TNB Night Owl – There Is No Game

Screenshot showing typical gameplay of Desert Bus from Penn & Teller's Smoke and Mirrors for the Sega CD. Image capture by TNB.

There are different categories for video games; there are platformers, shooters, driving games, role-playing games, and more. Among the most popular forms has historically been the puzzle game, where players are required to solve a series of mental challenges before progressing through the storyline. These were especially prominent in the early days of home computers, where limited graphics and speed placed hard borders on reflex-oriented games. There were few such constraints on puzzles.

This led to a glut of puzzle games on the market, and developers sought ways to make themselves distinctive. Some did so by including easter eggs, others by incorporating potentially disturbing content, or by providing particularly deceptive options (Return to Zork, for example, offered the option of discarding a plant found at the game’s beginning. If it was discarded, the game could not be properly completed… something the player was unlikely to discover until they’d already played for more than a dozen hours.)

An early entry into the distinctive puzzle game series was Hacker, where few instructions were made available to the player… they were expected to decipher the purpose of the game as they went along. A similar experience was provided by Myst, which upped the ante with lush graphics (for the time) for the player to enjoy while they tried to figure out what was happening.

It is in that general vein that There Is No Game was created.

It’s a small puzzle game, available for free on Steam (as well as on various ad-heavy sites for those who feel uncomfortable loading software onto their computer, even from the most prominent online game platform.) It is an entertaining small puzzle game, even if it insists otherwise. Every step forward is either intuitive or has verbal hints provided by the program. There are references to other successful games, whether they be Portal or Goat Simulator. It was a massive hit, and then it faded. Unfortunately, there are only a few minutes of content with limited replay value. Once people had experienced the novelty, interest flagged.

If you don’t want to play it, here’s a playthrough from Youtube. If you do want to play, don’t watch it, go download it and give yourself an entertaining twelve minutes.

In 2016, the creator, pleased by the overwhelmingly positive response to his bit of playfulness, initiated a Kickstarter campaign to fund a full-length sequel.

The Kickstarter went nowhere, as few people heard about his effort until long after the campaign had ended.

At that point, the game creator was crestfallen, but undeterred. He resolved to finish the sequel game anyway, but in his spare time and with his own funds. It would have been helpful to be able to dedicate his full attention to the project, but he would persevere.

In 2020, he demonstrated the value of will. Under his new company name of Draw Me A Pixel, creator Pascal Cammisotto and a handful of his friends managed to complete what came to be called There Is No Game: Wrong Dimension. While the global pandemic stopped other projects in their tracks, Cammisotto and his friends had been working remotely the entire time; lack of funds for a studio had forced them to do their respective parts on their home systems and coordinate over the internet.

There Is No Game: Wrong Dimension became a cult hit, resulting in effusive praise and significant remuneration for the creator and his friends. It’s been available on Steam, the Apple app store and Google Play, running anywhere from $5 to $13 and providing a little over three hours of solid gameplay – despite not being, it continues to insist, a game. But it was a bit of contemporary oddity for the Night Owl.

Question of the night: Were there any games and puzzles (video or otherwise) that provided entertainment for you during the pandemic year?

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About AlienMotives 1991 Articles
Ex-Navy Reactor Operator turned bookseller. Father of an amazing girl and husband to an amazing wife. Tired of willful political blindness, but never tired of politics. Hopeful for the future.