Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Guerrilla Gaming

We all find ourselves moving about more than we’d like at times. Visiting loved ones can really eat into your ‘free’ hours. Perhaps rotating shifts at work are messing with your natural man-clock and preferred hours of gaming. Or maybe there is housework to do after your neglect of the hoover has resulted in dusty smog clouds being jettisoned from your carpet with every footstep. Whatever the reason, sometimes it just isn’t practical to sit down and play Uncharted for five hours or commence a genocidal frenzy in Call of Duty.

Fortunately, the rise of indie games has finally given us an amazing selection of bite-size titles that can provide five or ten minutes of entertainment when only a small window of play time presents itself. A few years ago I might have turned to a slightly naff flash game to try and find a quick gaming fix, but now I just need to have a gander at my Steam game’s list and pick one of the many brilliant mini titles on there.

AaaaaAAaaaAAAaaAAAAaAAAAA!!! – A Reckless Disregard for Gravity is one of my favourite examples of a quick fix game. For those who have no idea what it is, AaAaaA! (I won’t enter the rest of the ‘A’ characters to prevent eye strain), is a deceptively basic and trippy base jumping game full of obstacles that you need to fly close to in order to score points. Each course can usually be completed in under a minute and it is very replayable when chasing high scores.

It sounds like the kind of thing that might entertain you for 45 minutes in total, yet according to Steam I’ve managed to sink 18 hours into it. I don’t know how many times I’ve booted it up, or the number of machines from which I have played it, but it’s a tiny game (251 MB) you can take with you and play anywhere.

Another effective and enjoyable time sink I have found is Braid, the time manipulating puzzle platform game. It’s not quite as easy to play Braid in small chunks, but it fits the other criteria of guerrilla gaming well. It will run on most semi-modern typewriter grade laptops (that I’ve tried at least) and can keep you enthralled for hours. However, each level segment is quite short, so you won’t lose much progress should you need to pull out mid game.

I was quite sceptical when the slew of indie titles first started to appear, and couldn’t quite comprehend why people would buy them over ‘proper’ games. I think I’ve finally found where they lie in my life and now really applaud the dedicated teams behind some of these gems. Whilst indie titles may face financial, man power and distribution restrictions not encountered by most major publishers, many turn these problems into innovation.

A lot of people say that PC gaming is dying, but I think it is merely changing. One and two man indie development teams are really producing excellent results. It’s almost like a throwback to the Amiga days of garage based game devs, which is definitely a great thing.

If you want to get into the indie gaming scene then there is a lot of choice out there, but I’d particular recommend you keep an eye on the Humble Bundle website, which often offers fantastic collections of indie titles on a pay what you want basis. Some of the money (or all if you want it to) goes to the Child’s Play and Electronic Frontier Foundation charities. Knowing you have helped a charity definitely makes playing the games feel like less of a guilty habit. Everybody wins.

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