Not all game experiences are easy to categorize. Though first-person shooters and battle arena games permeate the modern multiplayer landscape, there is a rising trend in games which break the mold. Picture DayZ or Minecraft, in which emergent gameplay is king, or the Twitch Plays Pokemon phenomenon which blends mass user data input to a physical game output. These types of experiences certainly tend to be more unorthodox, with a “think outside the box” approach to gameplay. They can mix genres and mechanics to great success, or even attempt to focus more on social communication than built-in gameplay. The purpose of this series is to inform you of some of these abstract game experiences, and hopefully convince you to give at least one of them a try!
I recently attended IndieCade 2016 at the University of Southern California, where I explored a wide variety of uniquely designed games. Some of these games utilized VR as an element, and some even incorporated real-life interactions in their game (including a bizarre board game where the all game components were edible). One of my personal favorites was I.C.U., a game project currently in development by Keenan Mosimann (better known as YouTuber Criken). His game was one of the first ones I played at IndieCade early Saturday morning, after he invited the TSG team to give it a go. Little did I know of the chaos that awaited us in the game.
I.C.U. is a horror game that integrates live Twitch streaming as a primary game mechanic. It’s set inside a reality TV show being steered by a studio audience (a.k.a Twitch streamers in the real world). Players must navigate their way through a forest (the episode featured in this iteration of the project), trying to survive the show experience. People who are engaged with the stream online can alter gameplay by voting on different challenges that the player must face, as well as throwing additional modifiers into the mix. To prevent viewers from constantly spamming impossible challenges towards the player, a coin system is implemented that slowly doles out coins (which can be used to purchase game modifiers) to the viewers relative to their viewing time.
After seating myself at the I.C.U. setup, thinking I was prepared, I noticed the large audience of online viewers taunting me through an in-game terminal. Foolishly thinking that I could survive the episode with relative ease, I made a break for the woods and was instantly killed by an in-game monster. It happened so fast that one viewer didn’t even have the chance to finish his typing his bet on my demise. I attempted to learn from my mistake and headed off in the opposite direction, trying to ignore the hilarious flood of Twitch emoticons being sent across my game screen. Online viewers repeatedly threw various modifiers in my way to trip me up, and fortunately (for them), they succeeded in the end. I left the tremendously intense experience feeling giddy as can be.
Mr. Mosimann’s game is a strikingly unique take on Twitch integration in video games, as well as an exceptionally original game in it’s own right. Though recently many game engines and game clients (such as Amazon Lumberyard and Battle.net) have integrated Twitch into their own software systems, few developers have attempted to use these features in ways outside of simple game streaming. I.C.U. seems to be utilizing these interfaces to great success, focusing on creating an oddly dynamic social experience with a heavy emphasis on cross-platform player involvement and interactions. I very much look forward to seeing what future iterations of this project will bring to the table for streaming-centric gameplay.
I.C.U. is still currently in development, with an expected release date of December 2017. At the time of this article’s publishing, you can still contribute to the project’s Kickstarter page.
For more games with Twitch Integration, be sure to check out:
- Clustertruck by Landfall Games: (Viewers can determine the events that occur in-game)
- Superfight! By Darin Ross: (Live streaming gameplay similar to Cards Against Humanity)
- New World by Amazon Game Studios: (An MMO sandbox style game currently being developed on the Amazon Lumberyard engine.)