Earlier this week a curious title became available as a download for the DSi. With a name like "Alt-Play: Jason Rohrer Anthology" the game, actually a compilation of games by developer Jason Rohrer, showcases three of the most notable pieces of interactive entertainment to be released over the last four years.
What It Is
Released by Latin American developer Sabarasa, "Alt-Play" is home to 2007's "Passage," and 2008's "Gravitation" and "Between." Each game is composed of elements that are traditionally found in games, but they are less competitive and more works of art. It's hard to elaborate on each game, particularly when it comes to the "art" part, which is why you need to experience them on your own, and, much like more traditional works of art, interpret their meanings for yourself.
Why It's Important
In 2009, the Independent Games Festival awarded the most traditional "game" in the anthology, "Between," its Innovation Award. In 2007, "Passage" garnered so much attention that notable developers like David Jaffe and Clint Hocking were name-dropping it in interviews (on this very blog). In 2008, when "Between" was released, Esquire magazine named Jason Rohrer as one of their Best and Brightest honorees. These three games represent just less than half of the career of someone who has become known for pushing the boundaries of how video games can make players feel, and has routinely proven that you don't need to make something big and flashy to accomplish it.
Why It's Worth $2
Each of these games can be played for free on both Macs and PCs, and "Passage" is even available on iPhones (along side Rohrer's iPhone exclusive puzzle game, "Primose"), but the DS version haas a couple of advantages over the other platforms. First off, "Between" offers DS Download Play, which means you can share the experience whenever and wherever you are, as long as you have a friend with a DS. Secondly, it makes for a handy device to illustrate three of the simplest and most expressive examples of video game art (should you happen to be engaged in a conversation with someone who might have a dissenting opinion on the topic). Finally, on top of the games, the software includes the creator's all-important explanations about the games, which has insights into why he created them, and what they were intended to represent. These aren't things you find everyday in games, much less ones for less than a cup of coffee.
Here's to hoping that "Alt-Play: Jason Rohrer Anthology" is just the beginning of a series that features the little guy; developers who are looking to expand the meaning of electronic entertainment along side others who have created important titles within the independent gaming community. If Sabarasa needs more ideas of whom future "Alt-Play" titles could include, they needn't look further than the Independent Games Festival nominees for the last few years. While some of these devs are starting to get recognized, and become able to release their games on newer systems courtesy of Xbox Live and the Playstation Network, there are still many left out there, waiting for their moment in the spotlight.