That one time I discovered Risk of Rain by meeting the developer’s kid brother at summer camp

For many years, I worked at a summer camp in the greater Seattle area where I and another counselor were in charge of facilitating a group of ten boys, aged between nine and ten, through their week at camp. To break the ice, I would ask them if they played video games and what their favorite games were. The usual response I got was “I love Minecraft,” because it was 2013, and nine-year-old boys lived and breathed the blocky expanse of Minecraft.

One of my campers answered my question in a way that I had not yet experienced. He told me that not only does he like video games, but has a family member who was developing a game called Risk of Rain. The camper told me that I should find it and play it if I could. He tried to explain the game to me as he drew a picture of a square running sideways in my notebook, searching for the vocabulary to pitch it as the 2D side-scrolling roguelike, as we know it today.

On my day off that week, I went to the local library where there was consistent and strong Wi-Fi, a scarce resource where the camp is located. I sat down to find this Risk of Rain game that I had heard about. I Googled it expecting an amateur flash game and was surprised to find beautiful minimalistic pixel art with surprisingly difficult yet fun gameplay.

I downloaded the demo from the Hopoo Games website which consisted only of one level and a limited number of playable characters. The demo was short in content but I still sunk a number of hours into it over the course of the summer, trying to master the first level of the game, Dried Lake.

Once I got my hands on the actual game, it exceeded my expectations from the demo. I was immersed in the game completely; the music, the atmosphere, and the crushing gameplay built an unforgettable experience traversing the foreign alien world that I had just crash landed on.

It’s no secret that I love the aesthetic of games. Since before I have even understood the term I have been falling in love with games that have a strong sense of aesthetic. I once played the Viva Piñata demo for three hours at a Best Buy because I loved the aesthetic of the game so much. Now understanding the terminology, it’s clear why I fell in love with Risk of Rain. It was the passion project of two independent developers who found the perfect blend of dynamic gameplay and strong aesthetic.

The camp that I worked at has a strong policy of not allowing contact with campers outside of the camp itself. This policy was created in order to keep the kids that attend the camp safe. Although it’s something I strongly believe in, because of it, I have never been able to express my gratitude to the camper for telling me about Risk of Rain. It’s a game that means a lot to me and if it were not for this individual I may never have known about the game.

Hopoo Games announced in May 2017 that they are in early development for Risk of Rain 2, a sequel to the first game moves the game from 2D into a 3D environment. As I sit here, excitedly awaiting the next chapter in the game’s life, I can’t help but wish I could tell the kid how impactful he was the day he told me to look up Risk of Rain.

Written by Charlie Bruene

One man in a large sea of culture trying to paddle to shore.

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