2023 IGF nominees: the personal

Saturday, January 28, 2023

Tagged: reviews, atuel, igf, of moons and mania, he fucked the girl out of me

A game can be one person talking about a thing, in their own voice, framed by a bit of game stuff. This is a well-understood category, although it doesn't have a name that I know of. "Topical" misses the author's voice. "Confessional" makes it prurient. I could suggest "listening simulator" if that didn't come off as snark, which is not how I intend it.

It's hard to say much about games like this. The game mechanics aren't the point. If you explain the point, you're pushing the author offstage. So these comments will be brief; the games can speak for themselves.

  • Of Moons and Mania
  • He Fucked the Girl Out of Me
  • Atuel

(Necessary footnote: I was on the narrative jury. The games in this post are free or name-your-price.)

Of Moons and Mania

A story about the author's mental health crisis, somewhat fictionalized. A simple 2D dodge mechanic paces the narration while also gesturing at the experience of intrusive ideation.

This is straightforwardly presented, but it opens a window into an extreme personal experience. And I think the game mechanic, simple as it is, is effective. It grounds you in the story in a way that static prose wouldn't.

He Fucked the Girl Out of Me

The semi-autobiographical story of the author's experience with sex work, presented as a Gameboy ROM. (Or emulated in-browser.) It's a rough experience, although the game is not meant to be rough to play. It's meant to recount someone's story, not re-inflict it.

(Thus, we presume, the Gameboy UI. The cute-and-cozy imagery is a veneer -- a flimsy one in spots, as the background art sometimes gets eerie -- but it lets you play the game at arms' length if that's what you need.)

This is most effective for its directness and honesty, including honesty about how much the writer is not (yet?) able to be honest about. It's openly a construction, fragments of stories pushed together; that's how memory works in trauma. It still works.


This one is interesting: not one person's voice, but a collection of voices describing the Rio Atuel in Argentina.

You steer a drop of water, or a rush of it, or a bird or fish, as scientists and inhabitants describe their perspectives of the river. A small project but a really lovely, evocative presentation.