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Today I am releasing the Gametrekking Omnibus, a downloadable collection of all of my Gametrekking creations to date. It is my tenth release of the Gametrekking project, and it will also be my final “official” release.

Gametrekking Omnibus splash screen

The omnibus includes an interface that lets you browse through all of my creations by country, some built-in slideshows to provide context, links to my written reflections, and new fullscreen versions of all my games and notgames.

To download the Gametrekking Omnibus For Windows:

  • Download and run the native exe installer. Note that you need to be connected to the internet during installation, and it may take a while if you do not already have Adobe Air installed.

To download the Gametrekking Omnibus For Mac OS:

  1. Download and install Adobe Air from
  2. Download and run the Gametrekking Omnibus air file.

Gametrekking Omnibus screenshot

This is going to be the final official release of the Gametrekking project, because it’s been two years since the project launched, I’ve clearly finished “the journey proper,” and a downloadable collection of the work I’ve managed to produce so far seems like as good a place to wrap things up as any. I say this is the “official” end of Gametrekking, because I see the project continuing on indefinitely in some sense… It seems certain that I will keep traveling into the future in some capacity or another, and that I will continue to experiment with interactive sketches and notgames about the things that impact me. But still, I think the Kickstarter project deserves some kind of closure, and that’s what I’ve tried to create with this downloadable collection.

When I launched this project two years ago on Kickstarter I didn’t know if I was going to be able to successfully fund it, but was soon amazed by the support and generosity of the family members, friends, internet acquaintances, and complete strangers who pledged their support, and made this thing a reality.

Once the project was funded, I still didn’t know if it was going to be a success or not—or even how to judge it as such. All I had was a backpack, a half-formed itinerary of shoestring travel through a few countries in Asia, and a vague plan to make interactive sketches about the things that impacted me along the way—to try and use experimental computer games as a kind of “travel writing,” whatever that would mean.

The journey turned out to be incredibly challenging—but also incredibly rewarding. I struggled to fulfill my naïve promise of making computer games from the road while attempting to balance the day-to-day requirements of independent travel (where I seldom knew where I would be spending the night from one day to the next, much less whether I would have access to the internet), but the experiences I had along the way, and the people I met, more than made up for the difficulties. Hitching a ride with some fishermen on Taiwan’s east coast; seeing the Killing Fields of Cambodia with my own eyes; discussing the merits of Facebook with a college student in the Mekong Delta… these are experiences that I would not trade for anything.

Hitchhiking in Taiwan

Hitchhiking on Taiwan’s East Coast.

But still I am left with the question, as the project draws to a close, of whether Gametrekking was a “success.” On a personal level I can look back and see that my life has been irreversibly enriched by my travels and my coding; I tried to capture some of the ways in my travel writing. Which is fine and well, but I don’t want to conflate the project with the journey (however hard it is to separate the two in my mind): the journey was personal, but the project was funded, and of a corporate nature. The question is complicated by the fact that I never defined what “success” for Gametrekking would look like, as such. Partly this was, perhaps, an oversight, but partly it was the nature of the beast: the entire venture has always existed as a kind of “leap of faith,” both for myself, and for my backers—a project of possibility, of seeing what would come of a crazy, uncertain idea.

Does one consider success quantitatively, or qualitatively? When I think in terms of quantity, I cannot help but be disappointed: I wish I had a hundred creations to show for my efforts, rather than ten small offerings. I think of all the failed prototypes, and consider mounting them for display, to create a bigger catalog: I wanted to make something for every country that I traveled through, after all, and if I published my failed experiments, I could get there, and then some. But I cannot do it, because I cannot see this thing as an attempt to make a flash game for every country in Asia, like some kind of bizarre interactive Lonely Planet collection. Rather, the games have always been about expressing something personal, for me, even though they are merely sketches and doodles. And so I struggle more than I should with each one, and throw too many prototypes away, and come back too often empty-handed.

Prototype screenshot

An early prototype for “The Great Moped Balancing Act”, one of many creations I never published.

Still, I can try and point to other numbers in an attempt at vindication: I can say that my Gametrekking creations, while few, have together been played nearly half a million times, that they have appeared on the front page of Newgrounds, been featured in Wired and EGMi, been used for psychology research…

But such claims ring hollow. If the goal of Gametrekking were big numbers, then making sketchy notgames about the kindness of strangers, or visiting your grandmother’s tomb, becomes a laughable waste of time.

Slightly more to the point, perhaps, is the “why” behind the figures: the fact that Newgrounds creator Tom Fulp found two of my sketches interesting enough to feature on his front page despite the fact that they are light-years away from the fare his audience is typically expecting, to expose them to something different. Or the fact that the folks at Extra Credits considered my small notgame “Loneliness” worthy of spearheading two episodes of their show, as a glimpse of something interactive creations should strive for. Or the fact that Patrick Klepek wrote up “The Killer” for Giant Bomb, because he found it a breath of fresh air in a world of “power fantasy” video games. This kind of qualitative assessment is a measure of success that I am vaguely interested in.

But we’re largely still in the land of vainglory. I enjoy a little spotlight as much as the next person, but I hope it’s not why I do what I do, and as such, I’m not willing to accept it as a measure of success.

What’s left?

Just the regular people who play my games, and the notes I get from them. A lot of these are negative. A lot of them tell me to go do something hateful to myself, because I’ve wasted somebody’s time. But every once in a while I get a message like this one regarding “Freedom Bridge”:

I just registered on this forum to tell you that this was one of the most intense interactive experiences I’ve ever had. I went on and watched some short documentaries about Korea afterwards in order to process the tension it had left me with.

Or this one in response to “The Killer”:

I have seldom experienced such raw emotion from a video game. I have traveled to a few of the places featured in your games and learnt a small proportion of their history in the process. however, after playing each game I had to research more and more and more. Thank you for making such simplistic and emotionally provoking games!

Or this one, about “Grandmother”:

Unforgettable. Simple and stunning. Kinda reminds you not to forget about the one’s you’ve lost.

Or this one, posted on the Newgrounds page for “The Heart Attack”:

Something I’d like to say… Jordan, your ‘notgames’ have done something. They hack and slash at the curtains we put up to shield ourselves from the ugly truth. That in reality, evil is decided by the individual. Among other messages. This, and your other games have a simple brutality, depressing and dark. But it’s also deeply informative and touching. They’ve given true insight on the human range of emotions, I’d say. I know that these short notgames you create bring out the best in my character. Make me sad, make me happy and many times, severely upset. I know I’ve learned from you, as many others could say they have. So please, keep on trekking. I want to learn more.

Or this one, about “Loneliness”:

Thank you for that gaming experience… I had to get an account JUST so I can thank you for it… somewhere when the dots were slowing down, I said to myself, “I don’t want to go near them… I don’t want them to leave too” and I honestly Cried. I have never had to set the metaphysical controller down, and take in that level of emotion. I then realized that the game was called “Loneliness”, and I started to reach back into my own memories of not being able to fit in at school, and then I realized that I needed to try ONE least time. The same thing happened in Life, and I am currently married to the only Girl that wouldn’t reject me, in the end of all that loneliness. I, again, thank you for that wonderful experience. Thank you… SO MUCH for this moment of self-reflection.

Or this one on, “Status Quo’s” Newgrounds page:

Taiwan… That is my home…!! Thank you for making such a project about our precious little island. I really appreciate it.^^

Or this one, in response to “The Kindness of Strangers”:

Wonderful story, it’s almost surreal. Being born and raised in the more impoverish parts of the states, the only thing I’ve ever known from people is deception, greed, and hatred.

I don’t post these here for a whoop-dee-doo congratulations, or a pat on the back. I post them to share with you honestly why I consider the Gametrekking project to have been a success. I post them for those of you who backed my project, and wanted it to come to something.

Ultimately, regardless of how many games I make, I have to ask myself why I’m making them; if there’s not a good reason, I don’t care if I’ve made ten or a hundred. I find the numbers, whether of games, or of plays, to be abstract and meaningless in and of themselves. Likewise, the front-page mentions and five minutes of fame quickly fade. It’s comments like the ones above that keep me going. At the end of the day I don’t care about the ratio of negative comments to positive ones: only that the positive ones exist. In my mind, if my Gametrekking creations got one person to look up the conflict between North and South Korea, got one person to remember their grandmother, got one person to believe that Taiwan’s a real place, or got one person to reflect on the nature of isolation, then the project was a success. So I have to consider it a success. I can’t force my definition on anyone else, but I do hope that my backers will agree with me.

It’s been a wonderful journey, and I thank you all from the bottom of my heart.



15 Dec 2011

A tiny interactive sketch from Vietnam, about the mundane things which are also sacred. Takes about three minutes to play through, and requires no gaming skills.

Play this sketch now in your browser.

The Heart Attack screenshot
Play “The Heart Attack” in your browser now (Takes about five minutes, and requires no gaming skills).

My latest notgame (interactive poem? participatory observance? call it what you want) is from Vietnam, the country I have spent the most time in during these last few months in Southeast Asia. It has something to do with the Vietnam/American War. It should perhaps be noted that I was determined not to make anything about the war. When I was looking for research materials for Vietnam, I was somewhat unhappy to find that the vast, vast majority of literature that is returned by a simple search for the country’s name is not really about the country at all, but about the war, and about America. I studied the war to some extent in high school and college, so I became determined to avoid the last fifty-odd years of Vietnam’s history, to focus instead on the nations’s long and prodigious experience before America ever came along. And I succeeded to some extent, with the aid of Neil Jamieson and others.
Until I got to Vietnam. I will not say that the country is obsessed with the war, but at the same time it is hard to avoid it if one walks around with one’s eyes open: the museums, the statues, the rhetoric are all rather conspicuous… it may not be obsession, but I think it is safe to say that the war plays a large part in defining the identity of most contemporary Vietnamese. Which makes sense, if you think about it, because of all the things that were tied up in that struggle: the uniting of a country, the victory of communism over capitalism, the victory of a people long plagued by foreign invaders over the most powerful invader of them all. The war is a thread that ties any modern conception of the country together—and especially (I would venture to say, with my limited perspective as an outsider) Vietnam’s own conception of itself.
Ho Chi Minh, of course, is a saint here, embalmed for all to see, attended day and night by ceremonial guards. I had studied the war, but never seen Ho Chi Minh’s body; never seen a little boy take his hat off as he reverently gazed at that body.
Suffice it to say that if you want to ignore the Vietnam War—the American war—it’s best not to come to Vietnam. The war started to captivate me just as I was wanting to turn my back on it. Which is not to say that I wasn’t also captivated by other parts of Vietnam’s history or culture—I found An Duong, and his accomplishments with the help of a Golden Turtle Spirit in the third century B.C.E. of particular interest—but I failed in my intention to ignore the war, and make nothing about it (I also failed in my attempts to think up a notgame about the Golden Turtle).

The Killer screenshot

The Killer is a new notgame inspired by my experiences traveling through and learning about Cambodia. It can be played from start to finish in about four minutes by anyone, as it requires no gaming skills whatsoever.

Click here to play The Killer now in your browser.

Thanks to all my backers who helped me test and refine this notgame!

After more than a month spent trekking through Taiwan, after 200 miles of walking, 4000 photos, 7 blog posts, many hours at my laptop, and one monkey in my lap… the first games of the Game Trekking project are finished and available to play. I hope they are not the best games I will make for this project, but they are my best attempts so far.

One of my chief reasons for embarking on Game Trekking was the element of challenge; in that regard, the project hasn't disappointed. One of the main challenges has been attempting to sustain and nurture my enthusiasm for extended travel—for facing the unknown day after day, for the perpetual lack of routine, for the permanent homelessness—while also sustaining and nurturing the energy and capacity for creative output. I've been slower in that creative output than I would have liked, and have less to show after more time than would be my preference. But I am learning to balance these dual aspects of my new life, and am optimistic for the future.

Another great challenge has been deciding what to make my games about. While I cannot see everything there is to see of Taiwan, or Vietnam, or any other country, on my travels, it is a hundred times more evident that I cannot make games about everything there is to make games about. I can see a hundred or a thousand things, while I can make games about one thing, or two. Then there is my reading, which provides me with a vital balance to my experience in understanding the places that I visit, and also provides me with a thousand more game ideas. Should I make a game about Taiwanese pirates in the sixteenth century, or about that monkey that jumped in my lap in Kaohsiung? Should I make a game about Taiwan's political struggle with China, or about the many kind people who helped us while trekking?

I can do nothing but latch onto those things that jump out at me specially, those things that press themselves upon me, those things that make me especially happy, or especially sad, those things that seem especially important… or those things that suggest to me an interesting mechanic for play. Predictably then, the games I make may be more about me than they are about the places that I visit… more about my subjective position in the world, and my response to my own travels, than they are about the world as it exists, or travel as a universal concept. In seeking to make something for others, I can do nothing but make something for myself… and hope that it might be helpful or relevant to others in some way. But I think this is the same "dilemma" that all travel writers face, and more broadly, all creators.

I have decided not to limit myself to making "purely abstract" games or "purely concrete" games, "purely academic" or "purely experienced-based" games, because the two domains for me are too overlapping: I read because I travel, and I travel to provide context for my reading; political realities may be abstract, but they are also concrete in the lives of the people I talk to; knowledge of a place changes the way one experiences that place, while experiencing a place enriches and changes one's knowledge of it.

So my first game about Taiwan is an abstract game, a political game in circles and squares, about Taiwan's struggle with China. Because that reality was everywhere I went in Taiwan, and has been omnipresent there for fifty years. Because everyone I talked to, and everything I read kept coming back to it. When I searched for one idea to represent the country, that is the idea that came to me. Taiwan's struggle with China may be cliché as a fact about the country, but that does not mean it is an unimportant fact… I've talked to too many people who thought Taiwan was part of China, to let me think that.

Taiwan screenshot:

Taiwan screenshot

You can play Taiwan in your web browser at:

(Note that it changes a bit at 1 minute 50, if you can last that long).

Some people will ask if I needed to travel to Taiwan at all to make such an abstract game, and the answer is yes: the game would not exist without the travel that led, even if implicitly, to its creation. But still, I very much wanted to make a game that captured something of the texture of my day-to-day trekking experience while there, and that desire led to the creation of a second game: The Kindness of Strangers.

The Kindness of Strangers screenshot:

The Kindness of Strangers screenshot

You can play The Kindness of Strangers in your web browser at:

(Play it a second time to have a different experience).

While I consider these games essentially finished at this point, I welcome any comments or suggestions, and am open to changes in response to feedback. I would especially appreciate knowing about bugs or problems with the games, so that I can promptly fix them.

Special thanks to all of my Game Trekking backers who have made these games possible, as well everyone who provided valuable feedback while the games were in development.

More games about more places are on their way!