Video games for anarchists
January 20, 2014 7:09 PM   Subscribe

Please tell me about this world of independent, underground, homemade games.

I don't even know what this genre is called. I basically know nothing except some people I follow on twitter make their own video games, I think primarily using something called Twine (which, let me emphasize, I don't know what that is). The main person I know about and have actually played one of her games and enjoyed it is Anna Anthropy.

I would like to play computer games occasionally, and the idea of underground, homemade games sounds very appealing and exciting to me.

I am not a "gamer" meaning I rarely play video games. However, I have very much enjoyed a few games which I will list roughly in order of my playing them:
Numerous text adventure games
Portal II
Katamari Damacy

I am not interested in shooting people in my video games. Besides that, I'm pretty much open to anything.
posted by latkes to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (17 answers total) 37 users marked this as a favorite
What other stuff do you like? What movies, books, etc? The ones you list are pretty eclectic, though most of them don't seem to be very twitchy.

But some shots in the dark: You might also want to check out the offerings in the Humble Bundle, which is a good way to try out a bunch of games from a bunch of indie developers and give to charity at the same time.
posted by NoraReed at 7:24 PM on January 20, 2014

I'm not sure why I like HUGPUNX so much, but I do. It has hugging and lo-res kitties.
posted by scruss at 7:33 PM on January 20, 2014 [5 favorites]

My friend who's way into making his own board games says is a nexus for people that design their own games and critique each other's work.

If you want to learn more about Twine, seems to be the place. It's a tool for letting you create your own games ala Adventure or Zork.
posted by JoeZydeco at 8:00 PM on January 20, 2014

First, you might enjoy this MeFi post.

Twine is basically an engine that makes it relatively user-friendly to make choose-your-own-adventure stories. It's become really popular, notably with people in a certain demographic that I don't quite know how to describe -- I guess young humanities types. This section from the post above has lots of good Twine games, which do tend to have that underground radical spirit I think you might want.

You say you enjoyed text adventures. I'm going to assume you're not aware of the modern "interactive fiction" scene (if you are, ignore this and hopefully it's useful to someone else). You can get an interpreter for your computer or phone, which can play games from the 80s like Zork as well as modern games.

This is definitely the kind of scene you're looking for. Nobody is selling these games anymore, it's mainly individuals writing them as a hobby, and they tend to be fairly experimental. Here are some modern recommendations. Here is a comprehensive database of games (mostly available for download). I would start with Photopia, because it's good and not too frustrating, and it's also arguably the most famous game to come out of this scene.
posted by vogon_poet at 8:14 PM on January 20, 2014 [2 favorites]

In line with hellojed's suggestion, thecatamites just released a collection of 50 of his games (they are all individually available for free on glorioustrainwrecks, but are bundled together with a launcher and some commentary).
posted by juv3nal at 8:54 PM on January 20, 2014

You might enjoy some of the games reviewed in Casual Girl Gamer's 10 Games That Make You Think About Life series. (At the end of the post, there are links to 10 More Games and Another 20 Games etc.) They're all free and often take a very different approach to gaming and different goals from many traditional point-n-shoot or hack-n-slash type games. I think most of them are homemade too.

On that list, Immortall almost made me cry; Loved completely creeped me out and fired me up and got me mad all at the same time; Coma is one of the most awesome and beautiful games I've ever played - and the music, too; I Wish I Were the Moon was really sweet and unexpected and Silent Conversation was just fun and frustrating and yes! when I got the hard bits.
posted by Athanassiel at 9:14 PM on January 20, 2014 [2 favorites]

You might be interested in stuff made by Porpentine, who does the Twine thing, among other things. Her games:
posted by pullayup at 10:23 PM on January 20, 2014 [3 favorites]

These aren't so much "homebrew" games, but they're from indie devs instead of big publishing houses:

Thomas Was Alone is a fantastic bit of storytelling, with absolutely zero shooting of people (or even violence, really). You'll be amazed how attached you'll get to a little block.

Dear Esther (Steam link; the main site is dead or just ass slow) is really more of an interactive story than a game, but is beautiful both in the imagery and in the story it tells.

World of Goo is a tower-building/puzzle game with some snippets of cute story. Addictive and can be played in small bites.

The Stanley Parable is again more of an adventure/story than an action game. Wonderful humor and brilliant writing. Don't look for spoilers. Just try it, it's great. Free demo available, which gives a good idea what the game is like without spoiling the full game.

Antichamber is a puzzle/exploration game that will seriously break your brain. Imagine being trapped in M.C. Escher's most devious construct, where things are rarely what they seem.
posted by xedrik at 10:57 PM on January 20, 2014

This is very much a new and exciting thing in games right now, so congrats for getting in on the ground floor! Porpentine's howling dogs was my introduction to the DIY Twine Underground, and it's probably the closest thing to a classic that the fledgling genre has.
posted by naju at 11:13 PM on January 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

Porpentine's column for Rock Paper Shotgun is probably a good jumping off point if you're interested in this particular corner of indie gaming.
posted by fearthehat at 11:17 PM on January 20, 2014 [3 favorites]

Free Indie Games is a kind of blog or archive or something which covers exactly the scene you're talking about. More or less everything gets posted there.
posted by Ted Maul at 3:15 AM on January 21, 2014

TIGsource is a good blog, and its associated forum is a major hangout for a lot of folks in the indie game community. The games range from the very "underground" and experimental to very polished creations from small but professional teams.
posted by anateus at 5:44 AM on January 21, 2014

Sword & Sworcery is available on multiple platforms (iOS, Steam, Google Play). Please use headphones when playing. Prepare to take your time and relax. I would suggest avoiding all game trailers before playing.
posted by DisreputableDog at 6:51 AM on January 21, 2014

Oh, and for a ton of indie games, check out the Humble Store. Make sure to check out the Humble Bundle. Various platforms, everything from the now popular BIT.TRIP to CoD style games to a new game I'm interested in, The Banner Saga. Looks like all range of prices, though unsure if the weekly sale is more "games you want" or "bottom rung games for cheap".
posted by DisreputableDog at 7:58 AM on January 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

Check out the games listed on Forest Ambassador.
posted by beatrice rex at 8:09 AM on January 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

I'm not sure if this is indie enough for you, and it's definitely not underground, but my boyfriend and I have been playing Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons and I--who am not typically a gamer and share your dislike of shooting things, preferring stories, exploration, beautiful or clever implementation, and not too much pressure--LOVE IT so far. I can ask him how he installed it--he did have to get an Xbox controller for the unique gameplay interface but we've been playing it through the computer, I think on Steam. (See how little I know about these things?)

He also played through and loved Gone Home recently (an interactive emotional story/exploration set in mid-90's Portland, OR), and I enjoyed the part that I played very much as well, although not being used to gameplay mechanisms/controls so much, I developed a little bit of motion sickness while trying to play it. I liked the story enough that I want to try again, though.

What these two have in common is beautiful scenery, emotional storylines, and plenty of exploration. I think that's why I like them, and you might, too.

As an aside, I also love Escape-the-Room games, especially the ones by Japanese developer Neutral. Try some of the higher-rated ones here; you can play most of them in your browser.
posted by spelunkingplato at 10:14 AM on January 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

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