LudoNarraCon 2019

LudoNarraCon was an amazing digital convention which happened via live-stream on Steam on May 10th 2019. Hosted by indie game studio Fellow Traveller, LudoNarraCon aimed to celebrate narrative games and the people who make them through a convention that was able to be accessed by anyone with an internet connection, anywhere, for free. It offered fans of narrative games the opportunity to get together for one day online to “hear news about exciting upcoming games, play demos, and hear from creators”.

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Although LudoNarraCon happened almost a month ago, I wanted to do a write-up of the event and share with you all some of my favourite narrative games that I discovered through it. I’m a huge fan of narrative video games so there was a lot to be excited about and, as someone who also loves attending conventions, the entire idea of LudoNarraCon really intrigued me. It was an enjoyable event and I’m happy to hear that the organizers are thinking of hosting another one in the future, so if you like the sound of LudoNarraCon then make sure you sign up for updates on their website.


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Panels

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There were a range of great panels being streamed throughout May 10th via the LudoNarraCon event page on Steam and these videos are now available to watch on the LudoNarraCon website, so don’t worry if you missed out on the event and want to catch up! I didn’t get to watch many of the panels on the day as I wanted to make sure I had time to watch some of the live-streams of publishers and developers playing their games via the LudoNarraCon ‘game booths’ and, of course, to play through some of the demos.

Of the ones I did watch, the Death in Games and Storytelling in Games panels were my favourites. Storytelling in Games was particularly great as the participants were a great diverse bunch who had good chemistry and it made for some very good chats. They even introduced themselves with their pronouns which made me super happy!

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Demos

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There were so many cool demos to try out that it was hard to choose which ones to go for. I downloaded 5 in total but only got round to playing In Other Waters, Heaven’s Vault and A Case of Distrust, even though Neo Cab was the one I really wanted to play because it looks so amazing.

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In Other Waters looked really difficult and intimidating when I first booted up the demo, and it did take me quite a while to figure out the controls and how to play the game. Once I established the basics though, it was actually quite easy to understand and I got really sucked into the game. You play as an Operator AI who is guiding a xenobiologist through alien waters to discover more about the ocean and (it seems) to uncover dark secrets. I am surprisingly hyper about the game, much more than I thought I would be. I love games (and books!) with xenobiologists and/or xenoanthropologists that give me the opportunity to explore and learn more about the world through science! There’s currently no release date for In Other Waters but I’ve added it to my wishlist and am excited to hear more about it.

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Heaven’s Vault is another demo I played where I immediately added it to my wishlist. I want this game so bad but I can’t afford it right now which is making me so sad. In this one you play as an archaeologist, Aliya Elasra, who is exploring a strange part of space with her robot, Six, hoping to uncover secrets of a long-forgotten past. In addition to discovering archaeological artefacts, you have to solve puzzles through LINGUISTICS (can you notice a trend in the types of games I like yet…) The demo was so much fun and I’m so very excited about the entire premise of Heaven’s Vault. I absolutely cannot wait to play it.

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A Case of Distrust was the last demo that I managed to play and I enjoyed it so much that I went on to purchase it as it was part of the LudoNarraCon Steam sale. I am totally in love with the aesthetics of this game and it’s setting in 1920’s San Francisco. It’s a narrative mystery game which is told through 2D visuals, as you can see in this GIF. You can click on different objects in the environment to uncover clues and talk to suspects to collect further evidence and/or use evidence to catch them in a lie. It’s such a cool game and I’m looking forward to playing more of it soon.

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Purchased Games

It was great to have a LudoNarraCon sale going on throughout May 10th-13th as it meant I could treat myself to some great narrative games. I only had enough money to get one higher priced game (Heaven’s Vault) or a handful of cheaper games, so I went with the latter option so that I could take full advantage of the LudoNarraCon discounts. It was so hard to decide which games to purchase as there were so many narrative games on offer that caught my eye. After a very difficult decision, I narrowed it down it to 6 games (including A Case of Distrust which I’ve already discussed above).

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Mortician’s Tale is a game I’ve been eyeing up for a while now and immediately added it to my basket when I saw it was on offer. In case you hadn’t caught on, I have a bit of a weird macabre obsession with mortuary work so I was very excited about satisfying this obsession with a game where you run a funeral home and it’s death positive.

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There has been an unsurprising amount of games coming out in the last year which deals with themes of war, surveillance, and political conflict. In Beholder, you take on the role of a “state-installed” landlord in a totalitarian state who must spy on their tenants and report any traitors against the State. Every action you take has consequences, changing the way you view your tenants, their behavior towards you and others, and the type of evidence you may/may not find.

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Where the Water Tastes Like Wine is a game I have been super excited about and was pretty much an auto-buy for me after watching the trailer thanks to the aesthetics, music and role of stories within the game. I don’t think any words I have would do this game justice at all so I would encourage you to watch the trailer for yourself. I’ve played 3 hours of the game so far and absolutely love it.

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Actual Sunlight was a bit of a wildcard buy for me. The developer was the panel host for the Death in Video Games panel and there were lots of people in the chat talking about how much they loved his games and his writing. I had originally intended to buy his other game Little Red Lie as I loved the tongue in cheek humor of the trailer but ended up going for Actual Sunlight. As it’s about depression and suicide though it’s definitely a game I need to be in the right place for.

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The last game I purchased was the BAFTA award-winning game Virginia. I came across Virginia when looking for a game which had won an award for the Sidequest Challenge and its a game I’ve heard a lot of people talking about. You play as an FBI agent, a woman of color, who is investigating a missing person but gets caught up in a much more complicated web. I don’t really know much else about Virginia so I’m looking forward to discovering more when I play.

Wishlist Games

Other games I wanted to purchase (but sadly couldn’t because MONEY): The Stillness of the Wind, 80 Days, FAR: Lone Sails, Whispers of a Machine, Not Tonight and Mutazione.

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Looking back over these highlights of LudoNarraCon reminded me of how much I enjoyed the event and how happy I am to see a convention which celebrates indie narrative games. There’s such a diverse range of topics and themes that narrative games explore, and the smaller budget of indie games means that developers have to be clever with how the game is developed which often results in games being published with incredible and unique aesthetics, stories and music.

I hope you all have enjoyed my LudoNarraCon post. I’d love to hear your thoughts on LudoNarraCon and/or any of the games I’ve talked about. Are there any which caught your eye that you’d like to play or any that you’ve already played?


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