In the last three years I have “discovered” two games.
The first was Nicolau Chaud’s Marvel Brothel, which I unearthed on his Portuguese site after being pointed to his (at the time) better-known sociopath game Beautiful Escape: Dungeoneer (best game ending of 2010) via Jordan Rivas. Somehow the game had been posted onto rpgmaker.net and never achieved escape velocity. I forwarded it to Kieron Gillen who was still at RPS at the time and it was soon all over the internet. Within days, Marvel issued a cease-and-desist order against rpgmaker.net and tried to kill the game; it still flourishes out there in the wild.
The second game I discovered was, of course, Richard Hofmeier’s Cart Life. Cart Life had been posted onto the AGS forums in 2011 and achieved only limited success; the deluxe versions had sold out but little had been written about it. When I played the game, I didn’t have an immediate epiphany like “this has IGF winner written all over it”. I sat on it a couple of months while I wrote about Neptune’s Pride and then put my thoughts together at the start of 2012. I had begun to realise that the game was special. I try to avoid hyperbole so you can imagine how immensely silly I felt when I titled the Cart Life article “Game of the Year”.
Was this going to be an Emperor’s New Clothes moment? “Game of the year? What a fool you are, the game is too buggy and boring.” But that didn’t happen. Nicolau Chaud, Pippin Barr and David Kanaga wrote glowing responses to the game and it seemed like I hadn’t just made the whole thing up. But the game still didn’t go anywhere and I begged Adam Smith of RPS to take a look at the game… again being nervous that it just wouldn’t work out for him.
He wrote a stunning piece about the game on RPS and I thought my work was done here. Cart Life had made the big time.
Some months later, Die Gute Fabrik’s Doug Wilson finally found the time to play the game and started evangelizing about Cart Life. He asked me for Hofmeier’s contact details and, from what I understand, suggested Hofmeier submit the game to IndieCade. It made the finalists and got another little flurry of attention.
It was nice to have these little boosts of Cart Life now and again but, by Christmas, I had become jaded about the whole thing. It was hard being a Cart Life fan because while it was now clear that Cart Life was an Important Game, few were writing about it. I let rip during the Electron Dance 2012 roundup:
Cart Life meshes mechanics and narrative together in ways I was starting to think were impossible. Cart Life ignores magic, aliens, Hollywood logic and talks about ordinary people in ordinary situations. Cart Life is my go-to example when people bring up Citizen FUCKING KANE.
And no one is talking about it. Mission accomplished.
This week, Cart Life won three IGF awards:
Cart Life, Richard Hofmeier’s realistic, sometimes heart-breaking game about food cart workers trying to achieve their dreams, earned the Seumas McNally Award for Best Independent Game and its associated $30,000 cash prize this evening at the 15th Annual Independent Games Festival, hosted by the Game Developers Conference (GDC) at the Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco.
In addition to winning the Grand Prize, Cart Life also won the Best Narrative Award and the Nuovo Award for abstract and unconventional games, an impressive sweep for a sometimes deliberately obtuse title that was relatively underappreciated before the IGF Awards season.
I will be honest. This kind of blows my mind.
I temper this with the knowledge that although Cart Life has succeeded in getting the attention it deserves, there are other Cart Lives out there that have been ignored or buried. Maybe someone can find them. Maybe they will turn up on freeindiegames or Oddities or Indie Statik. We can only hope.
Congratulations to Richard Hofmeier for well-deserved success and thanks to everyone who shared Cart Life with others over the last year.
Electron Dance on Cart Life
- Game of the Year
- Ahead… The Stars (analysis, spoilers)
- Podcast interview with Richard Hofmeier (Feb 2012)
- Podcast interview with Richard Hofmeier (Jun 2012)
- Eric and I discuss the state of Cart Life
There are also random self-indulgent thoughts about meeting Hofmeier in person at IndieCade East last month.