A.k.a. killing time on the computer with free (minus internet+electricity+computer ownership/access) stuff.
(Incidentally, “temporal” in the sense of “of or relating to time” is just an awesomely useful word. So why do I only ever see it in certain biology classes? Since no one knows it I have to say “timewise” which…gets the meaning across, I guess, but isn’t a real word.)
Back on topic. Let’s see, I was about to…hm…oh, right, gush about nerdy* interactive narrative/new media stuff I think is cool under the guise of giving amusing tips on time-wasting! Why, that sounds excellent, my good chap! Hahaha! Ha. Let’s do that now.
Little Flash/HTML 5 games
You are on the internet right now. Therefore. You know little browser games. You probably have favorites already.
I will not let that stop me.
Obviously there are little Bejazzled sorts of things blah blah blah I’m not really into that go find them yourself. But there are also cool atmospheric point-and-click adventure games!
Point-and-click adventure: Submachine. The series of eight (at the moment) flash games creates an interesting world with a mysterious and ever-expanding backstory. And also puzzles.
Point-and-click horror: Alice is Dead. Also a series, also puzzles, also point-and-click, but definitely more on the horror side. Sort of New Weird, maybe? I dunno all those movements. What the heck the difference between slipstream and Bizarro is I will never get. Anyway, it has monsters and assassins and Carrolian logic and rabbits. Well, a rabbit.
Let’s get into slightly weirder stuff, now.
Indie Platformer Thingies to download
Really really hard game: I Wanna Be the Guy. Windows-only, though I did manage to get it to run with Wine. Past the first screen, though? No. No, I have not managed that.
Braintwisty awsomeness: Braid. This was originally an Xbox game, but you can also get it for Windows, Mac, or Linux. Okay, this one isn’t free. But it’s only ten bucks on Steam. And it is very pretty and very smart and more or less a classic in the indie gaming world for being pretty much utterly brilliant in a number of ways. Except that one level with the key and the backwardness that was I Wanna Be the Guy level of evil, as far as I’m concerned.
And now, what I really wanted to talk about…
Text adventure games/CYOA/other interactive fiction (all recommendations browser-playable!)
No, don’t run away!
…whatever, I didn’t need you anyway.
Anyway, text-based games of whatever flavor have been around for ages (Colossal Cave Adventure, anyone?) but all of a sudden there’s more going on than ever, with platforms/tools like Twine and Inklewriter and Versu popping up all over. By all of a sudden, I admittedly mean over a period of, like, a few years, but whatever! Zork was from the ’70s, anytime in this millennium counts as recently.
Speaking of recently, if any of you keep up with gaming news you might have heard about the IGF winner ceding his booth to howling dogs, which is a…I don’t really know how to describe it. More of an interactive short story about isolation (?), martyrdom (?), and other stuff (?). Very atmospheric.
Zombies: Choice of Zombies. This is a CYOA game about a zombie apocalypse. Shoot zombies! Run them over! Use your character’s skills as an engineer who hunts/ad executive/stamp-collecting plumber to survive and save your companions! Or just leave them and try to make it yourself. Your choice!
Vast giant steampunk/cosmic horror/English thingy: Fallen London. This won’t suck vast amounts of time at once because it’s one of those where you only get so many turns at once. But it has something like a million words of content and growing. And there are spiders that hatch their young in stolen eyeballs and rats that do fine clockwork.
Spelling bee realism: Bee. Does that sound boring?
“In the early, filtered light, when you are doing your spelling and no one else is awake, you think things about your spelling words that are half dreams.
Sometimes a word could be a palace. Sometimes the aspirates could be curtains of thick cloth, the glottals could be walls, the liquids a slippery marble floor.
Sometimes the spelling of a word inhabits every sense, not just seen and heard but performed as a choreography of the tongue and the teeth, or tapped in the feet.”
And something with an actual parser: Galatea. The same author as above: Emily Short. There are a lot of really good interactive fiction games out there, but there’s a vocabulary you have to learn to play smoothly. Since it’s not really hard, I think it’s worth it, but Galatea is A: really good B: very very replayable (dozens of endings) and C: you can get through the whole thing with just the command “ask galatea about [blank].”
*There’s a sort of “teacher’s pet in English/Humanities classes” vibe that makes this feel more “nerdy” than “geeky” to me.
(I reserve the right to add things to this list as I think of them because I happen to feel that interactivity opens up all manner of opportunities in narrative and story that can be really really cool and and I can’t get actual live people to even pretend to look interested when I talk about it)
(And I sort of overused “atmospheric” to describe things, but you know what? No regrets. There are stories and games where you’re wandering around clicking things or flipping pages and then there are stories that unfold, clamp on, and marinate your brain in snow of underground cities or the scratch of carpet on your face like you are literally in the atmosphere of another world or seeing it through different skin and therefore I do not regret that wording okay.)