[Pretentious Refuse is a segment advocating excellent indie games that may be overlooked and/or otherwise dismissed as “low budget garbage” by “real” gamers.]
Connections is a new space shooter of sorts from Mindful xp, who are apparently a bunch of student devs, and it is likely the most poignant take on a shooter in a while.
The Flash game seeks to draw a narrative from a classic games formula by employing randomly generated names and associating them to blobs which can be linked to you. Initially you’re linked to two large blobs, and the game notifies you of the fact that they are your “parents”. As enemy “ships” attack these blobs, your task is to protect them by taking out the enemies.
It’s simple enough, until you find you find yourself venturing outside of your family and creating new links to other blobs.
What then follows is a constant struggle of which relationships to protect, which to sever, and which to sacrifice for the greater good. When links are severed, notifications will pop up stating that “so-and-so has lost touch with you, and hasn’t tried to contact you in years”. Games take about ten minutes, and at the conclusion, when you yourself pass away, a list of all the social links in your “life” is given.
I started playing this thinking it was going to be a gimmick for a gaming formula that was simple and quite bland, but I was amazed to find out just how captivated I was in every game. Connections is an incredibly thoughtful metaphor on life that mirrors it surprisingly well. Ditching your brother to protect your friends, or choosing to cut off all connections with a group of buddies to protect your ailing mother; these are all choices I had to make in order to end up with the strongest connections by life’s end.
It’s even worse when names pop up that coincidentally happen to be people you actually know in real life. I was valiantly protecting the well-being of my mother, father, and younger brother, when I decided to venture out into the abyss to see if there were any person-blobs worth connecting with. Sure enough, I happened to find a blob with the name of someone very special to me in my actual, non-amorphous-creature life, and naturally, I absolutely had to link to her. What resulted was perhaps the most emotionally invested I’ve ever been in what is essentially an Asteroids variant: I started off frantically protecting her while trying to also fend off an attack on my family, and ended up sacrificing the better part of my family to make sure that one splotch was safe and sound.
While it was ultimately a game, Connections spoke volumes about my real life, and affirmed that, for better or for worse, I would actually commit to such actions with no regrets whatsoever. It’s an incredible reflection of one’s psyche, and it would do everyone well to at least play through this at least once. Check it out here.