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Bite-sized Gaming

A short-and-sweet game for those of us who can't stay up all night playing videogames anymore. "A Mayfly flies a single day / The daylight dies...


A short-and-sweet game for those of us who can't stay up all night playing videogames anymore."A Mayfly flies a single day / The daylight dies and darkness grows." -Mary Ann HobermanWhat I remember most about videogames when I was a child was the length. They were all-night affairs as I would hunker down with a few friends, a Bigfoot pizza from Little Caesars, and an issue of Nintendo Power. We'd play Final Fantasy or Adventure Island until the wee morning hours and then flit back to our respective homes.A lot has changed for me: I cannot find a Little Caesars anywhere near my home, and at the end of the day, I just don't have the time. I'm married now and have to schedule my videogame time around my wife's working hours. Weekends are spent with friends and family who, for the most part, aren't keen on watching me play games. But while perusing the entrants for the Independent Games Festival, there was one game that caught my eye: Enviro-Bear 2010 Operation: Hibernation.The gameplay is simple enough. You are a bear and you drive around in a car to collect fruits and berries before winter comes. That's it. It lasts five minutes before the snow falls and the screen fades to black with "Game Over." The game's shortness is partly intentional. Justin Smith, the designer, says it was designed for IGF and he never thought it would catch on. After being laid off from his programming job in Vancouver, the 33-year-old built Enviro-Bear in his free time.What ‘s wonderful is that there is now a market for the bite-sized games such as Smith's; he sells it for 99 cents on the iTunes App Store. "The 99-cent model is perfect for a lot of indie developers, where you just want to get whatever weird message across," Smith says. "You can say ‘Here's a few levels' rather than being guilty for putting in 20 hours of gameplay."Games like Smith's are the new mayflies of the videogame world-lasting less than a day before passing into the night.Jamin Brophy-Warren is a freelance writer living in New Haven, Connecticut. He is a former arts and entertainment reporter for the Wall Street Journal, a contributor at Slate, and editor of the forthcoming gaming magazine Kill Screen.

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