represented when talking to them. As Amy says, there is nothing special or unique about the loss of Joel as compared to the loss of other children. But their attempts to include others by means of messages and art can never truly do justice to the complexity of other loss stories. And neither should it. One thing that struck me when talking to Amy Green was their respectful attitude towards my different perspective. They said yes to the interview, but what they were truly interested in was exchanging memories about our dead children. I learned that Joel liked carousels in real life, and that’s how the family keeps remembering him. Did he have much hair, Nicolas? Ryan wants to know. “Yes!” I laugh back. I can’t remember the last time someone has given me the gift of Nicolas’ face in my mind so clearly.

I want to express respect for their reality, that faith has been the central pillar throughout their life with Joel. Their notion of miracle, their wrestling with God, they resonate differently in my world than it does in theirs. But as part and parcel of their experience it needs to be prominently staged in That Dragon, Cancer to do justice to their story. Struggling with God’s Grace, Ryan assures me, has been at the centre of the couple’s varying experiences of grief and a source of dissonance between Amy and Ryan. Amy’s passionate letters, which document her trust in Joel’s miraculous recovery, clash with Ryan’s more doubtful response. This is an important portrayal of relationship conflicts during a time of grief. The game doesn’t make any attempt to portray the couple as perfect; their struggle isn’t resolved in the end. As much as I appreciate this aspect of the game, when it comes to its realisation in

In the end, there is another, more pending, concern about the broader reception of the game. How would gamer and game designer friends who share my non-religious atti-

tude to death and dying deal with the game? How will their potential alienation from That Grief Game affect their relationship to the subject altogether? Will they treat That Dragon, Cancer as proof of concept that they should keep their hands off of dead kids? There are signs of this tendency in my immediate social circle, and I do not like it. If anything, game-makers uncomfortable with That Dragon, Cancer should regard it as a wake-up call for adding more dead kids and grieving parents into their games. It is the gaping absence of alternatives that is wrongly establishing That Dragon, Cancer as That Grief Game for everyone to begin with. Such a state of affairs is not only toxic for me and other bereaved parents who do not happen to share that Dragon premise, it puts an unfair burden of representation on the Greens’ shoulders. I wish that their game could just be regarded as a small piece of bereavement game culture without further obligations to speak for me or a diversity of other grief styles out there. In order for that to happen, it requires a lot more game developers to dare break the silence and add their perspective on death, loss and mourning. Only then will it become possible to appreciate That Dragon, Cancer for what I think it is: His parents’ intimate way of commemorating and remembering Joel in a way that I will never fully comprehend.

12 --------------------------------------You nod in quick agreement, causing your fez to topple off your head and onto the puma. Its eyes quickly open, and the notso-sedated puma quickly puts its jaws around the red hat, with paws quickly following to pull it in and smother it. Eyes like saucers, you and Lillith back away quietly, only taking a breath once you are both sure the puma›s chains wont allow it to reach you. Slipping out, you sheepishly say goodbye to the employee in front, then collapse in the front seat of your car, dying of nervous laughter at the confusion sure to follow after the vet finds a half-eaten red fez with their recovering puma. ----------------------------------------› Continue... (go to 3) -----------------------------------------

13 ---------------------------You nod in quick agreement and reach your hand out to pet the puma’s head. It’s warm, and soft, but you only get a moment to enjoy the sensation, as the dozing-but-not-sedated puma opens its eyes and, terrified by the intrusion, quickly twists its head to clamp down onto your hand. Lillith screams and runs for the door as two large paws envelope you and the jaws loosen from your hand just long enough to find your neck. ------------------------------› If you have two tickmark tattoos…(go to 7) › Otherwise... (go to 14) -------------------------------

That titular “Dragon, Cancer,” as I learn later, is the Green’s homemade family metaphor to talk about Joel’s death. Against the all-consuming power of the Dragon-like illness, Joel has no chance. Except, you know, for God. As I navigate a tiny version of Joel through a mini platform game, I am presented to That Dragon, and I learn that fight25

En(d)joy The Flight

Fail. Die. Swear. Reload.


gain, you mewling kitten of a gamer, you put some swearwords to use and reloaded. Of course, it wasn't you who kicked the bucket. All that the death of your Alter Ego leaves behind is a tiny stain on your pride. But I, the Reaper, shall not be a mere representation of your petty failure! I'll rummage through my games old and new, and produce evidence that there is so much more to death in

by Simon Bachelier

half-heartedly. I, for my part, would delve into gallows humor and the macabre, like in good old Monkey Island and Grim Fandango. I'm itching to play an actual role again.

overworked by your body count. Did you lose track of your numbers? Maybe an achievement will help you remember. Several hundred or thousand NPCs in one game are usual. Most of them have no names. They are targets.

NPCs seldom die in funny games, but they definitely do in the darker and grittier variants. The Witcher does a great job there. Player decisions lead to the demise of polygonal friends after real-life days of adventuring. It's a treat to watch a player gnawing their fingernails while they try to save one NPC, knowing the decision will doom another one. Remember that one possible ending of Witcher 2? The one where you're

Do you really feel threatened by ever-growing enemy hordes? I don't. After some minutes or maybe an hour of good gameplay, the endless repetition annoys me. In R-rated RPGs and story-heavy shooters, I expect enemies to be more. No more practically dropping dead at zero health points. People literally bite the dust, for sometimes I'm a

influence on mortal minds. It even does so despite hundreds of dead opponents. What is madness? What is reality? In the end, you will look back on this game and ask yourself what you did. Why you did it. I doubt there's another game out there that would lead you to such a gripping and exciting experience. What about thoughts, dreams, wishes, conscience, soul, mind, afterlife? Hey, don't ask me! I find it amusing to watch you worry about it. That might actually make you less jumpy about our future encounter in real life. But since the usual death-by-critter only means reload,

Morituri Me Salutant If Death Were A Game Designer by Petra Rudolf

“The only link between him and the world was a wave of music, a minor modulation. Not a lament, no cry, yet purest of sounds that ever spoke despair.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Night Flight (1931)


n oasis is often perceived as a sanctuary, a safe place where life grows out of a ruthless or lifeless environment. OASES is exactly like that, except you are not escaping a peril, surviving the wilderness, or struggling against adversity. You are diving into death, in the last living moments of a pilot’s flight during the Algerian War of Independence. In OASES, death is not a destination you can reach by choice. There is no way for the player to damage the plane or even crash. You don’t get to decide when to stop the action. The game starts and ends on a rousing soundtrack, “just like a clip,” says Armel Gibson, the lead designer. No matter how much the player enjoys the scenery and would like to explore the surrealist landscapes, the flight will stop at the end of the track. “It’s not purely a trip,” says Armel. “It is death. You can’t fight it. It happens and you can’t do anything about it.” This death-bound pilot is in fact Armel’s grandfather, whom Armel himself has never met. In collaboration with visual artist Dziff and game composer Calum Bowen,

Armel created OASES as a way of coming to terms with the unknown circumstances of his grandfather’s death. A pilot for the French army in 1960, Armel’s grandfather was reported MIA during a recon flight. Almost nobody knew him and there remains no material trace of him, no tangible sign of his existence except for few old pictures. His story is taboo within Armel’s family; even his first-born child never got a chance to meet him. In OASES, you will also not see him in person.

about death here. Like El Día de los Muertos in Mexico, where death is celebrated with music, food, and gatherings, death here is real and present, pictured with a lot of living colors. Ultimately, the game is an opportunity to interpret and perform a different ritual around death. There is nothing sad or hurtful in this story. This is not a tragedy. Armel doesn’t want you to mourn his grandfather or recall your dead ones. OASES is an answer that provides a personal story fragment to a question-filled family episode that no one has any tangible memory or knowledge of. It is at the same time a form of individual therapy and its very expression. For its creator, OASES is a unique way of making sense of death, without pain, sadness, and isolation, but with creativity, imagination, and in collaboration with people he loves.

When you don’t have any memory of cherished people, you eventually create them. Although OASES is deeply personal it is also unfamiliar and distant – like a unexplored memory. "This is what I like to imagine happened,” says Armel of his grandfather’s death. Colourful, vibrant, oneiric, rhythmic, expressive, open… Armel’s vision of that final flight feels like a dive into a pleasant dream or a sweet and harmless drug trip. “The story has evolved by itself since my childhood and I wanted the game to offer different sceneries and environments each time one plays it,” says Armel. There is nothing cold or ominous 26

Yo u c a n d o w n l o a d a n d play OASES on Ar mel G i b s o n ’s i t c h . i o p a g e : OASES

these stories and game mechanics. You shall feel dread at the rattle of my scythe, and gnaw your keyboard as you try to decide whether to sacrifice your beloved NPC or yourself. And in the end, you may choose to die purely for the sake of the story to continue. (Oh, this will be fun.) When was the last time you died in a game and thought: "This can't be how it ends?" Never. Because dying doesn't usually mean death. Not for you, but for your character of course. I'll just handle you as one, as you're both my job. But for you to think "this can't be how it ends," a game needs more than permadeath. Just mind this word: Permadeath. A questionable attempt to recreate the meaning of yours truly, after turning me into a gameplay element. Hah! I presume you'd miss me after all. Nothing against the gameplay element. I'd be bored to death – pun intended – if I only played characters who can't die at all. What I don't excuse is cowardice: Edging around the lingering knowledge that I am waiting for everyone in the end. I'm not even sorry about your guinea pig. I'm beyond being sorry. I've got a job, and I don't like it being a shallow and dull formality. I want death in games to be interesting again. Mortals like you are sissies when it comes about dealing with death, because it means feeling pain over losing someone, be that your guinea pig or the NPC who grew on you. Of course that's not the same as losing a real friend – it's a game, I get it. But that's no excuse for a game designer to shrug my presence off

going badass together with Vernon Roche, and have to choose between saving your helpful love interest Triss by letting Vernon head into a deadly rescue mission by himself; or helping Vernon and knowingly leave Triss to torture and a likely execution. There is no right or wrong. No philosophy or morality will help you. That's when I'll be on edge, eagerly awaiting you to lead me to my prey. That's the fun part. The final decision.

bit late. That's not pleasant. Still no morality there: You identify with one person a lot easier than with many. If there lies one dead NPC after a tough fight, you give them some sort of credit. Given the choice, you'd probably leave them alive, like Logain in one of the endings of Dragon Age Origins. There are mods for several Elder Scrolls games that make it possible for NPCs to yield and even offer you their loot just to escape with only their panties and their life. They're a bit less dumb that way, right? Less dumb also means more dangerous and harder to judge in advance; not everyone might yield. You would, I presume. I believe I saw you run often enough. You would run in real life as well. Do me the favor. In a job like mine, watching the manifold ways mortals try to escape me is my only entertainment.

Many games get that, but so few make use of this situation. Some try. Fable 3, for example, let you decide the death of your talky girlfriend or some innocent people, but unlike The Witcher, they didn't prepare the situation thoroughly. Fable just set the stage, pretended that you cared about talky girlfriend, then summoned me to wait for your next click. Well, I give a damn. There was none of the impact that I like about my job.

Oh, okay, there's one thing I like even more: Watching how people go mad over dying or not. Facing me seems to be a terrible prospect. (Is it my looks? ... Mirrors go blind in my presence.) Most of you mortals back off when you encounter your dead ones, even if they don't shamble through the streets trying to eat your brains. All you know for certain is the ugly part that comes after my scythe.

By impact, I mean this: You grinding your teeth, biting your tongue, crying out "nooo!" so your roomie asks what's wrong. Impact as in personal immersion. Caring. Choices. Dilemma. The inevitable. For that's what I am – inevitable – and what games seem to blur and diminish ever so often. I am The End. Yours too, by the way. As well as The End of the many game opponents you kill (never again ask what I need a scythe for).

Even uglier is facing the truth: How people slaughter one other. That you killed. You can always tell yourself that it is only a game. But you needed a game to force you to face your mirror. Spec Ops – The Line deals with death and killing at many levels, and most of all with its

I'm not going to lecture you on morality. I have no use for moral nitpicking. Although, it's nice to know that I can use that moral nitpicking upon you to entertain myself. No, I'm not cruel. Just bored. And a bit 27

I shall employ different ways to get back into your games to deal with your Alter Ego directly. One is to get you to sacrifice yourself at the end for the sake of others. The Skythian from Sword&Sworcery does. It works even without having an actual choice. I'm not overly eager about people thinking that their death solves matters; the story must fit. It does in the case of the Skythian. I revel as players realise that they don't gain but lose maximum health as the game proceeds. Step by step, I come closer. The best dance with me was in the Nameless in Planescape: Torment. I've got my fingers in this story everywhere: When the Nameless awakens on a dissection table among mummified bodies; when he discovers that he cannot die; when he finds out what he did in his past incarnations; and when he finds out that he doesn't have much time left to regain his mortality, or get caught up in a Fate Worse Than Death forever. He will learn the answer to the riddle "what truly changes a man": To lose mortality. Perhaps you will think about the Nameless when you reload next time, you wannabe immortal. You play character-based games because you're intrigued by the experience of extremes and exploration of the unknown. Try The Last Door, for example, a game that carries the spirit of Lovecraftian horror so well that I linger around not only to pick the dead characters off. As they say, death is only the beginning.

and to comfort you… I think that's much scarier than dying. We're a social species, right? I think being lonely is inherently pretty scary so to have your last moment be that sort of panic... It just seems pretty horrifying to me. I think that's what this story is about. There're a lot of ways to write a story about dying, right, but the scary thing about the Bradbury story is that they know they’re going to die, but they’re not about to die. They have to sorta wait it out. So it’s not just that they’re going to die alone, it’s that they’re going to be completely alone while just waiting for it. K: Sunburn!, on the other hand, is much more purposeful. You have this sense of control in the game and a mission that makes it kinda cute. It makes it feel like it’s a fate you have chosen and so it's not as bleak.

b y K r y s t l e Wo n g

D: Sunburn! was almost a sort of a reaction to the Bradbury story. I mean, I like the story, I don’t mean it as a critique of the story. I just mean the idea behind Sunburn! is more about finding togetherness than it is about exploring that terror of dying alone. The Bradbury story struck me as powerful and was really just a jumping-off point.


ou're in space. You're the captain of a space exploration team. You have with you a crew of men and women as well as a cat and a dog on the ship. Then your ship explodes, spitting everyone out into the dark, ever-expanding universe. You're the only one with a jet-pack; the rest of your crew is scattered around helplessly on barren planets. There's no food, no water, no way back to earth. What's a captain to do? "One option remains," says Sunburn! on their website ( "Gather your crew... And jump into the sun." In the literal and darkly funny universe of indie mobile game Sunburn!, your worst fear isn't dying – it's dying alone. I speak to Brooklyn-based Diego Garcia, who came up with the game's concept and design, and ask him what that's all about.

K: It’s very redeeming actually. It’s a redeeming take on the Bradbury story. D: Yeah, we tried to make it feel a little bit warm and friendly rather than empty and scared. K: Do you think we’re more okay with the certainty of death if we get to choose the timing and method of it? D: I think that’s part of it. Like I said, I like to think of the game as making the best out of a bad situation. Sometimes when we show the game, people are upset that it’s about dying. They think it’s so dark and grim. I see why people feel that way but it’s not a grim thing to me. It’s about taking control of that situation and finding the best option and being with people you care about at the end.

connection to the world is dropping out. But it just seemed too dark. For me, the way to deal with dark stuff is generally humor. So I thought it D: That Ray Bradbury short story would be better to make it happy (editor's note: Kaleidoscope) was a and give it a comedic feel. The thing big part of it. Have you read it? I compare it to is that scene in Toy Story 3, where they all know they K: Yeah, I have. are about to die and they sort of D: That was a book that was given to accept it–they decide they're going to meet their fate together. I wanted me. I really like the sense of loneto make something that's a little bit liness and uncertainty in it, and more about making the best of a bad I wanted to try and make it into situation and finding togetherness a game. I think the horror in the Bradbury story comes from this idea in that last moment. that they're all drifting away from K: Tell me a little bit more about each other alone and being totally that. Like, at what point does alone in this vast emptiness. What's loneliness become scarier than interesting is that they can still death itself? communicate. So they're discussing their individual terrors and freakD: I don't know if it's necessarily ing out, but they're still connected scarier to be lonely, to me. But I over their communication devices. think the idea of dying completely And then devices start to cut out. alone with no one knowing where That's the scary part for me. You you are and you having no idea can't see anything, you're alone and where you are in relation to other disoriented and just like in a dark people, just having no one to talk to space. And slowly one by one your K: What is Sunburn! about?


K: So what did people say when you first came up with this story? D: We came up with it at the game center while we were at school. I had pitched the original concept which was a little different but had the same sort of basic underlying idea. At the game centre, I think people understood it. But once we started to show it at festivals and tech events that weren’t necessar-

ily games-focused... I think people hear the concept and they’re so, like, repelled by the idea that you’re supposed to die. That dying was the goal. Some people say like: "It’s too sad", or "Why can’t they survive at the end?" or "You should make it so that you just land on a planet and like live there." Build a colony there or whatever. And we thought about that at one point ‘cos we were a little worried that it would be received poorly when we released it. But we decided that sticking to our guns was a better idea. The other thing people say is like: "That’s so twisted! That’s hilarious and gruesome!" And that’s fine too but that’s just not the way I see it. K: Given all those initial reactions, what made you guys choose suicide over survival as the goal? D: The whole reason we started to make the game was because of this concept. It wasn’t a game that began with people jumping from planet to planet and it’d be funny if you were dying. It was the other way around. We wanted to make a game about dying with your friends instead of dying alone. So it had always been a driving force and we were reluctant to move away from it at any point. And the other thing was that, promotionally, in terms of PR, it makes the game stand out in a big way. Just the headline, right? "In this game, you die to win." That on its own is a little bit unique. And when people play a little bit deeper and realise that it’s not a joke or a twisted dark thing...I think it sticks with people a little bit more. K: It seems like an obvious thing once you say it out loud. Not a lot of games are doing this, if any at all. Why aren’t there more games that turn death on its head? D: I wonder if… I don’t know why there aren’t more. I think the ones that do tend to be the twisted gruesome versions. Like there was a flash game that was really popular where you were a businessman and had to kill yourself on every level. I think people are just starting now to make games that are a little more personal and about the darker, lonelier things they think about. And I think in terms of marketing it can be hard, maybe for the same reasons that made us think about switching. When you get people who feel strongly against your idea but you’re trying to make something with mass appeal, you’re taking a risk to some extent. K: It looks like most people are loving Sunburn!.

“Aroooooof!” 29

“It's so bright!” D: The response has been really positive. K: When you’re in the game, there is this one moment when you’re jumping from planet to planet, you're collecting all your teammates, you’re holding both sides of the screen down, and you’re just about to make the final jump… Have you ever experienced this strange tension just before releasing yourself into the sun? Where you're just like: "What would it be like to live? We’re all together now." D: I personally haven’t really felt that. I do like enjoy walking around with a big string of people and listening to them talk, watching them float around. I have seen people in playtests and people playing the game joke about that. Like: "I’m just going to stay here." K: Like: I’m just going to be happy. And not win the game. Because being together and being alive is...winning? D: Exactly. (laughs) Eventually they get bored and they go to the next level. But some people do say they just wanna stay on the planet. And sometimes people don’t get the goal immediately either. So they all just kinda hang out on a planet, wondering what to do. Early on, that kept happening. And occasionally it still happens with people that don’t have that much experience with games. K: Could it be that at that final jump, people are thinking: "I’ve saved everyone. I've done all the acrobatics. I've beaten the physics. I've kept myself alive. Just to die." D: Sometimes people get to the end and decide they just want to hang out and get bored. But no, I haven’t seen anyone really hesitate. I do like the moment when someone has been playing through 10 levels and then it suddenly occurs to them, dawns on them, that they’ve been killing themselves every level, like they haven’t even been paying attention to that fact. Then that’s kinda interesting, when they’re like: "OHHH weird. I’m actually killing myself every level. This is strange." K: Over and over again. Yeah. D: I don’t know. I like that. I’m curious how it feels for other people.

K: I find it interesting that you’re basically alive again in every level and that you have to die again in every level. Was that level structure something you guys decided on early on or did you also consider making a longer game where everyone dies after several levels?

K: OHHHHHHHH. D: But that just felt like it went against the message of the game. It felt too much like that twisted idea that we didn’t want to do. K: That would be killing off all hope. D: Yeah. It just felt mean. And also I think a fairly low percentage of the people who play the game will beat all those 60 levels. So we didn’t feel it was worth our production time to do something like that.

D: The original concept went through a lot of different versions. The first concept I pitched was sort of like a Peggle-style puzzle game where you would place your ship and blow it up and astronauts would fly out and you would have to place the ships in such a way that it would pull them into the sun. Once we started doing this platformer-y 2D planet-hopper, our idea was to make a longer Zelda-structured game, moving through sectors and exploring space. In that version, it wasn’t that you all had to die together but that you had to create groups of people. The idea was that instead of having the captain die with the crew, you would fly towards the sun and cut the rope so the crew would go and die in a group but you’d go to the next sector and find more people there. But it just seemed more complicated and it would have required more buttons and it felt a little less elegant. So we moved to this sort of level structure where you die at the end of each level. We had thought about ways to make the captain live and move to the next level, but ultimately we decided that it didn’t matter that much, that it was fine to have the captain back alive at each level.

K: I'm guessing most people would choose survival over suicide. But this is one of those situations where you’re forced to prefer one over the other. D: Yeah I think the idea in this game is there isn’t an option for survival? I mean you can stay on an oxygenated planet but you’re still going to starve to death. You just have to make use of the least terrible way to end this situation that you’re in. K: Do you think deaths in games feel trivial? D: I think it can. It depends how much the game is about the characters. Which is something we thought about in our game. Originally all the astronauts looked the same and they all shared the same kind of randomised dialogue they could say. The game definitely felt more powerful after we designed them each to be individuals and gave them their own personalities and dialogue. I’m not sure how much people pay attention to that and get that. But it’s something that we’ve thought about.

K: When you reach the final level. You kinda get it. This is the end now. There won’t be a new sector for me to mess around in. It feels a real death then.

D: It’s so funny. The main time people hesitate and don’t want to kill anybody, don’t want to finish the level, is when it’s a cat or dog level. First time they see the cat and the dog. People feel really sad. They’re FINE with killing people, but with a dog, it’s not okay. K: (laughing) Why?! D: No idea. I think maybe because… I wonder if it’s like… When you see a pixel art person, it’s like, that’s an abstraction. But when you see a cute animal, for some reason, maybe because animals don’t talk and can’t really communicate with you, there’s just some connection that’s different.


K: Maybe with animals, it’s that they don't get to choose. We choose their fate for them. D: Right, yeah. That’s part of it.

19 --------------------------------------14 ------------------------The pain is intense, but dull, distant somehow. Just as quickly as you noticed its presence, it dissipates and is replaced by a heat that borders on unbearable until all sensation fades away.


A brief wave of anxiety washes over you as your eyes trace the two marks. “This is it…” you think to yourself. “Barely sixteen and a noose around my neck… Happy birthday to me I guess!” ----------------------------------------› Continue... (go to 9) --------------------------------------


The re-life process complete, a tickmark tattoo is added to your left wrist, a mark definitely worth keeping track of. ---------------------------› Continue… (go to 0) ----------------------------

K: I think it works. It’s adorable. I like that there’s a cat and a dog.

D: Yeah. We thought about doing an ending. Like a cut-scene or something. At one point in the original we had a screenshot that said thank you and it had like ghosts and shrapnel dancing in space. For the iOS version, we also thought of doing a cut-scene. One idea was to have the captain go into a wormhole on the last level, and instead of going towards the sun, you’d be going towards earth.

15 ---------------------------------------------[DO NOT PROCEED UNTIL PAYPAL TRANSACTION IS COMPLETE - IF YOU STEAL YOU ARE FIGURATIVELY SMACKING 2/3 OF A BAG OF SNACKS OUT OF THE AUTHOR’S HANDS, AND THAT’S ON YOU BUDDY] You don the magnificent, red, slanted receptacle, tassel flopping whimsically as you skip to the register, pay, and head outside with Lillith. A passerby immediately compliments you as they pass: “Nice fez.”

K: So there was redemption somewhere... D: Well! It was going to be a fadeout. The idea was that you’d be flying towards earth and you'd just burn up in the atmosphere.

»Red Fez« ADDED TO INVENTORY ------------------------------------------------› Continue... (go to 11) -------------------------------------------------



5 International A MAZE. Awards 2016, Nominees th

Over the last six months, we received 210 games from 31 countries for consideration in this year‚ A Maze. awards. And now, after weeks of playing, close to 150 experts, professionals, and journalists have selected the 20 nominees. An international jury will decide the winners of the four award categories: Most Amazing Game Award, Human Human Machine Award, WTF! Award, and Other Dimensions Award.

controllers, the viewer can interact with the beautifully hand-painted environment. Spectres of cars are only visible by drops of rain as they drive through the toll barrier. Are these apparitions? Or has the viewer become a ghost?

Killbox (US/UK) Killbox is an online game and interactive installation that critically explores the nature of drone warfare and its complexities and consequences. It is an experience that explores the use of technology to transform and extend political and military power, and the abstraction of killing through virtualisation. Killbox involves audiences in a fictionalised interactive experience in virtual environments based on documented drones strikes in Northern Pakistan. The work is an international collaboration between US-based artist and activist Joseph DeLappe, and Scotland-based artists and game developers Malath Abbas, Tom Demajo, and Albert Elwin.

Cosmic Top Secret (DK) Cosmic Top Secret is a unique documentary adventure game about family secrets. You play T, who wants to know what her father did for the Danish intelligence during the Cold War. By flicking T through an authentic Cold War flotsam with playful mechanics, you ask yourself: “Who am I? Did I inherit anything important from my parents that I’m not aware of?” You will help T master her fragile paper existence by training military disciplines like spy-flying and code-breaking and T will gradually move closer to the heart of the story and her personal revelation. The work is a collaboration between Trine Laier, Mads Lyngvig Jespersen, Lise Saxtrup, and Bjørn Svin.


Vignettes (FR)

Codex Bash (UK)


Esper 2 (UK)

Antioch (FR)

DYO is a co-op puzzle platformer for two players. You play minotaurs trying to escape their maze. Merge your screens to rearrange the level’s structure and form a new path to the exit.

Vignettes is a toyish surprise-o-rama with neither text nor characters, in which an object shapeshifts as the player spins it around, revealing the underlying story. This game is made by Pol Clarissou and Armel Gibson.

One physical space, four big buttons, and codes to be cracked! Decipher the on-screen clues and run around to bash the buttons in the hidden sequence. You may have to decrypt symbols, unpick circuit diagrams or rifle through spy photos, but one thing’s for sure: the best codebreakers work as a team! This game is made by Alistair Aitcheson.

GNOG is a puzzle game set across a universe of playfully interactive monster heads. Explore a myriad of unique interconnected heads and the worlds they carry within, as you try to decipher each one’s quirks and advance to the next level. This game is created by KO_OP.

You are an agent of the enigmatic ESPR organisation, which was set up to deal with the outbreak of telekinetic abilities among ‘special’ citizens and with the consequences of the event. You’ll venture to exotic locations, including the outer reaches of your mind, as you attempt to thwart a villain’s quest to obtain a mysterious artefact. This game is created by Coatsink Software.

Antioch is an online cooperative interactive fiction game. You’ll play as one of two detectives working together to solve an intriguing crime. The adventure will bring you to the city of Antioch, a dark metropolis surrounded by mountains and the sea. This game is created by MiClos Studio.

Dr. Langeskov, The Tiger, and The Terribly Cursed Emerald: A Whirlwind Heist (UK/DE)

Land’s End (UK)

W.U.R.M: Escape From A Dying Star (ES)

Land’s End is a virtual reality adventure from the creators of Monument Valley. Set against spectacular landscapes, the player is tasked with awakening an ancient civilization using the powers of their mind. Land’s End combines Ustwo Games’ award-winning approach to interactive storytelling with Samsung Gear VR, creating an incredible virtual reality experience that you can take anywhere.

W.U.R.N. is a player-immersive space survival game that takes place in a future where the sun is dying. Custom wearable electronics, a life-size space pod, and a generative audio-visuals place each player inside a psychedelic, interactive experience based on the transfer of information between the two participants. This experimental game is created by Mónica Rikić, Jessica Blanchet, Grayson Earle, Dawn Hang Yue Wong, and Peter van Haaften.

A 15-minute heist game by Crows Crows Crows, Dr. Langeskov, The Tiger, and The Terribly Cursed Emerald is directed by William Pugh (The Stanley Parable). Slip into the soft-soled shoes of the mastermind responsible for the greatest heist…… Oh god I can’t do this any more, I’m joining the strike. Good luck writing the game description.

Wheels of Aurelia (IT)


Diorama No. 3 The Marchland (NL)

Apply for asylum in a city filled with strange creatures. This game is made by Tristan Neu and Gabriel Helfenstein from Outlands Games.

Wheels of Aurelia is a narrative road-trip game set in the roaring Italian 70’s. Half racing game, half interactive fiction, it tells the story of Lella, a restless woman driving on the roads of the western coast of Italy, the famous Via Aurelia. This game is made by Santa Ragione.

Lieve Oma (FR) Lucid Trips: Whateverland (DE) Lucid Trips is a virtual reality project that takes place in planetary dreamworlds. Every planet is an individual “trip” in the constantly expanding universe of dreams. All interaction and navigation such as walking, jumping, climbing, swimming, and flying is possible through our hand-walking character controller. On the first Dreamplanet Whateverland, it’s all about art exploration. This is a VR game by VR Nerds, which includes Nico Uthe, Sara Lisa Vogl, and Sebastian Hinz.

My grandmother is probably the most important person ever to me, as she provided me with the stability and care a child needs when growing up. We all have or have had people help us become a responsible and caring person. This short narrative game is an ode to these people, and more specifically, to my grandmother. The game is developed by Florian Veltmann.

A Normal Lost Phone (FR) You’ve just found a smartphone. Find out the truth. This game is made by Accidental Queens.

Genital Jousting: A MAZE. Grand Prize Winning Game (SA/ NO) DYG (US)

A (slightly) adult-themed competitive local multiplayer game for up to 8 players. The game is about up to 8 dicks playing around in an actual rumpus. Add 8 dildo-shaped joys-dicks, friends, and alcohol, and it will be a fun event in itself! This game is created by Evan Greenwood and Martin Kvale.

Labour in the field. An art piece by Burgess Voshell.

The Marchland is the third installment in Dutch artist Daniël Ernst’s ongoing Diorama series. In Marchland, Ernst puts the viewer inside a toll booth before which the unseen passes by. Using motion



Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes (CA) One player is trapped in a virtual room with a ticking time bomb they must defuse. The other players are “experts” who must give the instructions to defuse the bomb by deciphering the information found in the bomb defusal manual. But there’s a catch: The experts can’t see the bomb, so everyone will need to talk it out – fast! This game is by Steel Crate Games.

Cumulus Omni

Das Netzwerk für


Clouds are momentary, always shifting, always in motion. Thus, naming clouds is futile. As they are never the same cloud again. Nearly as futile as typing in games from newspapers in 2016. But it is exactly what we are going to do. This little toy will generate a recursive point-based cloud at runtime, a three syllable name for it and render spinning around slowly using WebGL on a lightly coloured , square canvas. And it even comes with a short backstory I envisioned for it.



You died. But as your sins were light, and your LinkedIn profile looked promising, you got a really light punishment to atone for your little misdeeds. You are tasked with naming clouds. Forever. But as an IT professional, you quickly came up with this little tool to help you out in your task. But as there are no computers where you are, you can only write it down. And here it is. Type-ins might be a thing of the past, but I really hope this will provide a bit of fun especially on a way home, on a plane, where there’s no internet connection and clouds are too bright too look at. Type it into your favourite text editor and save as a HTML file. Open it with a web browser and refresh the page to generate a new cloud. If the performance is not satisfactory, look for number 13 and lower it, but not below the number that follows it directly! Have fun! - Sos <div id="top"> <canvas width="800" height="800"></canvas> <div id="txt"></div> </div> <style> #top { position: relative; margin: 20 auto; width: 800px; } #txt { text-shadow: #ccc 0px 0px 32px; opacity: 0; width: 800px; position: absolute; bottom: 0; text-align: center; font-size: 200px; color: white; } canvas { box-shadow: #888 0px 0px 32px; } </style> <script type="text/javascript"> // Helper for faster typing! function rnd() {return Math.random();} // HTML elements var txt var canvas var gl

= document.getElementById("txt"); = document.getElementsByTagName("canvas")[0]; = canvas.getContext("webgl");

// Fun with shaders var vs = gl.createShader(gl.VERTEX_SHADER); var fs = gl.createShader(gl.FRAGMENT_SHADER); gl.shaderSource(vs, " \ attribute vec4 vtx,nrm; \ uniform float angle,time; \ varying vec4 normal; \ void main(void) { \ vec4 v = vtx; \ v.x = vtx.x * cos(angle) - vtx.z * sin(angle); \ v.z = vtx.x * sin(angle) + vtx.z * cos(angle); \ v -= 2.1 * nrm * (1.0-time);\ normal = vec4(,time); \ gl_Position = vec4(, 1.0); \ gl_PointSize = vtx.w * time; \ }"); gl.shaderSource(fs, " \ precision lowp float; \ varying vec4 normal; \ void main(void) { \ float dist = distance(gl_PointCoord,vec2(.5,.5)); \ if (dist>.5) discard; \ float light = sqrt(.6 + .4* dot(normalize(,\ normalize(vec3(-1.0,1.0,-1.0))));\ gl_FragColor = vec4(light,light,light,normal.a*normal.a);\ }"); gl.compileShader(vs); gl.compileShader(fs); var program = gl.createProgram(); gl.attachShader(program, vs); gl.attachShader(program, fs); gl.linkProgram(program); gl.useProgram(program);


LEITFÄDEN program.vtx = gl.getAttribLocation(program, "vtx"); program.nrm = gl.getAttribLocation(program, "nrm"); gl.enableVertexAttribArray(program.nrm); gl.enableVertexAttribArray(program.vtx); program.angle = gl.getUniformLocation(program, "angle"); program.time = gl.getUniformLocation(program, "time");


// WebGL setup gl.viewportWidth gl.viewportHeight

= canvas.width; = canvas.height;


gl.enable( gl.DEPTH_TEST ); gl.depthFunc( gl.LESS ); gl.enable( gl.BLEND ); gl.blendEquation( gl.FUNC_ADD ); gl.blendFunc( gl.SRC_ALPHA, gl.ONE_MINUS_SRC_ALPHA );

achen! Jetzt mitm www.biu-o info@biu-o

gl.viewport(0, 0, gl.viewportWidth, gl.viewportHeight); gl.clearColor(.9+rnd()*.1, .9+rnd()*.1, .9+rnd()*.1, 1.0); // Simple recursive cloud generation var num_vertices = 0, vertices = []; function build_cloud(sx,sy,sz, nx,ny,nz, branches,size,length, depth,skip) { for (var c=0; c < branches && depth; c++) { var phi = rnd()*rnd() * Math.PI - Math.PI * .5; var theta = rnd() * Math.PI * 2; var dx = Math.cos(theta) * Math.cos(phi) * length; var dy = -Math.sin(phi) * length; var dz = Math.sin(theta) * Math.cos(phi) * length; build_cloud(sx+dx, sy+dy, sz+dz, nx*.75+dx, ny*.75+dy, nz*.75+dz, branches, size * .72, length * .76, depth-1, skip-1); } if (skip>0) return; vertices.push(sx, sy, sz, size); vertices.push(nx, ny, nz, 1.0); num_vertices++; } build_cloud(0,-.5,0, 0,0,0, 3,300.0,.3, 13,10);


Anzeigen_BIU_AMAZE_V10.indd 2

Ein Service des BIU – Bundesverband Interaktive Unterhaltungssoftware

01.03.16 16:32

19 ---------------------------------------

A brief wave of anxiety washes over you as your eyes trace the two marks. “This is it…” you think to yourself. “Barely sixteen and a noose around my neck… Happy birthday to me I guess!” -----------------------------------------› Continue... (go to 9) ------------------------------------------

// Creating and populating vertex buffers var buffer = gl.createBuffer(); gl.bindBuffer(gl.ARRAY_BUFFER, buffer); gl.bufferData(gl.ARRAY_BUFFER, new Float32Array(vertices), gl.STATIC_DRAW); gl.vertexAttribPointer(program.vtx, 4, gl.FLOAT, false, 32, 0); gl.vertexAttribPointer(program.nrm, 4, gl.FLOAT, true, 32, 16); // Naming the cloud var syllables = "kakikukekotatitutetosasisuseso"+ "naninunenohahifuhehunaninuneno"+ "mamimumemoyabiyubeyolalilulelobabibubebo"; for (var c=0;c<3;c++) txt.innerHTML+= " " + syllables.substr(Math.floor(rnd()*syllables.length*.5 )*2,2); // Putting everything on screen var angle=0,time=0,font=0; function run() { gl.clear(gl.COLOR_BUFFER_BIT | gl.DEPTH_BUFFER_BIT); gl.drawArrays(gl.POINTS, 0, num_vertices); angle += .001; if ( angle > .1 ) font += .003; time = time + (1.0-time) * .035; = (font).toString(); gl.uniform1f(program.angle, angle); gl.uniform1f(program.time, time); gl.flush(); setTimeout(run,10); } run();

Das Netzwerk der deutschen Games-Branche.





A MAZE. Magazine No.3 - EU Edition: Death  

Death in all its different shades is obviously a big part of our video-game world. There are many points of interest as to why we chose this...

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