The massive indie games showcase known as Wholesome Direct will return in May of this year, with submissions for indie developers currently open for the next two weeks.
Organized by Wholesome Games, Wholesome Direct is a livestream showcase that highlights indie games currently in development. Developers can participate in multiple ways, such as premiering a brand-new game via a trailer, make announcements for upcoming games, initiate surprise releases, and hold interviews to promote their indie titles. Now, Wholesome Direct is opening submissions to indie developers, and any game is open to consideration.
While Wholesome Games does say that "anyone can submit their game" to be showcased during Wholesome Direct, the key here is that the game being showcased should be wholesome in some way. For example, according to the submission form, elements that can make indie games wholesome can be low stakes, perhaps like indie farming sims that made it big on Kickstarter, thoughtful representation of marginalized groups, and low amounts of stress.
During its premiere event, Wholesome Direct 2020 showed off some indie games that would go on to be hits, like Spiritfarer and Ooblets. Others, while not yet released, are widely popular in the indie community and being highly anticipated for releases, such as Little Witch in the Woods and the farming sims Snacko and Garden Story, which may make a return this year. Looking at these examples, development studios of any size or with any budget can earn a spot at Wholesome Direct.
According to the submission form, it looks like Wholesome Direct 2021 will premiere in May, though an official date hasn't yet been announced and could change.
Thunder Lotus Games is primarily known for developing action-adventure games, but it decided to go in a different direction with 2020's Spiritfarer. Spiritfarer is a life simulation game that can somewhat be described as Animal Crossing on a boat, where players have to interact with anthropomorphic animals while completing tasks for them and completing various other chores. However, the twist is that, unlike Animal Crossing, the "villagers" in Spiritfarer are not around forever.
The goal of Spiritfarer is to take care of the spirits on Stella's ship and help them pass on to the afterlife. This means that Spiritfarer players periodically have to say goodbye to their friends, and each time is as heartbreaking as the last. It's some of the most emotionally impactful experiences one can find in gaming, and it's really remarkable how the game deals with death. There's a reason why Spiritfarer is considered one of the best indie games of 2020, and the clever way it showcases death is a big part of that.
Death in most video games is presented as something to avoid at all costs. It's failure. But death in Spiritfarer is the exact opposite; spirits pass on in the game when players are succeeding and making progress. This is a fascinating twist on typical video game conventions, with the passing of one spirit in particular being the best representation of how Spiritfarer tackles the topic of death in a masterful way that is really only possible in video games.
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