Walking Simulator A Month Club, vol 1
Connor Sherlock
pc/mac/USD$10 (currently $5)

"In far future of the 55th octillionth millennium there is only Walking."

I'm a little late to the party on this one, but it came to my attention this week because it went on sale for $5 and people were sharing that on twitter. I guess the author, Connor Sherlock, is pretty well-known amongst real aficionados of 'walking simulators' (meaning, games which are simply explorable spaces, where your only verbs are 'walk', 'look', 'feel' and 'think'). But I had not heard of his work until now.

Let me try to convince you to buy it: Walking Simulator a Month Club is simply a device which will transport you to sixteen imaginary places, and make you feel sixteen non-imaginary ways. It will remind you of the transportative power of videogames. And that is all it's going to do.


Each of the executables transports you to a large, seemingly endless space in another place and time. Each time, you descend from a crystal, which we might suppose represents your point of entry into the simulated dimension, and you begin to walk around. A beautiful piece of music begins to play, anchoring your mood to the scene, giving you permission to stay and walk around as the song plays out. On a crystalline planet, a Popol Vuh-esque ambience of frequency-modulation synths. In a misty forest, a sombre piano lullaby.

Right now, I'm in the middle of grading a giant pile of student videogames at the end of the academic year. It takes a degree of emotional energy to let soft videogame experiences like this take you somewhere, and I am very low on that energy right now. Still it worked; I think it was the harmony between Sherlock's musical compositions and the thoughtful architecture of these spaces that moved me.


Sherlock has been supporting himself with a Patreon for a couple of years, making a walking simulator every month and sending it out to his patrons, and this package collates a year's worth in one download, situating the collection as a single game. That makes it feel quite different than getting them one-by-one as part of the Patreon.

When you download the giant .zip file, it unspools into 13 different folders with sixteen different executables. A pure walking simulator is a game that asks you to explore a space as much or as little as you want, and does not offer any rewards for doing so, nor does it answer any mysteries. This way of distributing the game expresses the same indifferent ethos: here are some digital spaces. They are not connected except insofar as they are part of the same project, and share some basic structural similarities. You can visit them in any order, for as long or as little as you want. You can walk away and do something else.

To me, this is perhaps the most exciting thing about Walking Simulator a Month Club vol. 1. The folder of executables itself is an imagined history, a simulated world with worlds inside of it, using the familiar structure of your computer's operating system as a frame.

10 Mississippi
Karina Popp

"a game of uncomfortable, creeping intimacy."

I've been waiting on this one for a while — Karina made the prototype for it in my game-a-week class at NYU two years ago, and since then it got an IGF nomination and went to Stugan. As I warn you in the sidebar for this blog, sometimes I'm gonna recommend stuff from inside my network, because it's good.

Here's the pitch: it's a game about the rhythm of another person's life. We use rhythms for dancing because they help us to synchronize with other people. And that's how rhythm is used here.


At first 10 Mississippi reminded me of Garnet Hertz's 1997 html game The Simulator, a bleak, nihilistic critique of the soulless repetition in daily adult life. But as you play it, soon it becomes clear that the two games are diametrically opposed. The Simulator embodies your own sense of identity and agency in an alien predicament full of alienatingly generic actions and objects. It's you in the routine, it's you growing bored, and it's your ultimate rejection of the routine that gives the game its meaning.

In 10 Mississippi, it's not you in the daily routine. It's (we may presume) the author, and you are inhabiting her body and her lived experience. You get more familiar with the details in the locations that give personality to the situations and the character. Like Nina Freeman's Cibele, it uses game mechanics to embody you in another person's first-person experience, better to understand it and empathize with it. But where Nina's game seems to revel in (and play with) the disjunct between the character's identity and the identity of the presumed player, 10 Mississippi feels like it is trying to bridge the gap between the player and the author, to build a feeling of intimacy, and to make the player comfortable sitting behind the author's eyelids.


The game pulls some nice hypnotic tricks to further you embody you in the author's head, drawing parallels between your keyboard and hers, and between your movements and hers, in a way that recalls some earlier experience-sharing vignette games (notably Anna Anthropy's Dys4ia). But these tricks have a certain visceral intensity in 10 Mississippi, owing to the first-person perspective and the photographic animations, and to some excellent, crunchy game feel.

When she published Vespertine, Björk spoke about the close relationship between domesticity, the utter mundane and intimacy. 10 Mississippi explores those ideas in a way I haven't seen before in games, and only rarely in other media. Recommended.

Carlos Coronado

"Pacman in hell."

This was a recommendation from the excellent Twitter account @NotableReleases which is run by Richard Alvarez and JR Smith, who I don't know. I've never played a Carlos Coronado game before but this one is amazing.

Here's my pitch: it's realistic first-person Pac-Man, by which I mean it is totally terrifying. Pac-Man, after all, is trapped in a maze without exits, where he is eternally hungry and relentlessly hounded by ghosts.


Infernium takes one of the oldest, most recognizable videogames, and warps it — almost beyond recognition — through the lens of several other contrary but equally beloved works.

One of the most clichéd ways to talk about a videogame is to describe it as you would a cocktail recipe: "it's one part Space Invaders, two parts Pong". And in spite of myself, I can't explain Infernium any more clearly than to say: it's Pac-Man with the level flow and progression mechanics of Dark Souls, the environmental narrative strategies of Myst, the traversal mechanic from The Sentinel and parts of various other games mixed in. But I'm not just describing the characteristics of the game — it lifts these elements exactly from the source material, more like a cultural collage than a normal literate game.

In the first few minutes I was playing it, these borrowed elements struck me as annoyingly heavy-handed or even fannish. But it quickly becomes clear that they aren't there as a nostalgic wink or a respectful nod toward classic games. It's a game about those games. Infernium wants you to think about Dark Souls, to the point where it opens a shortcut right above an area that almost perfectly mirrors Firelink shrine, and to the point where it uses bonfires to checkpoint your progress and gives you one last chance to retrieve your money when you die. It wants you to think about Myst and Riven, to the point where there are barely-decipherable books littered around the environment, a coastal ruin full of mysterious glyphs, and lever puzzles everywhere. Playing it, I find myself drawing on things I know about slipping away from ghosts in Pac-man and marrying that with my expertise in avoiding Balder Knights in Dark Souls. This makes for a very unusual and original kind of experience.


But aside from all of that, these disparate borrowed elements are blended very skillfully into an actual compelling, sizeable videogame. It's genuinely scary, and challenging in exactly that way the first Souls game you played was, before you internalized and broke down the underlying systems. It's stark and lonely and gorgeous like the best of the Myst series. But under it all is a very good joke: it's Pac-Man.

Ah, that is such a good idea!