Ms. Lojka or: In Despair to Will to Be Oneself screenshot

Ms. Lojka or: In Despair to Will to Be Oneself

Created with: Twine

Play now: Play in browser

A short hypertext game about ignorance, defiance, and freedom—or: self-knowledge, acquiescence, and fate. Takes about 15 minutes to play. There are two significantly-divergent endings, but replays are intentionally discouraged.

Discussion and Reactions:


Some kind words:

A Work of (Dark) Art… 9/10 (Jacqueline A. Lott, interactive fiction author and critic).

On the flip side:

A technical marvel with a disjointed story about identity (Math Brush, interactive fiction author and critic).


Find a bug? Please let me know.

Jordan Magnuson's picture

A couple of weeks ago I brought my Gametrekking project to completion with the release of a downloadable collection of all the travel-inspired sketches I’ve created to date. I thought I’d go ahead and copy my retrospective blog post over here. 

What about my writing? Will I start reviewing games again, now that the Gametrekking project is over? I’m thinking about it. Meanwhile, here’s my retrospective:

Today I am releasing the Gametrekking Omnibus, a downloadable collection of all of my Gametrekking creations to date. It is my tenth release of the Gametrekking project, and it will also be my final "official" release.

Gametrekking Omnibus splash screen

The omnibus includes an interface that lets you browse through all of my creations by country, some built-in slideshows to provide context, links to my written reflections, and new fullscreen versions of all my games and notgames.

To download the Gametrekking Omnibus For Windows:

  • Download and run the native exe installer. Note that you need to be connected to the internet during installation, and it may take a while if you do not already have Adobe Air installed.

To download the Gametrekking Omnibus For Mac OS:

  1. Download and install Adobe Air from
  2. Download and run the Gametrekking Omnibus air file.

Gametrekking Omnibus screenshot

This is going to be the final official release of the Gametrekking project, because it’s been two years since the project launched, I’ve clearly finished "the journey proper," and a downloadable collection of the work I’ve managed to produce so far seems like as good a place to wrap things up as any. I say this is the "official" end of Gametrekking, because I see the project continuing on indefinitely in some sense… It seems certain that I will keep traveling into the future in some capacity or another, and that I will continue to experiment with interactive sketches and notgames about the things that impact me. But still, I think the Kickstarter project deserves some kind of closure, and that’s what I’ve tried to create with this downloadable collection.

When I launched this project two years ago on Kickstarter I didn’t know if I was going to be able to successfully fund it, but was soon amazed by the support and generosity of the family members, friends, internet acquaintances, and complete strangers who pledged their support, and made this thing a reality.

Once the project was funded, I still didn’t know if it was going to be a success or not—or even how to judge it as such. All I had was a backpack, a half-formed itinerary of shoestring travel through a few countries in Asia, and a vague plan to make interactive sketches about the things that impacted me along the way—to try and use experimental computer games as a kind of "travel writing," whatever that would mean.

The journey turned out to be incredibly challenging—but also incredibly rewarding. I struggled to fulfill my naïve promise of making computer games from the road while attempting to balance the day-to-day requirements of independent travel (where I seldom knew where I would be spending the night from one day to the next, much less whether I would have access to the internet), but the experiences I had along the way, and the people I met, more than made up for the difficulties. Hitching a ride with some fishermen on Taiwan’s east coast; seeing the Killing Fields of Cambodia with my own eyes; discussing the merits of Facebook with a college student in the Mekong Delta… these are experiences that I would not trade for anything.

Hitchhiking in Taiwan

Hitchhiking on Taiwan’s East Coast.

But still I am left with the question, as the project draws to a close, of whether Gametrekking was a "success." On a personal level I can look back and see that my life has been irreversibly enriched by my travels and my coding; I tried to capture some of the ways in my travel writing. Which is fine and well, but I don’t want to conflate the project with the journey (however hard it is to separate the two in my mind): the journey was personal, but the project was funded, and of a corporate nature. The question is complicated by the fact that I never defined what "success" for Gametrekking would look like, as such. Partly this was, perhaps, an oversight, but partly it was the nature of the beast: the entire venture has always existed as a kind of "leap of faith," both for myself, and for my backers—a project of possibility, of seeing what would come of a crazy, uncertain idea.

Does one consider success quantitatively, or qualitatively? When I think in terms of quantity, I cannot help but be disappointed: I wish I had a hundred creations to show for my efforts, rather than ten small offerings. I think of all the failed prototypes, and consider mounting them for display, to create a bigger catalog: I wanted to make something for every country that I traveled through, after all, and if I published my failed experiments, I could get there, and then some. But I cannot do it, because I cannot see this thing as an attempt to make a flash game for every country in Asia, like some kind of bizarre interactive Lonely Planet collection. Rather, the games have always been about expressing something personal, for me, even though they are merely sketches and doodles. And so I struggle more than I should with each one, and throw too many prototypes away, and come back too often empty-handed.

Prototype screenshot

An early prototype for "The Great Moped Balancing Act", one of many creations I never published.

Still, I can try and point to other numbers in an attempt at vindication: I can say that my Gametrekking creations, while few, have together been played nearly half a million times, that they have appeared on the front page of Newgrounds, been featured in Wired and EGMi, been used for psychology research…

But such claims ring hollow. If the goal of Gametrekking were big numbers, then making sketchy notgames about the kindness of strangers, or visiting your grandmother’s tomb, becomes a laughable waste of time.

Slightly more to the point, perhaps, is the "why" behind the figures: the fact that Newgrounds creator Tom Fulp found two of my sketches interesting enough to feature on his front page despite the fact that they are light-years away from the fare his audience is typically expecting, to expose them to something different. Or the fact that the folks at Extra Credits considered my small notgame "Loneliness" worthy of spearheading two episodes of their show, as a glimpse of something interactive creations should strive for. Or the fact that Patrick Klepek wrote up "The Killer" for Giant Bomb, because he found it a breath of fresh air in a world of "power fantasy" video games. This kind of qualitative assessment is a measure of success that I am vaguely interested in.

But we’re largely still in the land of vainglory. I enjoy a little spotlight as much as the next person, but I hope it’s not why I do what I do, and as such, I’m not willing to accept it as a measure of success.

What’s left?

Just the regular people who play my games, and the notes I get from them. A lot of these are negative. A lot of them tell me to go do something hateful to myself, because I’ve wasted somebody’s time. But every once in a while I get a message like this one regarding "Freedom Bridge":

I just registered on this forum to tell you that this was one of the most intense interactive experiences I’ve ever had. I went on and watched some short documentaries about Korea afterwards in order to process the tension it had left me with.

Or this one in response to "The Killer":

I have seldom experienced such raw emotion from a video game. I have traveled to a few of the places featured in your games and learnt a small proportion of their history in the process. however, after playing each game I had to research more and more and more. Thank you for making such simplistic and emotionally provoking games!

Or this one, about "Grandmother":

Unforgettable. Simple and stunning. Kinda reminds you not to forget about the one’s you’ve lost.

Or this one, posted on the Newgrounds page for "The Heart Attack":

Something I’d like to say… Jordan, your ‘notgames’ have done something. They hack and slash at the curtains we put up to shield ourselves from the ugly truth. That in reality, evil is decided by the individual. Among other messages. This, and your other games have a simple brutality, depressing and dark. But it’s also deeply informative and touching. They’ve given true insight on the human range of emotions, I’d say. I know that these short notgames you create bring out the best in my character. Make me sad, make me happy and many times, severely upset. I know I’ve learned from you, as many others could say they have. So please, keep on trekking. I want to learn more.

Or this one, about "Loneliness":

Thank you for that gaming experience… I had to get an account JUST so I can thank you for it… somewhere when the dots were slowing down, I said to myself, "I don’t want to go near them… I don’t want them to leave too" and I honestly Cried. I have never had to set the metaphysical controller down, and take in that level of emotion. I then realized that the game was called "Loneliness", and I started to reach back into my own memories of not being able to fit in at school, and then I realized that I needed to try ONE least time. The same thing happened in Life, and I am currently married to the only Girl that wouldn’t reject me, in the end of all that loneliness. I, again, thank you for that wonderful experience. Thank you… SO MUCH for this moment of self-reflection.

Or this one on, "Status Quo’s" Newgrounds page:

Taiwan… That is my home…!! Thank you for making such a project about our precious little island. I really appreciate it.^^

Or this one, in response to "The Kindness of Strangers":

Wonderful story, it’s almost surreal. Being born and raised in the more impoverish parts of the states, the only thing I’ve ever known from people is deception, greed, and hatred.

I don’t post these here for a whoop-dee-doo congratulations, or a pat on the back. I post them to share with you honestly why I consider the Gametrekking project to have been a success. I post them for those of you who backed my project, and wanted it to come to something.

Ultimately, regardless of how many games I make, I have to ask myself why I’m making them; if there’s not a good reason, I don’t care if I’ve made ten or a hundred. I find the numbers, whether of games, or of plays, to be abstract and meaningless in and of themselves. Likewise, the front-page mentions and five minutes of fame quickly fade. It’s comments like the ones above that keep me going. At the end of the day I don’t care about the ratio of negative comments to positive ones: only that the positive ones exist. In my mind, if my Gametrekking creations got one person to look up the conflict between North and South Korea, got one person to remember their grandmother, got one person to believe that Taiwan’s a real place, or got one person to reflect on the nature of isolation, then the project was a success. So I have to consider it a success. I can’t force my definition on anyone else, but I do hope that my backers will agree with me.

It’s been a wonderful journey, and I thank you all from the bottom of my heart.


5 Colors Pandora screenshot

5 Colors Pandora

Created with: Game Maker 8

Download for: Windows

Source: Game Maker 8

An exploration game about colors and their consequences. Not particularly long, but a bit more difficult than my usual offerings. Hints are included in the download, and a complete video playthrough is available on YouTube (thanks Ortoslon).

5 Colors Pandora was originally made for Ludum Dare 16, where it came in 9th (out of 121 entries)… it was later entered into the 6th Gamer Maker Competition, where it made the final 15 (out of 275 entries).

Discussion and Reactions: TIGForums, Ludum DareYoYo


Some kind words:

[One of] a selection of games released in 2010 which I absolutely loved (Terry Cavanagh, creator of VVVVVV and Super Hexagon).

One word: GENIUS! (Atomic, LD Feedback).

Absolutely brilliant… I liked this game so much that, when I accidentally quit the game by hitting escape trying to pause when I got a phone call near the very end, I played it all the way through again just to finish (Philomory, LD Feedback).

Astonishing (Sos, LD Feedback).

Unique and intriguing (Frimkron, LD Feedback).

Deceptively deep (SonnyBone, LD Feedback).

The best game I have seen in this competition so far in every aspect (Risko, LD Feedback).

On the flip side:

Meh. Nice atmosphere, but lots of backtracking and the ending… pff (Anonymous, comments).

Find a bug? Please let me know.

Walk or Die screenshot

Walk or Die

Created with: AS3/FlashPunk

Play now: Play in browser

More poem than game, Walk or Die is a study in the most minimalistic interaction I could think of. Does it  deserve to be called "interactive" at all? You decide. Made for the TIGSource "A Game By Its Cover" competition; you can see the cart that inspired it here.

In 2014 Walk or Die was exhibited in a Madrid art exhibition curated by Andrés Oliva and Daniel Alonso.

Discuss at the Notgames Forums, FlashPunk Forums, or TIGForums.


Some kinds words:

Nice! (Michaël Samyn, co-creator of Sunset and The Path).

I played it for at least ten minutes, while walking on my treadmill :D… I really like it (axcho, Notgames Forums).

It made me think about a lot of things for the 20 minutes I held the spacebar down. Mostly about mortality and solitude (Albert L., NG Comments).

Thirty… minutes… addicted. Something about this was just so… tranquil (Reetva, TIGForums).

On the flip side:

This game is exactly what I expected it to be. Which is kind of disappointing, really (Soulliard, TIGForums).

Find a bug? Please let me know.

Loneliness screenshot


Created with: AS3/FlashPunk

Play now: Play in browser

An experimental, minimalistic microgame about loneliness, made for the Korean middle school students I taught for a year. 

Loneliness was an official selection of the Extra Credits Innovation Awards 2011, in the category of Narrative Delivery. It was also the focus of episode 25 of Extra Credits season 4: Mechanics as Metaphor.

In 2012 Loneliness was featured in CURA.

Discussion and Reactions: Ludum DareNotgames Forums, TIGForumsFlashPunk ForumsNewgrounds, Kongregate,


Some kind words:

Affected me the first time, and even more strongly the second (Gregory Weir, creator of Necropolis and The Majesty of Colors).

What’s amazing about it is that it undeniably has a narrative, even though it features no words… but what’s more incredible to me is how different that narrative can be for different people… This game not only tries to put us in the emotional state of that crushing loneliness… but it lets us explore it, and this to me is the unique power games have (James Portnow, co-creator of the Extra Credits video lesson series).

Made me really really really really really really really really really sad inside (Elspeth, NG Comments).

Worth every second (

I can’t say that this game makes me feel particularly lonely, or particularly sad. But what it does do (very well, I think), is force me to make a decision: will I continue to engage, even though I KNOW it’s fruitless, or will I give up? And that question, I think, is profound. Because that IS what loneliness feels like: a never ending pattern of rejection. A hopeless state which will not change. And the only choices are to despair (to move, alone, into the dark), or to continue to pour out energy in what we believe (what we feel we KNOW) to be a pointless endeavor. What I loved about the game was that it demonstrated that, despite my knowledge of futility, I couldn’t choose isolation (AmelMag, NG Comments).

On the flip side:

Ye gods, it’s not emo sixth form poetry these days is it, it’s dreadful indie games (Kate S, Twitter).

So grauenhaft wie das und seine anderen Spiele programmiert sind, glaube ich eher dass er diese "schlichte" Aufmachung leider nur wählt weil er es nicht besser kann (Besucher2778,

The meta-game reason for it aside; it does have nice music and visuals, but you can’t use ‘minimalist’ as an excuse for not having any real content. There’d be many ways to take some time and actually give it a point beyond the meta-game point to it. Games can have meanings and messages beyond just being a ‘game,’ but a game must have some sort of rules and goals to it to fulfill its primary purpose as a game. Without that, it doesn’t matter the reasoning or point to it, it’ll just be dull (Pyrewraith, Kongregate).

Lame as fuck (Greg, comments).

Find a bug? Please let me know.

Being There screenshot

Being There

Created with: Inform 7

Download for: All Platforms

An extremely experimental little work of interactive fiction with pictures, about existence and Korea. Being There requires that you download and install a free Glulx interpreter.

Once you’ve installed a Glulx interpreter, go ahead and download Being There. You’ll need to unzip it, then open it with the Glulx interpreter.

Discuss at the Notgames ForumsTIGForums, or the IFDB.


Some kind words:

An Ode to Joy… the joy of living, the joy of experiencing and acting—that is what this game is about (Victor Gijsbers, author of The Baron and Fate).

I really enjoyed it. Evoked a strong feeling of nostalgia—memories of chilly autumn days at the park and such. The photos were lovely. I loved all of the different interactions you programmed in—it was quite compelling just exploring this mysterious, kind of magical world. Made me feel like I was a kid again (Adam, TIGForums).

I have played through it five times so far. The pictures seem alive and the actions are awesome… It felt like I was there. I just wish it wasn’t so short (Brendan Magnuson, my brother).

A touching travelogue… a love letter to Korea (Peter, IFDB).

On the flip side:

In the end, it really doesn’t say very much about either existence or Korea (Felix Larsson, IFDB).

Find a bug? Please let me know.

Freedom Bridge screenshot

Freedom Bridge

Created with: AS3/FlashPunk

Play now: Play in browser

Readme: Readme.txt

Source: Online at GitHub

A very small notgame about Freedom Bridge, in Korea. Takes about two minutes to play through.

In 2011 Freedom Bridge was showcased by Extra Credits as one of twenty-seven "most interesting games of recent years that you might not have tried (or heard of)." In 2012 it featured in the Belgian textbook, Les Serious Games: Une Revolution.

Discussion and Reactions: Notgames Forums, TIGForumsFlashpunk Forums, NewgroundsKongregate, Twitter.


Some kind words:

One of the most intense interactive experiences I’ve ever had. I went on and watched some short documentaries about Korea afterwards in order to process the tension it had left me with (Mitsche, FlashPunk Forums).

I’ve listened to countless NPR stories and read dozens of New York Times pieces on the complicated situation between North and South Korea, but nothing emotionally immobilized me the same way that Jordan Magnuson’s Freedom Bridge did (Patrick Klepek, EGMi issue 241.5, page 5).

One of the best video games I’ve played all year (Fraser McMillan, Resolution Magazine).

An excellent demonstration of how you can use the medium to really have an impact (Brooks Harrel, college student with a ‘starving artist’ passion for game design).

Short, to the point, and beautiful (benedict, FlashPunk Blog).

Very much worth the quick playthrough! (GameSetWatch).

I often take issue with games this short and message-centric, but it was very effective (Bryan Suchenski).

Here, despite being the barest representation possible, is something far more deeply affecting than the biggest budget "emotional experience" being crafted today (Eolirin, Raph Koster’s Blog).

Best flash game ever? (multiple posts on Twitter).

On the flip side:

Sorry, but I have a hard time calling this a game. The supposed interaction was so limited as to be meaningless (BigJonno, Resolution Magazine comments).

You know, a game doesn’t become good or moving just because a poignant message is flashed at the end (Desper, Resolution Magazine comments).


Find a bug? Please let me know.

Country Connect! screenshot

Country Connect!

Created with: PyGame

Download for: Windows

A game of world travel inspired by the 10 Days board games and aimed at casual game players. It was designed with netbooks in mind, for Intel’s Atom Developer Challenge. It was chosen by Intel as the best education & reference application of the contest. 

The game was made in Python, which means that Mac and Linux builds should be possible. If anyone is interested in porting the game, feel free to check out the source code on GitHub. Please let me know if you do anything with it :)

Discuss at the TIGSource Forums.


Some kind words:

Before you know it you are immersed in a knowledge of world geography. It’s almost like cheating, the education is so easy and fun here (Intel App Developer Blog).

Find a bug? Please let me know.

Terrorist Killer screenshot

Terrorist Killer

Created with: Game Maker 8

Download for: Windows

Source: Gmk File

A short political game about terrorism and the war on terror. Originally made for the Kokoromi one-button challenge

I’m afraid it may be a bit heavy-handed, but then again, so is life.

Terrorist Killer was an official selection of the Extra Credits Innovation Awards 2011, in the category of Positive Impact.

Discuss at TIGForums.


Some kind words:

A very effective use of the medium… The brutal simplicity of it is precisely what makes it powerful (Jonas Kyratzes, creator of Phenomenon 32 and The Book of Living Magic).

A game that makes a point without forgetting that it has to be a game (PC Gamer).

On the flip side:

Meh. Tasteless game. So if you need to butcher countless innocents to stop the “OMG TERRORISTS”, how exactly are you any better than them? (Diasp0ra, PC Gamer).

Find a bug? Please let me know.

Exploring Emotion and Aesthetics with A Boy and His Blob and Lucidity screenshot
Jordan Magnuson's picture

A Boy and His Blob

Game released: 2009

Developer: WayForward Technologies

Production: Commercial

Platforms: Wii

Price: $30.00

Get it from: Amazon


Game released: 2009

Developer: LucasArts Workshop

Production: Commercial

Platforms: Windows

Price: $10.00

Get it from: Steam

Most of the games that I’ve ever played—and I’d venture to say most of the games we’ve ever created—are lacking in emotional depth. Many people have made this observation, and it’s coming to border on cliché. You probably don’t want to hear it any more. But if we want to make better games we’ve got to try and address these clichéd complaints that keep hitting us in the face, rather than just point out how clichéd they are. Over the last couple of months I’ve played two games that have impressed me with their emotional landscapes, so I thought I’d take some time to reflect on them. One of the games I think is great, and both, I believe, are important, for what they try to be and do.

The Games in Question

The games in question are A Boy and His Blob, by WayForward Technologies, and Lucidity, by the LucasArts Workshop. Each game offers some variation on puzzle-based, platformesque gameplay, and each presents a luscious, hand-painted graphical style, central to its charm. Just take a look at these screenshots: Read more »

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