Have you played any of the other IGF entries? Any games you particularly enjoyed?
How long a response will you accept for this question? There are only a few that I don’t have the hardware to play, yet. Steam tells me that I’ve played seven hours of Thirty Flights of Loving, which is funny because most things have to be killed to be dissected. Thirty Flights even attempts its own autopsy via a “commentary mode” playthrough, and yet it remains a mysterious and lively dance partner.
Dys4ia has that kind of audacity too, of course - plainly declaring its own material state and even its intentions, but that electricity doesn’t fade. I keep thinking that it’ll be less effective for me, but each time I show it to somebody new, it’s more snappy and more sincere and, moreso than probably any other game on your list, is unwilling to overstay its welcome.
For the same reason, I’m a little mournful of both Goblet Grotto and Frog Fractions, because their rewards are compromised in being elevated. The fantasy of both is that every game could do their special things - but you have to wake up from them before sharing them.
So, in Thomas Was Alone, there’s a story atop a story adjacent to these clever puzzles. At first, I resisted its appeal and just chewed through the puzzlery because I thought, “What makes the author think that his characterizing fantasy play with these geometric shapes would be any better than what us players would come up with on our own?”
I felt like a kid sitting in the kitchen, playing with refrigerator magnets and there was a teacher trespassing in my kitchen, telling me how to play. It’s not until you’re halfway done eating the game that the larger rewards come into view, so this contentious, layered romance suddenly becomes resonant with each layer of the story, the puzzles, the game and you. It’s so great.