Being There screenshot

Being There

Created with: Inform 7

Play now: Play in browser

Being There is an extremely experimental little work of interactive fiction with pictures, about existence and Korea. Only requires a few minutes to play through, but you are encouraged to take your time.

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

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.

This game was ported to HTML5 in 2020. For those interested, the original SWF file from 2010 can be downloaded here.


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).

Freedom Bridge is close to the Platonic ideal of the disempowerment fantasy game (Ian Bryce Jones, Intermittent Mechanism).

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

Play now: Play in browser

Source: Gmk File

A short, extremely heavy-handed game about terrorism and the war on terror. Originally made for the Kokoromi one-button challenge and ported to HTML5

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

Discuss at TIGForums.

Content warning: 

  • Pixel violence and disturbing themes.
  • Flashing lights / strobe effect.

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 »

Civilization: The Good Kind of Addicted screenshot

Sid Meier's Civilization IV

Game released: 2005

Developer: Firaxis

Production: Commercial

Platforms: Mac OS X, Windows

Price: $20.00

Get it from: Direct2Drive
Jordan Magnuson's picture

Civilization is one of those games that has been hallowed nearly time out of mind. Sid Meier was, after all, the second person in history to be inducted into the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences’ Hall of Fame. So do I really need to write an article on the series? I don’t know, but I want to. I want to write about Civilization, because I recently played the latest iterations of the game after many years away1 and was struck by the formula’s greatness yet again. I played a lot of Civ II back in the day; enough to know, like anyone else who’s ever touched a Civ game, that the things are seriously addictive. But back when I used to play Civ II I didn’t really give that fact much thought (at least not as much as my parents may have): I just knew that I liked the game, and kept coming back to it. This time around, as “one more turn” syndrome hit me once again with the force of a ton of morphine, it made me think. About games, about addiction, about what’s worth doing in life. Read more »

Modern Warfare 2: It's Just a Game screenshot

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

Game released: 2009

Developer: Infinity Ward

Production: Commercial

Platforms: PlayStation 3, Windows, XBox 360

Price: $60.00

Get it from: Amazon
Chris Tompkins's picture

Infinity Ward’s Modern Warfare 2 has stirred drama in the gaming community and media alike with a scene which presents the player with a choice to slaughter hundreds of innocent civilians while undercover in a Russian false-flag terrorist group. The scene is a powerful reminder of what gaming can do, and what it should do, as it grows into more mature shoes.

Let’s pretend you have invited me over to your house to, say, participate in a heated competition of table tennis. And let’s say, in the heat of a losing streak I yelled out a threat against your life. You’d probably laugh it off as an idle threat and make the next serve. However, if I continued to follow up that threat with an intricate description of how I was going to kill you, describing morbid details, where I would hide the body and how I’d get away with it, you might begin to find it less funny. If I started including your family in such descriptions, meticulously explaining how I would kill them all one night in their sleep, drag their bodies into a rented pickup truck, then drive it to the woods and burn the bodies with the lighter fluid in my garage then dissolve the remains with lime, you might nervously smirk and start thinking about asking me to leave your house. Even further, if I began to sketch out elaborate plans about killing you, planning the best possible routes to invade your home without being detected, and describing with what weapons and in what manner I would kill you, you might begin to actually fear for your life. If I showed anyone these plans the authorities would probably be notified, and most likely, I’d be arrested for what looked like planning a murder.

Where in that story did that stop being fun and start becoming a criminal activity? Was it when I first threatened you? No, it would be when I had gone beyond an idle threat and began defining the details of its execution. Creating an increasingly believable narration of a murder would probably begin to make you believe that I might actually do it. However, if I had done all this under the guise of being a writer, published the book, and started a controversy fit for Fox news—most likely no one would be arrested. Thus we have an interesting conundrum. Detailing the plot of gruesome and/or criminal activity in private is a crime, where as publishing these detailed arrangements to the public could be, if properly contextualized, art.  Read more »

Exit Fate: Why jRPGs Suck and Why You Should Play Them screenshot

Exit Fate

Game released: 2009

Developer: SCF

Production: Independent

Platforms: Windows

Price: FREE

Get it from: Developer's Website
Yan Zhang's picture

Daniel, the protagonist of Exit Fate, is a soft-spoken orphan who fights only so that peace would eventually soothe the troubled land. He is separated from his army during a night raid, eventually finding himself at the head of a new army while searching for clues about his cursed fate and how to exit it. He meets over seventy heroes of all shapes and colors such as Meiko, a girl-scout with a mighty pen and a mightier right foot who you can assign to interview the other characters for more backstory, or Klaus, the last of a noble line of talking cats who deigns you worthy of his time after you provide him a room furnished as those of your best generals. You can freely select your adventuring party from among these heroes, although besides fighting, some heroes will help run your magic shop, smith your weapons, or even change your color settings. Occasionally, there will be a wargame-style square-grid mission involving the entire army’s special abilities.

Right, it is just Suikoden II; or as critics would say, any other Japanese RPG. Aren’t those all the same? Read more »

Calamity Anna's Shootin' Starcade: Six Glorious Trainwrecks screenshot

Calamity Anna's Shootin' Starcade

Game released: 2009

Developer: Anna Anthropy

Production: Independent

Platforms: Windows

Price: FREE

Get it from: Developer's Website
Jordan Magnuson's picture

I’d like to share with you today a few games that were made in two hours each. You read that right. Two Hours each. But why on earth would I do such a thing? Can a game that’s made in two hours possibly be worth playing, much less writing about and encouraging others to play? My short answer is of course yes, and the reason is this: some games can only be made in two hours.

What do I mean? I mean that some games, if they are to be good games, require weeks, or months, or years of effort and dedication to produce (granted, I haven’t actually played many games that have taken years to produce that I would actually consider very good, but you know, it’s a theory: we can perhaps imagine an inspiring triple-A title). Other games require not to have that time, because there is nothing for them to do with it. I’ve used the novel/haiku/sentence analogy before, and I’ll use it again: some games are analogous to novels in their scope and their ambition, while other games are more akin to short poems, sentences, or even singular words. We need these shorter games, just as we need the longer ones because, as Ian Bogost expressed two years ago in an article he wrote for Gamasutra, we need games of every shape and every form, expressing every kind of thing. Read more »

X-COM: Two Games, One Soul screenshot

X-COM: UFO Defense

Game released: 1994

Developer: MicroProse

Production: Commercial

Platforms: DOS, Windows

Price: $5.00

Get it from: Steam
Yan Zhang's picture

Two legends created by human history have had such unifying vision that any negative review would endanger the reviewer. One is Tupac Shakur; the other is X-COM. For my longevity, Tupac can wait for now while I attempt to explain X-COM’s place in so many “top games” lists, a fact that suggests the game as necessary.

The mostly1fabricated obligatory overview

In the distantly past future of 1999, the Earth is invaded by Aliens. Thus, the E-COM, the Extraterrestrial COMbat Unit, forms as the first common human interest since the microwave. The title soon changes to X-COM because it sounds cooler, but the group’s original purpose holds steadfast: by building bases, intercepting alien aircraft, and researching anti-alien technology, X-COM aims to contain the alien threat and eventually bring the fight back to the enemy.   Read more »

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