There were, of course, more than six innovative and exciting games showcased at the 12th Annual Games for Change Festival, but these were some of my favorites. The games featured below are a good sample of the new territories games are exploring this year.
This War of Mine is a game that tackles a difficult subject. Players find themselves trying to survive as a civilian in a modern war zone. They must make choices about themselves, their families, and strangers. Some questions have no right answer. For instance: an elderly man has medicine a young girl needs desperately. He won’t give it up. Do you kill him and take the medicine, or do you let the baby girl die?
This War of Mine won the G4C15 Award for Best Gameplay along with Never Alone and That’s Your Right. It is available on Microsoft Windows, Linux, iOS, and Mac.
HappyPlayTime is a sex ed app for young women. This is a game about masturbation—basically self-knowledge about the body and the self. HappyPlayTime’s creator, Tina Gong, presented the game at G4C15. She talked about some of the challenges young women face when it comes to the early sexualization of their bodies and the stigma surrounding female sexuality. We’ve written about sex ed in gaming before.
HappyPlayTime earned first place at G4C15’s pitch event this week. The game is still in beta. So far it will not be sold in the iTunes App Store due to concerns about pornography. This is despite the game’s overt stylization and educational nature. It is, however, available on online here.
Never Alone (Kisima Ingitchuna) is a game made in cooperation between E-Line Media and the Alaskan Iñupiat people—specifically the Cook Inlet Tribal Council. Players follow the story of a young girl named Nuna and a friendly fox as they set off on a quest to discover the source of a terrible blizzard that’s causing the girl’s village to starve. In a G4C15 panel, Amy Fredeen discussed how storytellers and the community came together to help make this game. The game became a way to communicate a story that most people would never experience otherwise. Pixelkin interviewed Grant Roberts of E-Line Media earlier this year.
Never Alone also won this year’s G4C Award for Best Gameplay, along with This War of Mine and That’s Your Right. And it won the Award for Most Significant Impact, along with Zoo U and Mindlight. The game is available on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC (download only).
“The year is 1872. Welcome to the future.” The steampunk game 80 Days is based on Jules Verne’s book “Around the World in 80 Days.” In a panel at G4C, writer Meg Jayanth talked about reading the book as a young girl. Despite her love for the story, she recognized the colonial oppression and white-savior narratives within. She wanted to make a game that would challenge those narratives. Players navigate the world as Phileus Fogg in an interactive adventure that’s as much a critique of the original novel as it is an homage.
The 80 Days game has won tons of awards for its fantastic storytelling, including several BAFTAs and Time Game of the Year 2014. The game is available in the Apple App Store, Google Play, and Kindle Fire.
Bounden is a game more about mechanics than storytelling. Bounden’s desinger, Adriaan De Jongh, gave a talk at G4C15 about how his use of game mechanics causes interactions to happen in real life. In Bounden, two players hold a phone between them and dance along with screen directions. The goal includes a bit of awkwardness as people end up exploring social boundaries.
Zoo U is also a game about social interaction, but in a very different context. This is a social- skills assessment game where players navigate a school and home environment, albeit one filled with zoo animals as well as humans. Players must find ways to deal with bullying, uncomfortable interactions, and rudeness—some of which may come from themselves. Doris Rusch payed Zoo U for the audience at G4C15. She pointed out some of its greatest strengths and some of its limitations. She noted that, while contextualizing social interactions for kids is essential (cooperation isn’t always the best route for every situation), the game does a great job of placing you into real-life situations with real impacts. Zoo U could be especially useful to kids who struggle with social interactions.
Zoo U won the G4C15 Award for Most Significant Impact, along with Never Alone and Mindlight. It is available for purchase here.