First Impressions: A Thoughtful Spot Check Of This Year’s NYU Game Center Thesis Games

By Danny Castillo

Recently, New York University’s Game Center released a Twitch video that shows off students’ 2020 thesis games. As I watched a long stream of the showcase by these designers, the only thing that came to my mind was “this will take me more than a week to finish because it’s a long video of more than three hours which will definitely make me fall asleep because I will get bored and this will be something that I have to pay attention because is my job to watch it.’’

Yet I was hooked the moment that I saw those designer people explaining what inspired them to make these offerings. It was so interesting and made me want to watch more and more and enjoy each minute of the video. With that being said, here are my five favorite games from this video that I would like to play.

AiliA: I am the kind of person who likes games where you have to use your brain to complete puzzles. I never thought, however, that a mirror can be a constantly compelling gameplay element. The way this designer uses the reflection is totally different than what we have come to expect. The use of the mirror, an item everyone is accustomed to in order to complete the puzzles in this game is so subtle and brave that everybody will be caught off guard. It  was a perfect way to totally change my perspective.

Hot Pot For One: This game seems so familiar because it’s about the way immigrants have to live in New York City. All of the traditional stickers on the refrigerator door and keeping as many traditional things as possible in the small apartment reminds us of our native country. The game reminds me a lot of an Asian teacher of mine who is from South Korea who is always bringing many things from her native country to class and teaching us about her culture and the many traditions they have over there. I also the native ingredients for recipes to cook some traditional food. That is amazing  and I love it. 

Out For Delivery: Even though the setting of this game is not in New York City, this documentary-meets-game is so similar to the way that deliveries work here. Some things that I found relatable were that the player interacted with other workers and also how they ask for directions and also even how they use the Electric Bike. If you want to understand all the travails and hard work that these employees have to go through, Out Delivery is for you.  

Picklock: This exceptional  puzzle co-created by Circle intern Connor Carson kind of makes us feel like a thief trying to get inside of a house to steal everything that is inside. It can also make you feel like you’re the kind of person who forgets your keys after leaving your home and locking the door behind you. Now, thanks to this game, we have another perspective on the locks of the many doors we use every day. I never thought about how fun it could be trying to unlock a door with a maze. This made me remember the labyrinth that comes on the back of the box of cereal. Plus, locks were early gameplay devices in some of the best games in history, such as Roberta Williams’ “King’s Quest” adventures.

Birfia: This looks like a satisfying battle game with wobbly birds and really cool melee action with inventive weapons. You grab the player and knock them out of the stage, like the roof of a New York City apartment building. I really like the way that this game introduces women into battle. It shows that today’s game designers are thinking more and more about women in this industry. Half of the development team is women. I hope that one day women will be treated equally and that everything will be equal, equal pay and equal treatment.  In addition, players of games shouldn’t feel shy to speak during a multiplayer online match; everyone should be able to have fun together without any discrimination against anyone in today’s games.

Danny Castillo is graduating from the Bronx’s Ellis Prep Academy. He’s been accepted to the Marist College Class of ‘24, majoring in computer science, game development and emerging media. This is his first story for the Critics Circle.

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