I get it. You saw Elden Ring and fast lost your shit so hard that you accidentally turned off the power and missed the whole ass presentation that took place afterwards. But the most amazing part about Summer Game Fest happened immediately after Geoff Keighley let go of the microphone Elden Ringreveals, during the indie show Day of the Devs.
What is Day of the Devs?
Day of the Devs was a showcase for indie games organized by iam8bit and Psychonauts develops Double Fine. Rather than being a shotgun of game commercials, two-second teasers and interviews with your best friend, Day of the Devs was a much cooler showcase. The slower presentation allowed the devs to showcase their games in more detail than a sizzle reel would allow. As such, viewers had more time to admire absolutely phenomenal games that stop-motion animated Vocabulary.
Holy shit, just look at this! I was thrilled by stop motion animator Johan Oettinger who demonstrated how he carefully posed, shot and moved the models, and got the same bag from different angles to faithfully recreate how the light hits the characters. More than just showcasing a cool and unique art style, actually seeing the level of technical detail that was created Vocabulary made me play it, as I had not even heard of it a few moments before.
The sudden swell of “holy shit, I want this now” happened to me much more during Day of the Devs than it did during Summer Game Fest. Honestly, the kind of games marketed during Summer Game Fest are just not for me. Of course I can get excited about what Kojima makes up, because at least the memes will be impeccable. But the games Geoff turned out were not my speed. It felt like things that did not interest me when I saw it, and things I had never intended to play. Do not misunderstand me, my closeness to everyone’s excitement on social media about Far Cry 6 or Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands in turn excited me, and I am always willing to try new experiences outside of my typical gaming comfort zone, but nothing in that presentation moved my needle.
But Day Of The Devs brought me to tears.
Another game that was shown on Day of Devs was Unbeatable, an anime-style rhythm game where you use the beat of the music to fight enemies. I love rhythm games, especially if there’s a new spin on the rhythm game format, and I’m excited about all the reason for the full release of Unbeatable. I downloaded the demo within seconds of hearing it was on Steam.
Soup jug is another game I’m almost rabid about. Cooking games are my jam. To be able to make some realistic food from different cultures in a respectful and educational way? Double my jam.
I’m ready to be completely devastated by Moonglow Bay, a fishing RPG that lets you use your angling talents to save your dying city. Same with immigration roguelike Road 96, where the different choices you make affect how you reach or do not reach the security of the border.
I just love the whole Day of the Dev games. They look so unique, different from the AAA development fixation on hyperrealism, and they felt more human and personal to me than the flashy, splashier titles in the Game Fest presser. I know that AAA development is not devoid of heartfelt personal stories, and I have had as much of an emotional reaction to larger budget games as I have to these Indians. But there is something emotionally compelling about half of a two-dev team talking about how he modeled the football game Despelote of his lived experience growing up in Ecuador.
The conversations you hear in the trailer are improvised from everyday people, and the buildings in the background are real photos taken of Ecuador’s capital Quito. These are the kind of stories you don’t often get in big budget game presentations. And it is these personal stories with blood-on-pixels that remind me why I so passionately love video games as a medium.
I suspect we will see more of this type of game on Saturday Healthy directly. Hopefully this time will not continue to be distracted by people Elden Ring.