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The Indie Game Website January Newsletter

Hello and welcome one and all to something a little bit different. We do a few features on the site, but it’s often directed in a specific way by either the pitch, the interview, or a plethora of other factors. They’re fun, but sometimes it’s nice to branch out.

Sometimes the best content comes from allowing writers a bit of freedom, and with indie coverage generally being overlooked on larger sites, we decided to do something about it.

This is the first edition of our monthly newsletter, which sees three excellent writers finding something in the world of indie games to write about. This month we have Khee Hoon Chan, Ty Galiz-Rowe and Jay Castello joining us.

So, read on, and we very much hope you enjoy what you read and get something out of it. Also, please do share this around if you like it too – there are buttons at the bottom for this very purpose.

Theseus Is All About The Self-Doubts in a Messy Breakup – Khee Hoon Chan

The abject misery of breakups, and the ceaseless spiral of self-doubt that thrashes about in the aching hollowness of your head, do feel like navigating a labyrinthine making of your own personal hell. It’s the perennial conversations you have with yourself, the endless questions that never have the right answers, and the agonising struggle with the impossibility of reconciliation–thoughts that linger in the recesses of your mind.

This recurring nightmare is realised in Theseus, a game by indie developer Sisi Jiang. It’s the tale of the titular mythical prince of Athene, who’s contemplating a breakup with his Minotaur lover, Asterion. You begin as Theseus, standing outside a house you cannot enter, as you gradually make your way towards the end of a labyrinth that you don’t want to reach. Along the way, your disorganised thoughts, as well as exchanges with your Minotaur companion, be they imagined or long bygone, materialise. You waver between returning to the small slice of utopia you have shared with Asterion, and ponder over the fractured paraphernalia of your relationship. And if you ever change your mind about leaving, you can trudge all the way back to the beginning, with your words still hanging in the air. Like an echo.

But the indelible weight of these echoes pile up as you revisit them, sometimes amassing into an unintelligible clutter when you look back at them. Like the incessant thoughts that surface during the depths of the night, they don’t simply crumble into nothingness. And these sights encapsulate the gist of this game: it’s a potent reminder that even the mightiest gods and titans of Greek mythology aren’t immune to the crushing grief of heartache.

Indies and the apocalypse – Ty Galiz-Rowe

The width of genres that indie games can cover is, of course, massive. But I think where indies really shine is in their ability to put forward multiple small takes on the same premise, and come away with a mosaic that is more indicative of what that genre can be than any one huge game could hope to do. The obvious pull here is cyberpunk, but the one that has consistently caught my eye is the post-apocalypse. 

While games like The Last of Us and even Days Gone may steal the attention of audiences looking for fiction about the end of the world, their nature inherently makes it so that they cannot hope to depict the scope of what they’re portraying. For every militaristic settlement, there are likely peaceful ones as well, ones where people are trying to find the best in each other. But why waste time and resources showing that when it’s not The Point?

Instead of looking at a holistic piece of Apocalypse Fiction, I feel we can get such a stronger sense of how things might be by looking at smaller interpretations of the end. Signs of the Sojourner, Nowhere Prophet, and Who We Are Now all have a different vision of what life after a catastrophe might look like, but none of them are necessarily wrong. Rather, they provide a quilt of human imagination and aspiration that we can look to to assess not only how things might go, but how we want them to. 

Something fishy – Jay Castello

Vissekom is a fishbowl complete with a perfectly round, perfectly adorable fish. Every so often, as marked by a countdown in the corner, your fish will get a gift delivery, which you can open. Another mysterious counter will steadily tick up to let you know how many of the 22 possible discoveries you have made.

Other than that, Vissekom is more of a gentle companion than a game, burbling away on a second monitor during work or class. (If you’re my lecturer reading this, no you’re not.) My fishbowl is honestly getting pretty crowded at this point from leaving it open while I do other things, but they don’t seem to mind.

Fish-friends will occupy themselves, too, playing with a party horn or swimming between the weeds, seeming perfectly content to just hang out. After a while, you might get a radio for some extra lofi hip-hop beats to keep you both company. My personal favourite item is the translator, which will let you know just what your new pal is thinking. Spoiler alert: they’re cute.

It’s a sleepy time of the year, and while some people use that to dive into 400 hour RPGs, I find these little companion-games the perfect fit for whiling away the winter months. Even if I do sometimes feel like the horrible kid from Finding Nemo who won’t stop tapping on the glass. It’s just to try to get the key and the treasure chest to bump into each other and find out what’s inside, I swear.

Developers Sokpop put out two of these sorts of games per month, and you can find them on their itch.io page or sign up to automatically receive them via Patreon.