Untitled Small Games Club - Dujanah - July 2020

This is the July 2020 thread for the Untitled Small Games Club, see this thread if you want to see more details about the club.

The short version is that for the month of July, we’re going to play and discuss Dujanah by Jack King-Spooner, as suggested by… me! We’ve previously played their previous game Beeswing.

Price: £5 (currently half off in the Summer sale!)
If you cannot purchase it for any reason, feel free to DM and I can gift a copy to anyone who needs it.

Platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux

Length: 2-4 hours

Some content warnings, but by no means an exhaustive list:
Death and dying
Claymation nudity
War (in this case specifically military occupation in the middle east)
An abrupt jump in a specific minigame poopek loves it all ends with a loud noise
Minigame based on a very crass joke pie or anus?
Photosensitive Epilepsy

Please be liberal with spoiler tagging. Very small mechanical things can easily be a spoiler to others, even if you don’t think they are.

Also, have fun!

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So there hasn’t been a ton of criticism on Dujanah, but I’d like to share some of the pieces I’ve seen. Naturally, spoilers and content warnings for all of these.

From Heather Alexandra, on Kotaku:

From Nic Reuben, on Cliqist:

From Yussef Cole on Unwinnable:

Lastly, here’s two interviews with the creator:


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Decided to participate this month, but having difficulty putting in the time with this game. There’s a lot of visual noise that I can’t deal with after a while.

I’d be interested to know which random intro y’all got: I got catharsis.

Finally saw credits. I have a lot of thoughts but need time to percolate on them.

However, I did want to mention two cool technical tricks the game played (blurred for spoilers)

  1. There’s a podium on the military base. Interact with it and it brings up a scrolling speech that says “READ ALOUD”. The game actually starts taking in your microphone input and combining it with other audio as the speech progresses. I didn’t notice until I heard dialog from the TV show my wife was watching in the same room through my own headphones.

  2. There’s a robot who mentions something about copying something to your clipboard… I opened up Notepad, hit CTRL-V, and there appeared a hint to a secret in the game.

I love it when games use their physical medium in unexpected ways like this!

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Unfortunately I won’t be able to play this game now. July has been really busy for me with moving to a new job and country, so I’ve stuck to simpler games that I won’t have to engage with emotionally in the sense that I did with Beeswing. Still, looking forward to playing it once I have some more stability and then catch up with y’all’s thoughts.

I got identity at the beginning.

I’d read Yussef’s Unwinnable piece after playing Beeswing and before playing this. My general recollection of what Yussef wrote (that Dujanah took place in a fictionalized, non-distinct middle east and that it wasn’t rooted in any specific culture) was constantly casting a shadow over my playthrough. That also ties into:

With Beeswing, I think I was wondering whether the tone and topics of the NPC dialogue was more reflective of a place, or about the mindset of “Jack”-the-character or Jack-the-author. With Dujanah, I felt unsettled because what I’d chalked up in Beeswing to a particular moodiness of Scottish rural identity was being transposed onto this ambiguous middle eastern setting, and it felt a lot more disconnected. The particulars of this setting and story seemed harder to pay attention to. You could put a Dujanah village into Beeswing, change what the buildings look like, and it wouldn’t have felt out of place to me. It’s good that an author’s voice gets reflected in their work, but the detached musings of all the dialogue felt more fitting when applied to small town thoughts about existentialism and growing old, and they don’t feel quite as appropriate applied to a setting of American occupation and collateral damage. Then again, take out the beginning couple scenes and the military base, and the rest of it doesn’t have much to do with any of that. Everything feels disparate and disconnected. I could try to say that the meaninglessness is the point, but in the Right Now of 2020, I’d really like to find a little more meaning in things, not less.

The imagery and soundscape are a lot more discordant and brash than the homier, sleepier feel of Beeswing. It does feel more confident and willing to experiment, and the playfulness can provide some nice moments. That’s a huge plus.

I want to give this more credit; it’s novel and has some good moments. But I think I found it hard to meet this game on its own terms (and why should I?) because of Beeswing and Yussef’s piece.

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