One of my favorite games that I’ve had the chance to play recently was Firewatch, a first person game that managed to be tense, exciting and wonderful without anybody being shot or impaled. It’s a sad state of affairs when it’s the exception, not the rule, when a video game isn’t about shooting your way through hundreds of people or creatures. Not that there’s anything wrong with the Dooms or Battlefields of the world, but my favorite games have always been ones that allowed me to experience aspects of the human experience that don’t involve murder.
Luckily, there’s a lot of people out there who agree with me, and a lot of them are making their own games these days through independent game studios. One of these is Turnfollow, comprised primarily of Ian Endsley and Carter Lodwick. These two friends of mine have been developing beautiful games that explore a wide variety of stories rather than focusing on weapon types.
Their first major release, Little Party, follows a mom as she navigates an ‘all night art party’ her daughter is throwing. Your primary duties involve making guacamole and walking the dog, but by the end of the game, you end up feeling a whole mess of emotions. Their second game, a Good Gardener, puts you in the shoes of a laborer who is quietly growing plants. Like Little Party, the mundane quickly reveals a larger meaning, and banal, repetitive tasks become menacing.
Today marks their release of a new title developed for a Twitch game jam, River Bones. I don’t know how to describe it without ruining the story, but like Little Party and Good Gardener, it features stunning visuals, clever writing and great music. Both River Bones and Little Party are free to download for both PC and Mac at Itch.io, and Good Gardener only costs two bucks, so check it out. These guys are only getting started, and I can’t wait to see what they do next.