Designer Video Games

I play video games in cycles, usually for a month or two at a time, and then not at all for a month or two. This is an improvement over all the damn time (as I have done in the past), but still probably more than most people. Recently, there has been a lot of talk about a new breed of “casual” gamer, the Angry Birds, Words With Friends or Fruit Ninja type games. Personally, I prefer something with a bit more meat on the bone. Here are a couple of games that I’ve heard about that are really interesting. Even if you’re not a gamer, I think you’ll be compelled by the unique design and gameplay.

Unfinished Swan

This game looks really slick, and I’m excited to try it out. The plot is that a swan escapes from a painting, and you are on a quest to explore the blank canvas in search of the wandering fowl. The whole world is white, and you must paint it in order to find your way around. It’s a really novel way of interacting with the environment, and I really love the super-crisp edges that define the subtle variations in texture.


Chances are, you’ve come across references to Minecraft in your online travels. If you haven’t, this falls into the category of “sandbox” game. You start in a limitless world and have to make your own tools and shelter to survive. Once you’ve got basic survival down, you can create pretty much any structure or landscape imaginable. Sound like something an architect might like? Well, you’d be right. Ask Angela and she’d probably tell you I like it a little too much.


This is the game that I know the least about, but the trailers and buzz for it are really intriguing. From what I can tell the goal is to ascend a mountain, and how you traverse the rich landscape is up to you. The sprawling plains and larger than life feel of the game remind me of another of my favorites, Shadow of the Colossus.


This game isn’t out yet, but I was tipped off to it by friend and now-blogger Nate. I really love the top-down dual-stick games, like Robotron and, more recently, Dead Nation. This game puts a neat twist on it, in that you can only see what your character sees. The area you can see is in color, and the rest of the map is rendered in attractive grayscale. You can work alone or with friends to try pull off a heist, sneaking in and stealing treasure and making it back out again.

If you thought all video games were just violent gore-fests on a quest for ever more realistic graphics, then hopefully you’ve changed your mind. All of these games have simple (or no) goals, encouraging exploration. Also, the graphics don’t strive to be hyper-realistic, they are conceived instead as a unique, coherent design instead of trying to approximate the real world. None of these games are very expensive if you want to try them out, and if not, well at least you got some cool animation out of it.

2 thoughts on “Designer Video Games

  1. I played Journey through, and it iw wonderful. Unfinished Swan I have played about half of. Minecraft holds absolutely no interest for me, although my GF adores it. I will have to look into the fourth.

    • I actively avoided Minecraft for a long time because I didn’t understand all the hype. Ironically, it’s the opposite here; my girlfriend could care less about Minecraft, but I can’t put it down.

      Which reminds me, I should have put Ilomilo on this list. Oh well, I have a head start on the next one. Glad to hear your endorsement on Journey,


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