2016 was a pretty interesting year for games: with the rise of VR and announcements about new generation consoles, there’s a lot more going on for gaming than in previous years. I didn’t get to play everything that I wanted to (of course), and although I played a lot of AAA games as well, I’m trying to spend more time looking at indie offerings. Here (in no particular order) is a quick list of some of the indie games that I played last year and would recommend:
Inside is a side-scrolling puzzle/platform game from indie studio Playdead, where you control a boy who, from the first scene, is being chased by soldiers, dogs and scientists. Although the narrative doesn’t do much to explain what’s happening, you do get to wear mind control helmets to move zombies around to solve puzzles, and there’s an underlying commentary about autonomy and ownership. The art is minimal, with the setting being mostly black and gray, except for your character and interactable objects. Likewise, there’s very little soundtrack, with only audio cues, and the sound of your character’s footsteps, which really adds to how eerie the setting is.
This one came out in 2014 but I only got around to playing it in 2016. There are lots of games about war, but This War of Mine is unique in that you play as non-combatant residents of a war-torn city–all the fighting you do is for your day-to-day survival. I think this one hit home particularly hard because I started playing as the Siege of Aleppo was intensifying at the end of the year, and there are some incredibly heartbreaking choices you have to make. It’s not a game I would say I enjoyed per se, but I think it is definitely one that is worth playing for the lessons in empathy, understanding and acceptance it can teach. (And if that’s not emotionally wrenching enough for you, there’s now an expansion called This War of Mine: The Little Ones where you experience the besieged city through the eyes of a child.)
Overcooked is a great little cooking game where couch cooperation is key to success–it’s not enough to just be good at the game as an individual; where it gets fun (and tricky and frustrating) is playing with a group of up to three other players, where you have to navigate a kitchen without bumping into each other to source, prepare, cook and serve food. With some clever mechanics that focus on teamwork and cooperation, hilarity (and a little bit of rage) ensues.
I absolutely love Unravel. It’s probably the most visually stunning game on this list, and it’s a little game with a lot of heart. You play as Yarny, an anthromorphic ball of yarn who—as the name suggests—unravels as he traverses across levels, using his yarn to solve puzzles and move objects around. The mechanics in the game are pretty straightforward, but what ties Unravel together (if you forgive the pun) is how lovely it is. The story is poignant and bittersweet, but it is incredibly clear that the developers really put their love into making it the game that they wanted. Also, you’d never imagine that a ball of red yarn could have so much emotion and personality.
I’m a huge fan of adventure games, but the majority of them that I’ve played are of the point-and-click variety. Firewatch is almost like a grownup version of that, with a mystery that drives the story and a first-person perspective that works surprisingly well for the narrative and the puzzles. You play as Henry, a volunteer lookout for Shoshone National Park, and your only means of connection to the outside world is via a walkie-talkie. As you patrol your part of the park, you discover a whole host of different storylines that interweave. I really enjoyed the way Firewatch set up dialog trees so that your responses in your conversations would drive how your experience in the game evolved.
Salt and Sanctuary
If you like the grindiness of games like Dark Souls, but set in a 2D platformer, where you can play cooperatively with your friends (and not just people who invade your game), Salt and Sanctuary might be worth checking out. It’s a hard game, but there are lots of player customizations, and playing with your friends helps soften the blow of the many, many, times that you’ll die in the game.
The Flame in the Flood is a roguelike survival game, where you play as Scout, a survivor in a flooded, post-apocalyptic America where the land has been transformed into a series of islands that she has to traverse on a makeshift raft. As she and her dog Aesop travel down the river, Scout has to contend with wild animal attacks, snakebites, hunger, and staying warm and dry, all the while as she uncovers the mystery of where everyone went during the rapture. What keeps the game together is the river, which varies between calm streams to rushing rapids that you have to maneuver through to get to the next destination. Will it take you where you want to go? Or will you be dashed upon rocks? I also highly recommend the soundtrack for The Flame in the Flood; I didn’t stop listening to it for weeks after I finished the campaign.
What did you play in 2016 that you enjoyed? Are there any other indie games that you would recommend? Let us know in the comments below! Happy gaming for 2017!
If one of your resolutions for the new year* was to support a nonprofit that supports women and girls in STEAM fields, comics, games, and other geekdoms, now’s the chance to act on it.
GeekGirlCon is looking for volunteers for 2017! With our well-documented convention expansion last year, we were looking to hire more Agents than ever before, and we’ve also brought on more staff to support the organization year-round.
This could be you. (Image source: GeekGirlCon Flickr)
We have even loftier plans for 2017, and bigger plans means a bigger army of dedicated, awesome volunteers. We’d love for you to join us for a whole plethora of reasons. Because we’re an amazing organization and an even better community. Because we’re dedicated to being able to make room for what we love doing. Because the representation of women and girls in all forms of geekery matters. Because we’re going to need all the help we can get.
If you’re at all familiar with the behind-the-scenes of GeekGirlCon, you know that this magical force of feminist geekery is the product of hours and hours of volunteered time, energy, and talent. While this structure has worked remarkably well for over six years, it does require an immense amount of devotion and generosity from those volunteers on a week-to-week (and sometimes even day-to-day or hour-to-hour) basis. It’s a daunting workload to say the least.
With this year comes an exciting change for GeekGirlCon. In addition to retaining our current year-round volunteer staff, we will be welcoming a new Executive Director. This will be GeekGirlCon’s first full-time, paid position. Join us in celebrating this addition to our team as we science the night away at the Living Computers Museum in Seattle on Saturday, February 4 from 6:30 to 9:00 p.m.
This gathering is free and open to the public, so bring your friends, your family, your dates. We’ll be enjoying the excellent exhibits, some good music, and tasty treats, all while reveling in the community we’ve created.
The Living Computers Museum and Labs houses the world’s largest collection of fully restored, usable supercomputers, mainframes, minicomputers, and microcomputers. There are also exhibits centered around robotics, virtual reality, artificial intelligence, self-driving cars, big data, video-game making, and digital art. It’s a truly auspicious place to introduce this community to our new Executive Director, and we couldn’t be more excited to come together for such a cool celebration.
We will be releasing more information as we get closer to the event, so keep an eye out on our blog, Facebook, and Twitter for that. Until then, mark your calendars, register for GeekGirlCon ’17, and allow yourself to geek out about new and old technology and prospect of GeekGirlCon’s bright future.
Ah, the transportive joy of reading. It is frequent geek girl companion, and one of my favorite topics in the whole world.
Many geeky people use the new year as a time to set reading goals, make lists, visit bookstores and libraries, and decide how many books they can cram into their brain before the ball drops on another year.
Although I’ve never been the kind to set a physical book goal, I love to journey into new realms of reading, filling my mind and my bookshelf with undiscovered worlds and new pockets of thought, feeling, and idea.
Choosing what to read next is similar to journeying through the wild west: limitless paths with distractions, surprises, and discoveries around every corner. While this “shoot-from-the-hip” style certainly keeps things interesting, it doesn’t make for very intentional explorations of genres, authors, or themes.
As a writer, and a fictional writer at that, reading takes up a great deal of my time. I love perusing the shelves at the local bookstore, searching for new books to add to my library. In celebration of a fresh start as we welcome 2017, I set a fairly lofty goal for myself: to read at least one book per week, aside from the arsenal I already read in professional pursuits. I set this resolution in order to force myself to rethink how I utilize my downtime. Whether it’s a more thoughtful memoir by someone I admire, an educational anthology that’ll help inform my work, or an epic fantasy for pure leisure, I want to make sure that I’m actively enriching my mind with a good book.
For those of you who share my love of reading, and have set similar goals for yourselves, I’ve come with an author recommendation that is bound to keep your reading time well occupied.
Last summer I was introduced to the world of Sarah J. Maas. I was immediately enamored with her work, and read everything that she had published (at the time) in the span of one month. To date, Maas has written two stellar young adult series that are ongoing, currently totaling in eight novels, that are bound to interest readers young and old — she’s easily become one of my favorite modern authors. I even included her debut novel, Throne of Glass, as a part of our 2016 Holiday Gift Guide out of admiration.
A manifesto of sorts, I’m going to do my darndest to tell you why these books are absolutely fabulous, and worthy of a good read (all spoiler free!):
Both series take place within the same meta-universe, and are high fantasy “epics” about some pretty stellar girls doing some pretty stellar things. Throne of Glass, which currently sports six novels (one of which is a little collection of short stories that take place before the events of the first novel), and A Court of Thorns and Roses, which currently has two. Both series are scheduled to wrap up this year, with spin-off novels of the latter, ACOTAR, in the future works. That’s over 3,500 pages of material to blast through.
All Geeks, All Games is an event developed by Mox Boarding House to celebrate and promote diversity and inclusiveness in the local gaming community. Everyone is welcome to come by and play board games, play Magic the Gathering, miniature gaming, and more! The event is completely Free!
6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Jan. 5 is opening night at Pioneer Square’s Gallery4Culture, but the exhibition runs through Jan. 26.
David Jaewon Oh’s Combatants captures the strength and honesty of women in combat sports. The sights and sounds of the often male-dominated gyms where they train come to life in this series of intimate photographic portraits that explore personal identity and gender roles.
But I guess that I’m ever the optimist, and even in the face of an uncertain future I look forward to opportunities for changing ourselves for the better. It might not look like much in the grand scheme of things—I mean, what is learning how to crochet really going to do when there are animals on the brink of extinction?—but I believe in progress, even if progress happens to be tiny baby steps that are barely perceivable on a large scale. As long as you keep on moving, you’re still getting somewhere, as it were.
Hope you’ve had enough time to recover from GeekGirlCon ‘16, because it’s official—GeekGirlCon ‘17 is coming!
On September 30 and October 1, 2017, join us at the Conference Center at the Washington State Convention Center for another two days of geeky goodness. We’ll have everything from cosplay and panels to exhibitors and musical guests. We can’t wait to see you!
I have never been a very avid music listener. I connect more immediately and more deeply to art that tells complete, narrative stories. Because of this tendency (and because of a brief stint as a drama kid in high school) my love for musical music is exponentially more developed than my love for any other specific kind of music. So, naturally, when Hamilton appeared on my radar, I jumped at the chance to love something so cool and so objectively good. And, I did. I loved (and continue to love) it so intensely.
Doctor Who and the holidays will always be intrinsically linked. This may be because of the annual holiday special the show airs every year. Or perhaps this sci-fi mainstay feels so full of festive because of its tone–it’s rare to find a show that is so unfailingly positive in its belief in humanity’s goodness.
Now that the most wonderful time of the year is upon us, it’s time for me to rundown the top five Doctor Who episodes to watch during the holidays.
Instead of picking episodes that all focus on the holiday season, I chose stories that combine thrilling plots, terrifying baddies, and heartwarming lessons to create the perfect “spirit of the season” blend.
So, let’s get to it! No time like the present, unless, of course, it’s the past. Love the past. Good place. You should visit sometime. Are you paying attention? Here we go.