Editorial: What Are We Playing? What Are We? Where Are We Going?

Here at Ars Independent, a year before a nice and round tenth edition, we jumped on a certain train of thought. What if this isn’t the right way? Did we choose the right path, the right goal? Maybe we should take an ideological trip to Belize and tell everyone to just “Unsubscribe”? Maybe it’s a mistake? Maybe we’ll never know?

These thoughts – or, some would say, this panic attack – had a clear impact on this year’s video game competition. Last year was weird, this time we dive deep into anxiety and insecurity. This year’s Black Horses trudge through the swamp of disrupted identities, scattered threads to be collected into a story, nostalgia for the simplicity of times past, fear of the future, crises. Puzzles that make us feel dumb lurk about. Protagonists lost and doomed. Characters starting their journey, with some ending it. Bittersweet connections. Horizons that reveal nothing. Journeys that don’t end. Worlds that don’t like us and don’t want us, where you wander, lost and erring.

This insecurity, however, did not impact their design. The nominated seven games are sharp, with bold ideas. But when making them, their authors had their feet planted firmly on the ground, aiming for clarity, incisiveness, avoiding falsity. These games walk on thin emotional ice, asking questions we don’t want to hear: will I finish this? Does this make sense? What’s next? But when it comes to the “gamey” part, they exhibit an admirable, enviable confidence. I hope that this extraordinary confidence in these fickle times will have an inspiring effect. Let’s play.