Toronto has long been a Canadian hub for indie game development, so when the Brooklyn-based Different Games Conference decided to cross the border, Toronto was the logical destination. For the last fours years, Different Games has showcased diverse, emergent voices in the video game industry, providing an inclusive and accessible platform that invites developers and people from outside the industry to share their experiences to better enrich gaming.
OCAD University hosted Different Games Toronto at its downtown gallery over the weekend. In addition to Saturday’s conference, the event included an arcade exhibition that featured alternative games, VR games, role playing games, and performance pieces. These are a few of the highlights that best captured the spirit of Different Games Toronto.
Monster Girl Gaynernations: Ghoul Friends for Life
Monster Girl Gaynerations is a queer dating game in which you play as a bartender who has the choice of dating a werewolf, a Slime Girl, a Medusa, or a Witch. The goal to get one of them to kiss you so you can return to human form after another patron turned you into a ghost for serving a bad drink. Created by Spooklight Games, a group of second year students in Sheridan’s game design program, Monster Girl Gaynerations is a cute, positive little dating sim that cares more about having a nice conversation than it does about the eventual kiss.
“We had an assignment to make whatever we wanted,” said Jen Stienstra, one of the creators of the Monster Girl Gaynerations. “I got three of my friends and said we’re making a dating sim. We wanted to make a gay dating sim, too. The ones that exist are aimed to a male audience or the girls are gimmicky stereotypes. If we’re going to do a stereotypical monster, we’re doing werewolf or vampire, not both. There is a lot of vampire romance.”
“Werewolf girl is my favourite,” continued Stienstra. “Werewolf girl and slime girl are the most popular monsters. People gravitate towards those.”
Monster Girl Gaynerations is online and free at https://www.spooklightgames.com/
Swapmeet is a performance game in which you share secrets with people. Created by Jason Weston Wong, you write a secret down on a slip of paper and fold it before finding someone else participating in the game (players can be identified with a yellow X that all participants are asked to wear). You exchange secrets – and the slips of paper those secrets are written on – so the next person that you share with receives the new secret that you received. It’s a neat experiment in how we share private information with complete strangers, which gets even more complicated when it might not be your secret.
“I wanted to create something that people wouldn’t do outside of a game,” said Wong. “It creates a space where people can be vulnerable. If you judge them, it could be someone else’s secret.”
“It’s very humanizing because people might think it is yours and you have to live with that fact that there are things in our past that make us feel uncomfortable and embarrassed,” said Cilaine Maurin, one of the Swapmeet participants at Different Games.
“You get secrets that are joking or embarrassing, and then you get some that you don’t want to hear,” said Wong. “It’s cool to see people go up to people because it is part of the game. People keep talking afterward.”
Humaning is a cooperative pen and paper RPG built around slight story prompts, a few questions, and your own imagination. It was also one of the coolest games at the conference. You and two others play as a Plant, a Metal, and a Bacterium, and your goal is to form a human life.
“It works by asking a series of questions and answering those fills,” said creator Kara Stone. “Tell the story of how you were first formed. How does the human feel about you?”
“I like Roleplaying Games like [Dungeons & Dragons], but in this one you are forming a human’s love.”
Humaning gets people to think outside the box while drawing their human, and it’s amazing to see strangers collaborate in such a complementary way.
“I did this because it’s hard to talk about things like metals and making life,” said Stone. “Try to make it representative. It’s speculative fiction. I think it’s better to rely on the human imagination.”
Fortunately, you don’t need to rely on a dungeon master to enjoy Humaning. The game is now available at https://karastone.itch.io/humaning
Sometimes simple is best. Like Camping is Elliot Pines’ interactive exhibit, wherein you sit in a tent and use a pillow to navigate a forest area. The short demo is the most relaxed I’ve felt in quite awhile, especially since camping is something I love but hardly ever get the chance to do. Like Camping is the rare game that can transport you to a time and place of calm, away from big city problems and towards something more purposeful.
My only issue with the game is I didn’t get more time to truly zone out with this wonderful gaming experiment. I hope to see more from Mr. Pines in the future.