After receiving 33 submissions for the FPS editors managed to narrow a fantastic selection of procedural poems down to 6 finalists. From those 6 we then engaged in a lengthy debate as to which one should be declared the winner of the first (annual?) Pseudo Game Jam. And, at the end of that debate, we decided that…declaring just one winner was a downright shame. So, thanks to the fine folks at The Games Institute, we now have three sets of prizes and three winners!
1st Prize: A $100 Steam gift card, a collection of essential books in game studies, and an exclusive First Person Scholar t-shirt.
2nd Prize: A $50Steam gift card and an exclusive First Person Scholar t-shirt
3rd Prize: An exclusive First Person Scholar t-shirt.
Without further ado, here they are (winners, we’ll be in touch shortly):
First Place: Speechless
Speechless is a first person suitor game, or a meet ‘em up, though it challenges the generic framework of both. Specifically, Speechless aims to resist the conventions of dating sims or romance visual novels that objectify women as merely sexual “goals” in the service of heterosexual male fantasy.
The player assumes the role of an employee who works for a company that relays break-up messages for clients unwilling to face their own loved ones directly. Think of it as a romance text-based game without the love.
Goal: The goal isn’t to start a relationship, but to end one.
Set Up: The player-character receives information from a client on the feelings they wish to convey to their significant other. These “mission briefs” provide crucial context for you to set the tone and direction in the game’s dialogue options.
Play: Based on the given information, the player-character engages the client’s partner through a series of dialogue choices that will eventually lead to a healthy breakup. As in L.A. Noire’s interrogation sequences or Telltale Games’ dialogue trees, the player must set the appropriate tone so the breakup message is conveyed healthily rather than risk ending the conversation and failing altogether.
The partner’s reaction to the news informs your conversational style: aggressive, gentle, sympathetic, etc. Falling into routine dialogue paths is likely, but the finale of the game turns the gameplay on its head. The final contract forces you to navigate the player-character’s own relationship with their unseen significant other, switching the roles so that you react to your own breakup via a fellow employee relaying the kind of information you were so keen on disseminating earlier. Will you be surprised? Curious? Indifferent?
Speechless encourages players to think about these emotions and the language of failed romance. Failure is normal.
Second Place: PAYWALL
PAYWALL is a platform game for one player.
Goal: the player’s goal is to run ahead of a continually moving wall (the “paywall”). Their goal is to avoid being “overtaken” by it until, eventually, their character dies of old age, illness or financial insolvency.
Set up: each level represents a stage in the player-character’s life. They begin in childhood and must successively move through themed levels which include school, work and retirement. Meanwhile, the wall – a continually moving force, never slowing or showing remorse – attempts to overtake them.
Play: the player must navigate a series of obstacles familiar to platform games – hoops to jump through, pits to leap – while the wall moves forever forward. As the game progresses, the player’s agility – while peaking as an adult – declines, as they are saddled with hard-to-avoid “afflictions”, such as illness, debt and depression.
If the player is “hit” or “overtaken” by the paywall, the game requires that the player pays to unlock further content, while saddling them with additional “afflictions” that further slow their progress in the game. Debts reduce their dexterity and speed, while depression causes them to slow or for the controls to invert at random. Health is limited and continually reduces. “Medicines” can temporarily restore some health, yet at the cost of further debt “afflictions”.
The game ends either when the player runs out of health or when they can no longer afford to escape the paywall, and cannot therefore continue. Their reward – if they die ahead of the paywall – is to pass on only a fraction of their “afflictions” to the next player. If they lose, however, all of their afflictions are passed on.
Third Place: From KillScreen
“From KillScreen” is a one player platform-puzzler with RPG elements. The player plays as the Unidentified Sprite.
Goal: The Player’s progress has finally ended, but your world has collapsed and deconstructed itself. You, the Unidentified Sprite (US), begin in “the abyss” to find and reconstruct meaning to your game and identity.
Set Up: The beginning is a kill screen, the US has no discernible features, and even the US’s words are garbled nonsense. Rearranging the speech-text to form a sentence unlocks movement; it is an awakening to a world out of order. The US realizes that its world and identity has to be restored by returning to the beginning, putting the levels back into its supposed proper places and gathering together features of US’s body along the way.
Play: In each level, the US has to travel from the right to the left in a glitch-ridden world: enemies never appear twice in the same areas and move unpredictably; levels contain scattered code that block paths, which can be removed by rearranging the code into a certain sequence, and certain components (not all) of a level are re-arrangeable in any order to progress.
At the end of a level, the US must revive a boss by completing a puzzle-challenge such as piecing together the boss in the likeness of its image in a display. Throughout each level, the US can collect “features.” Each “feature” contains three body options that the player can choose from to define the featureless sprite, but only one of the three options can be chosen. The resulting gender of the Sprite is not necessarily binary. Changes at each level are permanent once completed.
The game ends by prompting the player to select “start game,” accompanied by the Sprite. The credits roll. The changes made to each level are never seen.