There’s a model for how the Game Pile works. When it started, it was almost a sort of penitence diary, a way for me to talk about the games in my Steam Library as I committed to play through them, with the idea that it would be a long process where I could eventually ‘finish’ my Steam Library. It was almost done as a sort of deliberate demonstration of engagement – hey, people who bought me these gifts, here I am, playing them, please have your money and time and belief in me respected.
I’ve no interest in doing a history of the Game Pile at this point, or at least in this post, but it’s the thing I can’t help but reflect on when I realise it’s been a while since I’ve played something that hit the ‘essay’ button for me. I have the belief that everything is worth critically engaging with, and that things that are fun or lovely are as worthy of deep analysis as anything else, but what motivates me to write these things tends to come from a place of rage or insight.
These are tools that aren’t really brought to bear on Witchway.
I thought for a time of doing a video of me playing it. It’d be a great way to show off how charming the game is, and it wouldn’t be especially challenging to edit or format. Just show me playing the game, talk about it, and then share that. Thing is, when it comes to solving a puzzle game, most of my conversation is a mumbling ‘ahhh,’ and ‘uhhhh,’ and ‘maybe if I….?’ and what’s more, I’m not great at them so I couldn’t help but imagine to my smarter friends (which, on average, means you) it’d be hell watching me struggle and stumble on puzzles without even being meaningfully aware of my perception of the puzzle while you’re busy having already solved it.
Seems like you’d just straight up not be having a good time!
But I am still craving games that make good video content. They’re the ones that don’t require tons of editing, the way that Meaningless Heterotopia did. I don’t have tons of time to spend on videos this year, because of uh, the PhD, and that means that I’ve been thinking of keeping my video formats tight and engaging on small topics rather than trying the ‘essay’ format. Also, Chris Franklin of Errant Signal recently (to as of writing) wrote about how ten and fifteen minute videos were generally better because forty-five to three hour videogame videos were often sloppy and lossy and didn’t use the video format as meaningful additions to the spoken essays. At that point it’s one of my thousand-word articles, read slowly, over footage of the game without a strong tie to the words. And I still like the honesty of playing Assassins Creed and being piss-bad at it, just like showing you my bad solitaire playing was kind of freeing.
What’s more, because it’s a puzzle game, Witchway is a game where watching it be played is in many ways going to make it harder to enjoy solving those puzzles entirely cleanly. It wasn’t going to make good video content; not for my needs, not for my wants. If I couldn’t bring myself to write a long form essay about it, and I couldn’t make a video about it, was I just going to let it go away? It would fit well in some witchy month, maybe, perhaps I should have done this in August, during ‘magic month’ instead of searching needlessly for gmaes where you hide some doves in tails.
It just seems that by dint of being a lovely, fun, interesting game that doesn’t, I dunno, obviously stray into realms of misappropriation of class consciousness by the capitalism of the bunnies or whatever, Witchway was always getting bumped for games that either inspired more anger or had more sinew as nonsense.
That seems pretty rough on poor Witchway!
Then here is my summary on Witchway. This game is adorable. It is a puzzle game. It has, as far as I’ve gotten through it, no real involvement of disturbing or traumatising content. You can rescue bunnies and ride in a bucket. It is a very classic style of ‘lasers and mirrors’ puzzle game, where you’re pointing straight lines at things to reflect them to hit targets, and added into that puzzle is the challenge of navigating your little witchy body through these spaces. It’s fun and it’s sweet and it looks great and it’s charming, and it’s an indie platform puzzler that isn’t about mental health or zombies, and that deserves some attention of its own.
Witchway costs $4 USD on itch.io, and it is on track to get kickstartered for a larger version of the game as more of a whole indie product. It’s lovely and it’s cute and I recommend giving it a shot, if you see anything you like in all of this.