From March 3rd to the 11th—straight after the Game Developer’s Conference—independent creators from all around the globe banded together to resist. They participated in #ResistJam, an international game jam that centered its sights on resisting the authoritative powers that oppress individuals, whether they’re issues of government, health care, or whatever else powers that be.
#ResistJam, presented by IndieCade and in partnership with the International Game Developer’s Association, Devolver Digital, Raw Fury, Global Game Jam, and Games for Change, was started in an effort to give those a chance to protest through other means: through interactive art. “Not everyone can march, or be a figurehead of a movement, but we can all find ways to resist the oppressive hegemonic authoritarianism that pervades modern society,” reads the #ResistJam page’s description. “This is one of them.”
#ResistJam submissions wrapped up recently with a total of 217 entries, each with their own unique embellishment on authoritarianism per their own countries, cultures, and the onslaught of limited freedoms they face daily. As I combed through the 217 entries for today's Digital Gems, I was struck by how varied, sometimes nuanced, and sometimes more blatant the game's messages were. Bouncing from a troubled history in the Phillipines to the importance of women's health care, game designers from all around the world were able to craft unique, bite-sized games in the name of art and resisting. And for this week's Digital Gems, I'm spotlighting some of the most thought-provoking, smartly designed, or just plain beautiful games there were to behold. (And if these delight you, I encourage checking out the #ResistJam page for more.)
In the Heart of the Islands, the Red Earth
In the Heart of the Islands, the Red Earth, from Phillipines-based developer sociohat, is an hour-long entrancing visual novel. Developed with the software Ren’Py, sociohat has crafted a game that shies away from the typical, anime-inspired art seen in other visual novels. Every background and every character nearly blends into the game’s painterly backgrounds. Its characters haunt the screen, just as its story of history does. At the time of this writing, I have not yet finished In the Heart of the Islands, the Red Earth, but I look forward to returning to its eerie, sublimely textured screens.
Love Thy Neighbor
Love Thy Neighbor is a text adventure about growing up in an American small town, but there’s a twist—you’re queer, and your neighbors don’t seem to accept that. Developed by Rachel Burton and Klew Williams, Love Thy Neighbor guides you through a young woman’s struggle with adoring her hometown, even as her neighbors try to force her into being someone that she isn’t.
O for Oppression
O for Oppression is a surreal experience. It’s a 3D-spatialized audio-centric game about venturing out into the dark. Your path is seemingly always onward, but disorienting things distort and muddy your exploration. The game features audio design and music from Danny Hynds, and programming and design from Skylar Chen. Of most of the #ResistJam games I dabbled with, O for Oppression is easily the most abstract, though poking through its thematic elements and the text that flies onto the screen, its subtle, anarchic nature shines through.
Of all the #ResistJam games, the quiet haunting isometric spaces within Romantic might be my favorite. Romantic, as its description bids, is a game in opposition to fascism from all corners of extremist beliefs (from left, right, all the way to religious) that are against freedom of speech. The collaborative effort between Anil Demir, John Elliot, and Maciej Połczyński, as even its title alludes to, is a game that seeks a “more understanding and united world.” The game explores muted, perfectly color paletted spaces: from a prison visitation area, to a lonely bedroom as it evolves over time.
Your Choice Wellness League
While still a prototype, Your Choice Wellness League is an endearing and cute exploration of learning about safe sex education and accessible health care. It essentially looks like someone grabbed a Pokemon Center from the Gameboy-era, dunked a tub of pink paint over it, and swapped out all the Pokemon health stuff for, you know, real health tips. “The more we talk about this, the closer we are to living in a society that doesn't censor and shame knowledge of our own bodies,” the game’s description reads. The project, developed by Cassidy Aquilino-Berg, hopes to encourage players to get involved with women’s health issues, whether that’s donating to Planned Parenthood or volunteering at a women’s shelter.