Freedom Finger

“Featuring a giant, flying, fist-shaped, middle finger-giving ship embarking on an intergalactic rescue mission to save lunar scientists taken hostage by terrorists, Freedom Finger is the game we didn’t know we needed, a special opportunity to travel through the wonderfully weird imaginations of Jim Dirschberger [creator of Sanjay & Craig] and Travis Millard.”

—”Freedom Finger is a Bat$#!% crazy space shooter from the minds of Travis Millard and Jim Dirschberger.” Juxtapoz. April 25, 2019.

Vanity Fair describes the game as Yellow Submarine meets Adult Swim. Freedom Finger is available in steam, and they are actively looking at a Switch port.

Castles of Burgundy

“The Castles of Burgundy has long been one of my favorite strategy board games, a 90-120 minute game of tile-laying with a complex scoring system that is often derided as “point salad,” meaning you can get points from so many different paths that there might seem to be no logic to it. I mention that up front because I think it’s a fair criticism of this style of game. Still, Castles of Burgundy is the best implementation I’ve seen of that sort of scoring, especially since designer Stefan Feld, who specializes in this sort of game, connects the different tile types in multiple ways, creating a game that scratches that complex scoring itch but is also well-balanced and coherent.

Digidiced has now brought Castles of Burgundy to Steam and to mobile platforms in a great-looking app that uses new artwork and allows for quick gameplay against AI opponents.”

—Keith Law, “Review: Beloved board game Castles of Burgundy is now an app.” arstechnica.com. April 13, 2019.

Available on iOS ($9), Android ($10), and Steam ($15).

Two-Player Board Games, 2019 edition

“What tabletop games are best for couples?” is a question we get all the time here at Ars Cardboard, and today we’re answering (again) by reprising our 2016 two-player guide with fresh new picks for 2019. Of course, you don’t have to be romantically linked to your gaming partner to enjoy these titles; our recommendations are perfect for any time your group is running behind and you only have one other person to push some cubes with. Or maybe you don’t have a group—all you need to play these games is one other willing (or kinda-sorta willing) partner.”

—Aaron Zimmerman and Nate Anderson, “Our favorite two-player board games, 2019 edition.” Ars Technica. February 9, 2019.

Interactive Fiction & Text-Based Games

Interactive fiction is text-driven games and stories most commonly associated with the dawn of the computing age and games like Zork. Depending on one’s definition, you might be able to stretch the category to include games like Nethack.

Today, it is a thriving sub-culture with new works being created by independent creators. The Interactive Fiction Database is a good way to find great games or genres. The Interactive Fiction Competition a good place to look for new works. For a gentle introduction, try one of the many guides available.

Play Now

The game 9:05, playable via the link, is a commonly referenced entry point to interactive fiction and is also used by English as a Second Language teachers to teach basic English vocabulary.

If you’d like to go old-school, some have been made playable in a web-browser. Want to play Zork without installing any software? Now you can.

Or, if you want to get a feel for these types of games but still want some graphics, try Nethack, a dungeon exploration game with permadeath which has recently been updated. Easy to learn to play, but very difficult to master. “Internet user needs food badly!” Best played cold, but it is also interesting to play if you read the spoilers.

The Waiting Game | ProPublica

“Based on the real case files of five asylum seekers from five countries and interviews with the medical and legal professionals who evaluate and represent them, The Waiting Game is an experimental news game that lets you walk in the shoes of an asylum seeker, from the moment they choose to come to the United States to the final decision in the cases before an immigration judge.”

The Waiting Game

The New 8-bit Heroes

“While visiting his parents’ home in Central New York, Joe Granato discovered a box of forgotten illustrations, designed by he and other eight-year-old neighborhood friends—concepts for a video game for the original 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System. He decided it might be fun to try to realize those ambitions.

But instead of creating it for a mobile device or modern console, he set out to use the same techniques and adhere to the same limitations that would have been employed in 1988 to make a new cartridge-based game actually playable on the now-archaic hardware.

Gathering a small team of modern creatives, what began as an explorative novelty project about building a video game for a system 30 years removed from relevance escalated to a two-year, ten-thousand-mile journey into an esoteric subculture made up of devotees to creating new NES games; artists who thrive on limitation.”

The New 8-bit Heroes

h/t Tedium.

The Game of Everything, Part 1: Making Civilization

“Why, we might ask, did Civilization turn out differently? A big piece of the reason must be Sid Meier’s unwavering commitment to fun as the final arbiter in game design, as summed up in his longstanding maxim of “Fun trumps history.” Meier, Bunten, and Crawford actually met on at least one occasion to discuss the games of everything they each had in progress. Crawford’s recollections of that meeting are telling, even if they’re uttered more in a tone of condemnation than approbation: “Sid had a very clear notion: he was going to make it fun. He didn’t give a damn about anything else; it was going to be fun. He said, ‘I have absolutely no reservation about fiddling with realism or anything, so long as I can make it more fun.’”

—Jimmy Maher, “The Game of Everything, Part 1: Making Civilization.” The Digital Antiquarian. March 16, 2018.

Interesting throughout.

Polybius: The Urban Legend of the Government’s Mind-Controlling Arcade Game

“Gamers who tried it couldn’t stop playing, and began acting oddly: they were nauseous, stressed, had horrific nightmares. Others had seizures or attempted suicide, many felt unable to control their own thoughts. It was only later that they recalled how Polybius was serviced more often than other games. Men in black suits opened the machine every week, recorded its data, and left, with no interest in its coins. Soon after it appeared, the mysterious arcade game vanished without warning—taken by the men in black suits, leaving no record of its existence.

That’s the story, at least. This legend is one of the big unsolved mysteries of the gaming world, though most concede that the game never existed…”

—Natalie Zarrelli, “The Urban Legend of the Governments Mind Controlling Arcade Game.” AtlasObscura.com. April 28, 2016.