Scratching that Itch…io: All Walls Must Fall... one year later

Update: I am playing the black room for the next piece
(cc @Clyde)

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I played Black Room for two hours this morning. I’m not sure if it is intended to be completed by a player. But I do see tonal/narrative progress as I move through it. I copied the link where I was to save it and I’ll go back later today, but I’d like to make some comments now:
Once I got a few rooms past the green pillow room, I started thinking of the beginning of Black Room as a statement of the work’s context. The description on the itch.io page describes the context, but the first rooms in the series and their furnishings introduce the way the author came across the spaces that she is depicting, and why she feels a need to depict them. I can’t tell if I am in the end of Act II or if there was a wide threshold where the Black Room transforms into fantastic conceptual spaces full of colors, furnished with game-like visual planes and there is no real end; this is just the result, what the author brings to the family tradition.
For reference, here is the room I’m in currently:
http://hgjfkdhskjdgturrgehdsbjkfhdsjkahturaytklfdjjfjfff.net/undine.html

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This is where I am with it since Friday, which was when I last played. I’ve been writing up my thoughts since then. I plan on returning but I’m not sure if I should be waiting for the other shoe to drop so to speak. The game has already left a pretty distinct impact on me, and there’s more than enough to write about and process from the time I already have with the game, but I would feel bad writing something up if I am missing part of the experience and have an incomplete reading of it.

I mean, that is already the case, because I did not read the store page description until maybe an hour or so into the game, so a lot of context is missing from that first hour or so and I should probably revisit it.

i got a lot more out of the first section on my second time playing through the beginning largely because I had not read that description.

nolbodyCraes

I’m returning to the game as promised. I’m starting to think it is brilliant and a lot of effort has been intended into it now that I’m coming back in and assuming that there is no end. It starts to feel like a state of a real person on a particular subject. Typically this type of thing is presented in the context as an obsession, but based on the beginning and the way it resonates with my personal experiences of finding ways to sleep and/or meditating, I see it as just a banal state.

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kyHq79
Freeways made my top games of 2017 list. I found it through itch.io and it left a massive impression on me for its easily understood take on the Zachtronics-like problem solving puzzle game.

Here’s my post for the waypoint GILM awards (just more description about why I love it): The GILM Awards 2017 Favorite Small Developer Game

I feel like trying to play Yume Nikki again would be more useful in an examination of Black Room than trying to finish Black Room. I’m going to load it up later today and look around.

Edit: Actually, I’d rather try playing some of these for comparison.


If they don’t supply me with the perspective I need, I’ll go back to Yume Nikki.

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There is an end to Black Room, I wasn’t far from it.

I really need to get there. I’m curious if it’s going to wrap back around to something similar to the sequence at the beginning.
I’m swamped right now so my writeup is going a lot slower than I wanted it to.

When you load the game in the browser, one of the options is “Browse Rooms” the sequential rooms are listed under “Rooms” so you can just skip to wherever you want.

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I just downloaded Black Room and definitely want to give it a playthrough down the road. A teacher of mine recommended this game called Void Pyramid, too.

But I can’t believe I haven’t mentioned it on this thread yet, because I eternally recommend it to every chance I get to. Please go play Beeswing! You can buy it here, but if you’d rather not purchase it, you can play it in the browser for free. It’s one of my favorite games!

Though, A Warning: the game talks a lot about death, and if you don’t like gore, there’s one particular scene (that I don’t really like) that comes up that’s pretty gross. To avoid it: when in the forest, don’t walk up to the bird. There might be other small things but I don’t recollect them.

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Thoughts on The Black Room


Alternate Title: The Black Room Will Make You Remember That Embarrassing Shit You did in Middle-School and it Doesn’t Even Care


Capture09

I don’t usually find myself feeling confused while trying to figure out what a game is about. Though I don’t really think that’s to my credit. Most games aren’t very subtle when it comes to themes or what they are intend to make the player feel. This is a medium where a game named Brothers has the subtitle A Tale of Two Sons to make sure you really understand what it’s about. Even in cases where a game is purposely vague, I never feel like it’s because I’m too dense to understand it, just information is purposely fuzzy. The sorts of games that make people say “stories don’t need to have answers for everything.”

The Black Room made me feel confused. Incredibly so.

I probably should have read the game’s store page first.

The Black Room is a game about falling to sleep, specifically the moments right before, and going down rabbit-holes on the internet late at night. This is important to know, otherwise the imagery, the words, the everything will leave you profoundly confused. I mean, I’m still profoundly confused, but with some reassurance that maybe that confusion isn’t all on me.

The game’s primary mechanic is strong: you are presented with a room, changing the shape of the room will change what you can see. The goal is to find the glowing object in the room and interact with it, leading you into another room. Usually there are other interactive objects hidden around the room. Some of these objects might reveal some text, others might send you into a mini game of sorts. The key aspect of this that I haven’t mentioned yet is that this is a browser game. So when I mentioned changing the shape of the room, what you’re actually doing is changing the size of your web browser! It never failed to make me feel a touch clever to expand and shrink the window to find all of the secrets in what was otherwise a humbling experience.

The rooms and scenes created in this game are striking to say the least. The first couple of rooms you enter are a bit plain, but still wonderful. Furniture of varying sizes and perspectives are pretty much the only things to observe in these rooms. As you progress through more rooms, things start to change into the fantastic. An ASCII art-piece here, a textured floor there, maybe a weird string of dialogue along the way. Eventually, these visions get much stranger and more inventive. Mythic beings greet you in each room, otherworldly plants and creatures start to pop up. Along with the rooms becoming more foreign, the secret landscapes you stumble upon do as well, with assorted sprites of all kinds all over the place.

The game was “conceived as a feminist dungeon crawler,” and I would say it succeeds in this regard. It evokes dungeon crawlers in many subtle ways. Stretching and shrinking the room sometimes feels like peeking around a corner as you try to look for hidden objects behind windows and around doors. And it’s portrayal of women seems to be… in a sense, radical? There’s something powerful about seeing characters I’m so familiar with outside of their usual games - where they were often fighting or treated as not much more than eye candy - just living their lives.

I should reassure you, yes, I felt confused because I felt I was missing something while playing this game. But I don’t want to imply that was because I wasn’t having an engaging experience. To the contrary, my curiosity was constantly piqued by the images and sounds and writing in this game. Especially the imagery. I wanted to make sure that I had good screenshots of the game for this piece, and each time I entered a new room I kept thinking “well, I NEED to capture a screenshot of this!” I have 34 captures now (and won’t be showing most of them because, well, you need to see this). Every vista will have you looking for the snipping tool or cmd-Shift-4. Just as much the game had me constantly reflecting on myself. This game evoked childhood memories, my greatest fears, my dreams. This game knows how to grab a hold of your brain and extract the very thoughts you would only think about as you head to sleep.

The Black Room is a great companion to help you explore a ton of different memories and ideas, vaguely guiding you from one thought to another. If you’re anything like me, you may not entirely get every image, sound, or verse, but you might just leave The Black Room a bit more understanding of yourself.

Capture23

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I liked how a lot of those 16-bit layouts started to feel like animated fabric-patterns to me, or something like blue-willow dishware or antique wallpaper patterns.

I also like how Black Room seems to describe how a mental excercise used for a specific real-world purpose became a mixture of a place she returns to and a technique that seems to have eventually worked into her artistic methodology.

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I think that’s a really good comparison! As for myself they reminded me a ton of making things in Gamemaker way back when (and I only mean that in the most loving of ways). That and the earlyish internet, apparently every game reminds me of old ytmnd memes (because every game is six degrees away from ytmnd). They felt like the sorts of things I’d have stumbled upon late night web-browsing back in the early-mid 00’s.

My understanding of the mental exercise and it’s relation to the game is still very fuzzy. Maybe these are images evoked from things the author would see in the mental exercise?

I’m curious if you took anything away from the ending?

I thought that maybe the ending was representative of you joining the others that are asleep, or maybe the others who follow the mental exercise?

I saw it as joining a mythical tradition greater than her personal family history. Similar to the way she had to get past the framework within which the excercise was introduced to her (as a game) she surpassed the perspective that this was just a way to fall asleep and it was just something within herself and her personal use. It became symbols and art and culture and a way to participate in that.

I also had trouble trying to see how the 16-bit stuff fit into the hypnogogic hallucinations. I started treating them as some sort of fruit that the Black Room grows. Like, at first she is furnishing the Blacl Room with furniture and images of places so generic that a google-image search describes it well enough. Thenshe starts treating it as a place to establish memories of her actual experiences of those generic concepts (that’s how I think of the video clips). Then she starts wondering “Why make the room black at all?”… it seems to eventually become a creative space in her head multipurpose enough that she can reappropriate the sprites from the games she is engaged with. I don’t know, the videogame stuff always felt somewhat disconnected from the narrative for me.

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“Midnight Games” and games you only play at certain times or occasions


Why is Time and Game Pairing Taking Over The World?


I first played The Black Room on the 12th of this month, just a touch past midnight (that is to say, in my head it felt like the 11th, despite technically being the 12th, but whatever). After a full day of working and socializing, the game turned out to be the perfect compliment to my overstimulated, but exhausted mind. And this was I even knew what the game was about.

Choosing to start a new game past midnight is a choice I don’t make often. Usually if I want to play a game this late, I look to something more palatable and familiar, a few runs of Spelunky, a couple rounds of Titanfall, another attempt at a level of HITMAN, something like that. Starting a new game means I need to be at attention; ready to learn a new ruleset or take in an unfamiliar story. But some games feel perfect like the perfect midnight games. Night in the Woods was this for me, I actually refused to play it any earlier in my subsequent sessions with the game. This was also the case with SOMA, . Breath of the Wild also became a midnight game for me, though that became an Entire Thing.

(Mostly unrelated story of how Breath of the Wild became a Midnight Game and why drinking coffee at 11:30pm on March 3rd, 2017 was a mistake)

Breath of the Wild accidentally became a midnight game as well, though that ended up turning into something else. I bought Breath of the Wild on the Wii U earlier in the day and let it download and after a busy evening, I drank a 16 oz bottle of coffee and started to play. It was such a mysterious and subdued experience compared to the previous games in the series, and hit all the right notes. So much so, about an hour in, I decided I should give into the worst of impulses and actually buy a switch so I could, um fully enjoy this experience. Cut to me desperately trying to ignore my wide-awake, caffeine addled brain and get some sleep, so I could wake up at 7:00 and drive to the one Target 45 minutes away that had the Switch in stock. I got it in gray along with a Venti Caramel Macchiatto I ordered on the way out the store.

I find that I mentally organize games into optimal times to play them. Some groupings I use include:

  • Midnight Games: Games I generally will only play after midnight on a weekend. These are usually games with some sort of indescribable mysterious vibe or the occasional horror game.
  • Weekend Games: Games I find I will only play during long stretches on a day off. Usually verbose games that take lots of time to really sink their teeth into the player, many traditional RPG’s and story-focused games fall into this category for me. Many open world games also fall into this category for me
  • Weekday Games: I don’t always have the time or mental energy for games on the weekdays, but when I do I like things that have a strong core loop, easily divided into bite-sized pieces, and primarily mechanics over story. These are usually tactical management games, roguelikes/lites, and more run based games like Monster Hunter: World.
  • Saturday Morning Games: I’ve found more recently, there are some games I like to play early Saturday to wake me up, usually before having to do something that day. These are often action games or competitive games and sometimes racing games.

Much of this comes from anxiety though. I find myself having trouble settling into certain sorts of experiences if I feel I won’t have the time to fully engage with them. BATTLETECH had been my weekday game up until last week, when I hit the Smithon mission and it’s looking like I should finally do it. And now, I refuse to play the game until I have a large enough expanse of time to know I will be able to complete it (with time for multiple retries). For whatever reason, my brain refuses to accept that I can just save and quit in the middle if life gets in the way, I need to have the time to wrap this up! Then it can finally be the weekday game I’ve been enjoying so much up to this point!

I feel that state of mind, time, and occasion play a huge part in the enjoyment of any game. In the 4 or so odd sessions I had with the Black Room, I found the game clicked with me much more the later in the evening it was while playing it during the afternoon/evening right after work felt like a much more clinical, less exciting experience. Knowing when to play The Black Room was an important part of getting the most out of the game. That might be the case for everyone, but I am fascinated with how much different the game felt at different times of the day.

Discussion Questions!

  • Does time of day or occasion play a role in the type of games you choose to play?
  • What are some of your favorite “Midnight Games?”
  • What sort of mental categories do you have for games and the occasions at when to play them?
  • Bonus Question (for the “sidebar” readers out there): How did you get your Nintendo Switch?

Yeah, this is a thing for me, but it is the opposite. Games like Black Room that are not highly polished, playercentric experiences are a morning thing for me. I enjoy them most during my first pot of coffee on days that I have off or don’t have to go into til 1. All other times I just end up playing Overwatch. The Overwatch time is really just me being in an interruptible state. I want to be available for my wife to start a conversation or get me to come do something with her. When approaching games like Black Room, I need to feel that I can concentrate and commit for two hours even if I don’t use that time.
And sometimes I play a ton of Battlefield 1 on the weekends.

Update: I’m writing about butterfly soup next. Time has not been my friend recently and when I have been playing games it’s been comfort games, so I don’t know when I’ll get to it, but hopefully soon.

Also, opportune time to say Fuck Steam

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All Walls Must Fall and the Importance of Marginalized Perspectives in Games


Also, It’s Three Days Into Pride, and I’m Already Tired.


Blows dust off thread
It’s been a while hasn’t it? What’s next?
Ignores above post

Let’s talk about All Walls Must Fall, but first, a little bit about this past year since I’ve last posted in this thread:

Disclaimer and a call to call me out on any bullshit

More than anything else I’ve written on the forum before I feel the need to emphasize my perspective isn’t a complete understanding of any topic, especially some of the topics I discuss below. More than anything else I have written, this is messy. I only speak as myself and not as an authority on any subject. Nonetheless, If I am saying something ignorant or dangerous, call me out. The last thing I want to do is make life any more difficult for anyone in the LGBTQIA+ community, or any other marginalized community.


For a year now, I’ve been far too exhausted to confront my sexuality in a real manner.

My very conclusive investigation on my sexuality has pinpointed me as… not straight? I think. There’s a lot of evidence to support that, namely I think men are hella cute.

I initially would have said pansexual, but a lot of the discourse in the LGBTQIA+ community has me stressed out about pinpointing exactly What I Am. Along with that is anxiety about any being public with any identity creating expectations in others. The few people I initially confided in about my sexuality would go on to prod me a month or so later, asking if I was dating men yet (advice: don’t ask your friends this a month after they come out of the closet to you).

That pride month is exhausting, much like this one is projecting to be, just three days in. Instead of celebrating my discovery that men are cute and I want to kiss Bayek a lot, I am worried. I’m not bi/pan/queer enough. I don’t even know how to fucking label myself because I’m worried how other’s will box me into that label. I am much less worried about being called a f***** (which happened anyways) than being looked down upon for not being enthusiastically bi/pan/queer enough, or not checking the boxes. Much like any discovery about myself, something I should be celebrating and embracing is mostly just stressful and terrifying.

On top of that, pride feels like it isn’t for me, but for straight folks looking to be performative and for corporations looking to make rainbow avatars and not support the LGBTQIA+ community in any real meaningful way.

I was lost.

But then I played All Walls Must Fall. I’d still feel lost, but boy did I need this fucking game.


Slightly NSFW image

If I’m being completely honest. I forget a lot of the specifics about All Walls Must Fall. It’s been a while since I’ve last played it for a significant period of time. It’s first and foremost a turned-based strategy game with elements of many other genres too. A pinch of roguelike meta game, a dash of rhythm game flow, and a neat dialogue system on top of all this as well. Much like personal favorite of mine, Dungeon of the Endless, this is a game that takes several genres and mixes them into something all it’s own. If you like any of those genres and don’t mind a game being a little rough around the edges, you should go ahead and play it.

But importantly to me almost a year ago, in this game you are a man who can dance and flirt with other men.

This game is by no means a Woke Game. It isn’t trying to be from what I can tell. But that isn’t a huge concern for me as I flirt my way past the bouncer and start making my way through the club, or as I dance with my contact as I try and coerce information from them. I am getting to live out an experience I’ve never had before. It’s exciting! It’s fun. On top of all of this, I am playing a kickass turn-based strategy game, and I fucking love kickass turn-based strategy games.

Many of the games I’ve played that have dealt heavily in LGBTQIA+ story beats have largely been story based and lighter mechanically. There is nothing wrong with this mind you, this is great, and I’m super happy to see LGBTQIA+ artists have the resources to be able to make the work they want to. But the elements that brought me to games in the first games are the mechanical aspects. To be playing a game in my favorite genre, that allows me to vicariously live out and express my queerness is wonderful. This certainly isn’t my favorite game, but it’s what I needed right now, just coming off XCOM 2, and just coming off realizing “holy shit I’m not straight”.

More than anything though, this game shows me what games do when they embrace marginalized creators and perspectives. They can let you feel experiences that are just a bit too far out of reach in real life. They can provide examples of folks of all sorts being brave, being funny, being upset and just as troubled as the rest of us. And unlike other forms of media, they can provide us with spaces to live out that perspective. I can be this big ol’ gay man doing the chicken dance and cracking jokes on the dance floor just as much as you could have that haircut you’ve always wanted, or can be the hero of a world, and be loved by those around you for who you are.

I started writing this thread after seeing all the 10/10’s God of War was receiving and being mad, as I didn’t understand the hype. Now even more than before, I see so much of it was because of perspective. So many father’s seeing a game that contained even a glimpse of understanding fatherhood, of course they’d rave about it.

Maybe with more marginalized folks in games getting more power in the game-making process, and more marginalized voices covering them, games can start speaking to more than just fathers? I’d like to think that’s possible, but more importantly, it’s necessary for the medium to survive.


So what does this mean for me? If All Walls Must Fall, at some point mine must too, I must be able to embrace who I am. I don’t know just yet. Despite being open about who I am and what I look like on the web and in this community, I’ve always been a private person. I don’t expect that to change.

I’ll just leave saying this: if you’re a bit lost in wondering who you are and how you identify or how you should label yourself, I am right there with you. And so are so many others. We might be asking different questions and coming from different places, and ultimately be searching for different answers, but know you aren’t alone. Finding out who you are is fucking tough, especially with so many other expectations society puts on those identities. But you are you, and you’re already great!

I hope you find your All Walls Must Fall.

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Glorgu this was a friggin incredible bit of writing. Thank you for sharing this with us.

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