Double Fine’s Amnesia Fortnight, one of the most entertaining and somewhat unorthodox jams in the video game world, has recently concluded. You may know Double Fine from their newly released (and successfully Kickstarted) adventure game Broken Age, heavy-metal action RTS Brütal Legend starring Jack Black, or the charming cult-classic Psychonauts, but this small indie studio is brimming with clever ideas that seep out during the anticipated two week event. Documented in an episodic format by 2PlayerProductions and streamed daily, AF is a vacation for the folks at DF to break out of their day to day routines, assembling in smaller teams to craft new games in only fourteen days. These aren’t just novel demos that are temporarily enjoyed then forgotten- many of the prototypes from previous events have gain enough praise and support to be developed into full games (Costume Quest, SpaceBase DF-9, Hack ‘n’ Slash among others). What seems like a stressful, almost daunting task is really a refreshing break from long term projects.
Crowdfunding and fan participation is another highlight of Amnesia Fortnight. Whereas traditional game development is somewhat secretive besides the occasional update or teaser trailer, AF is all about having fun for the fans. With a donation campaign on Humble Bundle, documented daily progress episodes, livestreams, and forum feedback, these games (initially concocted by individuals) become adopted by the community. Vicariously participating in the progression from idea to playable prototype gives viewers a sense of ownership in the final work, a feeling that’s more powerful than simply anonymously donating on Kickstarter. After conceptualizing and pitching the games, the public voted on the final four projects: Dear Leader, Little Pink Best Buds, Steed, and Mnemonic. Their development has finally concluded and will be available within the week if you have purchased them on Humble Bundle (available for the next 24 days as of this posting).
Each one of these is a clever, inspired example of games concepts that are rarely pursued in the mainstream video games industry. Growing up many of us were told to “think outside the box,” yet as adults we are more or less expected to conform to social norms. Cultural artifacts follow the same patterns of replicating what’s trendy, yet Amnesia Fortnight is a reminder that challenging monotony and breaking away from convention can be extremely rewarding, pleasurable, and effective at reinvigorating creative capacities (and reducing burnout).
If you missed out on all the action over the past two weeks, I highly recommend watching 2PlayerProduction’s daily re-cap episodes starting with all the action on Day Zero!