Look, I get it. Y’all saw Elden Ring and promptly lost your shit so hard that you accidentally closed the stream and missed the whole-ass presentation going on afterwards. But the most awesome part about Summer Game Fest happened immediately after Geoff Keighley dropped the mic on Elden Ring’s reveal, during the indie game show Day of the Devs.
Day of the Devs was a showcase of indie games hosted by iam8bit and Psychonauts developer Double Fine. Rather than being a shotgun of game announcements, two-second teasers, and interviews with your best friend, Day of the Devs was a much chiller showcase. The slower-paced presentation allowed devs to show off their games in greater detail than a sizzle reel would allow. As such, viewers had more time to marvel at utterly phenomenal-looking games like the stop-motion animated Vokabulantis.
Holy shit, just look at this! I was enthralled by stop motion animator Johan Oettinger demonstrating how he painstakingly posed, shot, and moved the models, getting the same pose from different angles in order to faithfully recreate how the light hits the characters. More than just showing off a cool and unique art style, actually seeing the level of technical detail that went into making Vokabulantis made me hyped to play it, when moments before I hadn’t even heard of it.
That sudden swell of, “holy shit I want this now” happened to me a lot more during Day of the Devs than it did during Summer Game Fest. Frankly, the kind of games marketed during Summer Game Fest just aren’t for me. Sure I can get excited about whatever Kojima’s cooking up because, at the very least, the memes will be impeccable. But the games Geoff showed off weren’t my speed. It felt like stuff that didn’t interest me when I saw it and stuff I never had an intention to play. Don’t get me wrong, my proximity to everyone’s excitement on social media about Far Cry 6 or Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands in turn excited me, and I’m always willing to try new experiences outside my typical gaming comfort zone, but nothing in that presentation moved my needle.
But Day Of The Devs had me in tears.
Another game shown at Day of Devs was Unbeatable, an anime-style rhythm game in which you use the beat of the music to fight enemies. I love rhythm games, especially if it’s a new spin on the rhythm game format, and I’m excited beyond reason for the full release of Unbeatable. I downloaded the demo within seconds of hearing it was on Steam.
Soup Pot is another game I’m nearly rabid for. Cooking games are my jam. Being able to somewhat realistically cook food from different cultures in a respectful and educational way? Double my jam.
I’m ready to be utterly destroyed by Moonglow Bay, a fishing RPG that has you use your angler talents to save your dying town. Same with immigration roguelike Road 96, in which the different choices you make affect how you reach or fail to reach the safety of the border.
I just love all the Day of the Dev games. They look so unique, different from AAA development’s fixation with hyper realism, and they felt more human and personal to me than the flashier, splashier titles in the Game Fest presser. I know AAA development isn’t devoid of heartfelt personal stories, and I’ve had just as much of an emotional reaction to bigger budget games as I’m having to these indies. But there’s something emotionally compelling about one half of a two dev team talking about how he modeled his soccer game Despelote off 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 pictures taken of Ecuador’s capital Quito. These are the kinds of stories you don’t often get in big budget games presentations. And it’s these personal, blood-on-the-pixels kind of stories that remind me of why I so ardently love video games as a medium.
I suspect we’ll see more of these kinds of games at Saturday’s Wholesome Direct. Hopefully this time people won’t still be distracted by Elden Ring.