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The Best Video Game Design Of 2014

Some of our favorite games, from Monument Valley to Bitcoin Bilionaire.

This may have been the year that video games were finally recognized as an art form in popular culture, and for good reason: Video games are expanding to include a larger diversity of players than ever before and a wider variety of game types. With today’s technology, nearly anyone can design his or her own game, and this democratization has added to the richness of the medium, as has the fact that millions of smartphone owners now have a gaming platform in their pocket. Here are the games we thought exploited these opportunities to take their design to new and surprising places.

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Within
Within, developed by Benjamin Gattet, is a game meant to mess with you. There is no story or objective. All there is are white hallways which continually branch off into more rudimentary 3-D spaces. But this landscape is not static, and its unexpected changes serve to unseat the player’s perception of reality. Within is an experiment in the production of existential dread, and it is phenomenally successful at that.

Strawberry Thief
Sophia George’s game, Strawberry Thief, was inspired by the work of another DIY enthusiast: 19th-century leader of the British Arts and Crafts movement, William Morris. Her game moves through the process of drawing the eponymous art piece as a bird collects strawberries.

Super Mario 64 Chaos Edition
As the collective memory of life before computers fades into the past, our nostalgia for that transition period grows, and glitch has become an art form in and of itself. Super Mario 64 Chaos Edition sparks that nostalgia by going back to a time when players would have found these surreal errors annoying instead of artful.

Bitcoin Billionaire
iPhone click game Bitcoin Billionaire revels in its own stupidity while cleverly mocking the shallowness of tech culture. This game allows you to click with all fingers at once, heightening the action into a straight up finger free for all. But don’t think you won’t get hooked.

OccultUs
Fear is created when we willingly suspend disbelief and buy into the world we are shown. With the Oculus Rift game OccultUs, the goal is to combine the immersive virtual reality technology with sound to blur the lines between whats real and whats fake, elevating the fear it evokes like a great horror movie.

Glitch Dungeon
What fun are shiny, perfectly working machines? Life becomes interesting when things don’t work as intended, which is the concept behind Glitch Dungeon, a game that breaks as you play it. “I wanted players to feel like they were experiencing this rapidly deteriorating and corrupting dungeon that they were exploring,” the game’s creator, Jake Tower, told Co.Design.

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Monument Valley
In Monument Valley, visual appearance is more important than physical fact. The game was inspired by M.C. Escher’s mind bending work, and this year saw nine new levels of the game released, taking it up a notch from it’s already impressive and award winning beginnings. Warning: this game might make your brain hurt.

Sunburn
Life is such a bummer. Endlessly protecting your virtual self from harm can become tiresome. That’s why iOS game Sunburn is so fiendishly fun: the goal of the game is to throw your stranded astronaut character into the sun. Based on a Ray Bradbury story, the darkly funny game requires you to round up your team and collectively journey to a fiery death.

Catch
Catch, a game by data visualization designer Andy Bergmann, doesn’t seem like it’d be any fun at all. The game features a yellow ball flying across a screen, where an outreached shadow of a hand (you) attempts to grab it. The joy of Catch comes from the intuitive feeling of playing, which exists in a faux-3-D space. When you finally catch that ball, it’s worth all the effort.

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About the author

I'm a writer living in Bushwick, Brooklyn. Interests include social justice, cats, and the future.

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