Once Again, A Quiet Indie Games Show Upstages A Bombastic ‘AAA’ Event

Once Again, A Quiet Indie Games Show Upstages A Bombastic ‘AAA’ Event
Image: Madison Karrh

Earlier today, Geoff Keighley kicked off this year’s Not-E3 season with Summer Game Fest, a loud, two-hour showcase of all the ways you’ll be able to murder people in video games over the next year or so. It was, to be quite honest, a lot. Thankfully, the folks at Day of the Devs showed up immediately afterward with a show that felt more like guided meditation than advertisement.

Day of the Devs, a “fantabulous celebration of indie games” now in its tenth year, followed the corporate-mandated excitement of Summer Game Fest by detailing a handful of more low-key projects currently in development. One minute, Naughty Dog creative director Neil Druckmann was talking about a head-scratching remake that leaked hours ago, and the next, we were learning about Time Flies, an intriguingly minimalistic game about trying to make the most out of an insect’s short lifespan.

The transition felt like a cool breeze, and not just because everyone at Kotaku was finally free to take a breather from the frantic responsibility of live event coverage. Every game shown at Day of the Devs was something that I’m interested in playing. And it’s not just about fulfilling my own personal tastes. Despite their more laid back atmosphere, shows like Day of the Devs often highlight more innovative game design than whatever event scores the latest Call of Duty reveal.

It’s become abundantly clear that gaming is much more capable of evolving into the infinitely expressive medium it was always meant to be when it manages to divorce itself from the mainstream’s obsessive desire for higher framerates, resolutions, and body counts. Here are some good examples of this phenomenon from Day of the Devs.

A Little to the Left is a “cosy puzzle game” that asks the player to organise a home in need of a good tidying up. Oh, and sometimes, a cat comes around to mess up whatever it is you were stacking or sorting, just like in real life. It comes out later this year, and a demo is currently available on Steam if you’re into that sort of thing.

Animal Well constructs a pixelated, old-school adventure with layers upon layers of secrets to discover and solve. It gave me huge Nifflas vibes, if you’re familiar with games like Within a Deep Forest and Knytt, and I can’t wait to hop around its lush environments in search of hidden mysteries.

Birth puts you in the shoes of a strange creature as it navigates a major city and searches for a way to mitigate its loneliness. What better way to stop feeling alone than to create your very own companion from spare bones and organs? The distinctive, creepy-yet-beautiful art style really sets it apart from just about everything in gaming today.

Fox and Frog Travellers: The Demon of Adashino Island follows the titular Fox and Frog as they travel regions inspired by the developers’ Japanese backgrounds. But while neon lights and food stall lanterns may impart the game with a cosy atmosphere, there’s apparently something insidious lurking in the shadows.

Goodbye World is a meta narrative game about the “passion and struggles” of two young indie game developers, with influences ranging from Ghost World to Mother 3. The fuzzy aesthetic is meant to evoke bygone days of Super Nintendo and Game Boy Advance graphics.

Of course, I’m not going to pretend the hilarious homogeneity of Summer Game Fest can’t also be found in Day of the Devs. The latter just replaces the explosive shootbanginess of the former with dev after dev gently describing projects in immaculate apartments. But even so, the games looked way more fun and original than the literally half-dozen Dead Space knock-offs Keighley begged us to care about.

For more on the games shown at Day of the Devs, be sure to visit the show’s official website.

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