Today I Die

Mister, you don't want to walk on water, 'cause you you know you're only gonna walk all over me.

Have you been on the internet this week? If not, then allow me to be the first to point you to Daniel Benmergui's Today I Die. It seems that just about everybody in my world is talking about it. Benmergui took some of the basic ideas of his I Wish I Were The Moon (which you should also play) and built something better. This gaming amuse-bouche shines in story, soundtrack, mechanics, dynamics, and emotional resonance, though according to the designer it's a simple story: "It’s about the daily choice of waking up in the morning."

It's not just another indie game, though. It's a poetic (and I use the term carefully) piece with a number of innovative mechanics. You'll have to figure out those mechanics for yourself by playing with the elements of the screen, but I will divulge that they all work via click-and-drag, and there are multiple endings. The story of this admittedly short game is also poignant enough that you might want to keep a tissue handy. Quite the experience for so simple a premise.

The game's making waves for more than just its contents. You'll notice a link outside the game window for once you've decided to stop playing. Benmergui has put a patronage-spin on the usual request for PayPal donations. The tiered donation system feels a lot like an NPR or PBS pledge drive, but with more enticing prizes than a tote bag and Big Bird reading your name on the air.

Why You Should Check This Out: Because everybody's doing it. You don't want to be the one kid on the playground with your fingers in your ears yelling "Spoiler alert!" So take five minutes and gain some cultural currency. Then take another five minutes to think about what you've just played, and maybe play through again. Like any good poem, you'll find that it rewards each new examination and angle.

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Comments

I can't say how much I enjoyed this. I immediately coughed up some support for the guy (expect my name on that credit list for his next game).

Sweetness!
I'm sure I was only one of many people who sent in this pick for Fringe Busters.
What really strikes me about this game is how elegant it is. The gameplay and storytelling are both relatively simple, but it's this simplicity, and especially the harmony between the two elements, that work to make this game a beautiful little experience.

I'm starting to think that it's this kind of connection between how the game is played and how the story is told that makes or breaks these kind of experiential games. A lot of them have beautiful environments and interesting stories to tell, but the actual game part just doesn't synch up. This is a perfect example of a game that does.

I could probably explain what I'm trying to say better, but screw it, I'll just let adam.greenbrier do it for me.

I was going to say I don't get it, but then I got it...

I liked it. Was initially frustrated, then figured out what the 'actors' were (things that could be made to interact with other things). From there, five minutes of experimentation yielded a nice swimmy ending.

Figured non-gamers might like it, so I posted a link on my facebook. How wrong I was. People hated it. Said it was boring, couldn't figure it out, etc etc etc. I was rather shocked actually. Indie =/= casual.

Count Elmdor wrote:

I got the ending "free world of beauty today I swim."

Aside from some satisfaction from just figuring out what I'm supposed to be doing, I get nothing from this. Am I supposed to joyous and carefree and self-assured now?

All of these supposedly profound, poignant little indie games end up leaving me wondering what other people are reading into them. Jason Rohrer's games Passage and Gravitation similarly did pretty much nothing for me (in fact, they're sappy, meloncholy music turned me off as a bit manipulative). I enjoyed Braid purely on a mechanical level, since the puzzles were really inventive, but any of Blow's deep philosophical waxing was totally lost on me.

I don't mean to down on them, but they strike me in the same way a lot of modern or abstract art does--essentially devoid of meaning on their own, empty vessels waiting for you to instill your own interpretation. Call it Rorschach gaming, I guess.

You're not alone.

I loved this game. The colors, the music, it's all deceptively well crafted despite its simplicity.

Count Elmdor wrote:

I got the ending "free world of beauty today I swim."

"I got free world of beauty today I swim until you come",

anyone else get something different?

Count Elmdor wrote:

Aside from some satisfaction from just figuring out what I'm supposed to be doing, I get nothing from this. Am I supposed to joyous and carefree and self-assured now?

I don't think that it's reaching to be an experience that large. It's a simple and small thing, and that's where the elegance lies.

Hobbes2099 wrote:
Count Elmdor wrote:

I got the ending "free world of beauty today I swim."

"I got free world of beauty today I swim until you come",

anyone else get something different?

I got "today I swim better on my own." I think those are all the available endings.

I liked it, thought it had some neat mechanics, but in the end I wasn't deeply moved by it. I certainly didn't need any tissues. Honestly, I found the "free world of beauty today I swim until you come" ending a little hokey and this isn't exactly fresh ground here. Suicide is done to, well, death. Death is done to death. I once had a writing teacher who told the class that we were not allowed to have death or sex in our stories, not because she wanted to sanitize and censor us but because it was too easy to make something shocking and call that "moving."

wordsmythe wrote:

but with more enticing prizes than a tote bag and Big Bird reading your name on the air.

Heretic! There is no higher honor in this world than Big Bird reading your name on air.

Count Elmdor wrote:

Aside from some satisfaction from just figuring out what I'm supposed to be doing, I get nothing from this. Am I supposed to joyous and carefree and self-assured now?

No. But going into these games looking for something to get out of it, looking for some kind of meaning, is the wrong approach, I think. I feel like a lot of criticism towards these games is making them out to be trying to do something more than they actually are.
I don't feel the dev is trying to be profound or poignant, he's just telling a simple story in what I consider to be a very beautiful way. I didn't personally derive any real meaning from it - I just enjoyed the experience.
These games aren't about delivering a message, but an experience. If you feel the need to interpret that experience, well, I guess you might be dissapointed. I generally don't - and I think that's why I enjoy a lot of abstract or modern art too.

Dysplastic wrote:
Count Elmdor wrote:

Aside from some satisfaction from just figuring out what I'm supposed to be doing, I get nothing from this. Am I supposed to joyous and carefree and self-assured now?

No. But going into these games looking for something to get out of it, looking for some kind of meaning, is the wrong approach, I think. I feel like a lot of criticism towards these games is making them out to be trying to do something more than they actually are.
I don't feel the dev is trying to be profound or poignant, he's just telling a simple story in what I consider to be a very beautiful way. I didn't personally derive any real meaning from it - I just enjoyed the experience.
These games aren't about delivering a message, but an experience. If you feel the need to interpret that experience, well, I guess you might be dissapointed. I generally don't - and I think that's why I enjoy a lot of abstract or modern art too.

See I'm generally very annoyed by modern art but I really like games like this. I do agree that generally it sounds like Count is trying too hard to "get" it. There's nothing really there to get. It's just a fun little poem. If it didn't do anything for you, oh well, but there's not a thing anyone can say that will suddenly make it fun. Either you enjoy playing with these types of experiences or you don't.

Amazing game. Have to go back and find the other endings now. How does the download work? I tossed him some money, but I can't figure out how to download everything.

Man I don't get this game and I hate it and what the f*ck is going on? >_<

Some things shine and you can move a sentence around? =/

I don't get it, help =(

edit: Oh ok, here's a walkthrough: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xLJoc...

Yeah, not for me, but kinda cool I guess

SuicideFLip wrote:

Amazing game. Have to go back and find the other endings now. How does the download work? I tossed him some money, but I can't figure out how to download everything.

The page after the paypal donate gives you the link to the download

Ah ha! Thanks, Pyro.

Datyedyeguy wrote:
Count Elmdor wrote:

I got the ending "free world of beauty today I swim."

Aside from some satisfaction from just figuring out what I'm supposed to be doing, I get nothing from this. Am I supposed to joyous and carefree and self-assured now?

All of these supposedly profound, poignant little indie games end up leaving me wondering what other people are reading into them. Jason Rohrer's games Passage and Gravitation similarly did pretty much nothing for me (in fact, they're sappy, meloncholy music turned me off as a bit manipulative). I enjoyed Braid purely on a mechanical level, since the puzzles were really inventive, but any of Blow's deep philosophical waxing was totally lost on me.

I don't mean to down on them, but they strike me in the same way a lot of modern or abstract art does--essentially devoid of meaning on their own, empty vessels waiting for you to instill your own interpretation. Call it Rorschach gaming, I guess.

You're not alone.

You may be right that this is a sort of post-modern phenomenon, in that artists are no longer generally as content to try and dictate meaning as bluntly as they once did. That doesn't mean, however, that there isn't inherent meaning in Rothko by way of Color Theory, for example. Perhaps there's a more elitist trend resulting from Postmodern Deconstructionism that has made it so that deriving meaning from art now requires a fair amount of background knowledge of theory and criticism.

LobsterMobster wrote:

I liked it, thought it had some neat mechanics, but in the end I wasn't deeply moved by it. I certainly didn't need any tissues. Honestly, I found the "free world of beauty today I swim until you come" ending a little hokey and this isn't exactly fresh ground here. Suicide is done to, well, death. Death is done to death. I once had a writing teacher who told the class that we were not allowed to have death or sex in our stories, not because she wanted to sanitize and censor us but because it was too easy to make something shocking and call that "moving."

I found it interesting to rephrase it in terms of getting out of bed, like the dev did. From that metaphorical angle, it's a little less mundane.

Perhaps there's a more elitist trend resulting from Postmodern Deconstructionism that has made it so that deriving meaning from art now requires a fair amount of background knowledge of theory and criticism.

Do you really think this is an example of such a thing though? I mean I enjoyed this game just on the basic level the first time through, then enjoyed more it the more I played with it and tried to understand it. That doesn't mean it fails to work on the basic level though.

wordsmythe wrote:
LobsterMobster wrote:

I liked it, thought it had some neat mechanics, but in the end I wasn't deeply moved by it. I certainly didn't need any tissues. Honestly, I found the "free world of beauty today I swim until you come" ending a little hokey and this isn't exactly fresh ground here. Suicide is done to, well, death. Death is done to death. I once had a writing teacher who told the class that we were not allowed to have death or sex in our stories, not because she wanted to sanitize and censor us but because it was too easy to make something shocking and call that "moving."

I found it interesting to rephrase it in terms of getting out of bed, like the dev did. From that metaphorical angle, it's a little less mundane.

Lobs, you may also enjoy this article on death as a dynamic in games.

PyromanFO wrote:
Perhaps there's a more elitist trend resulting from Postmodern Deconstructionism that has made it so that deriving meaning from art now requires a fair amount of background knowledge of theory and criticism.

Do you really think this is an example of such a thing though? I mean I enjoyed this game just on the basic level the first time through, then enjoyed more it the more I played with it and tried to understand it. That doesn't mean it fails to work on the basic level though.

Of course not, but I also think that you're fairly experienced with games as a whole. From what I hear, it's not a good idea to offer this to non-gamers.

Well, I loved this game. We were passing the link around twitter yesterday. It's not quite as replayable as "I wish I were the moon" because there are only 2 endings, but as a simple little puzzle, it's a lot of fun and very rewarding.

I figured it out, but I really didn't enjoy it. I don't like it when games try to make the puzzle "figure out the game mechanics" it feels so phoned in. Like they couldn't come up with a decent puzzle so they just made the gameplay unintuitive. I can definitely see how someone who likes casual games would HATE this. It's the exact OPPOSITE of a Popcap game.

mrwynd wrote:

It's the exact OPPOSITE of a Popcap game.

I think that's a pretty good boxquote, actually

PyromanFO wrote:

I do agree that generally it sounds like Count is trying too hard to "get" it.

And this could be it, too. It's just with everyone falling over themselves talking about how it made them well up with tears and whatnot (see the comments on the dev's site), it makes me think there is something there to get out of it, and that I'm just missing out on that.

I had a few minutes of fun monkeying around with it trying to get to the end, and I suppose I can be happy with just that, like I was satisfied with just solving puzzles in Braid without delving any deeper.

I got the ending "free world of beauty today I swim."

Aside from some satisfaction from just figuring out what I'm supposed to be doing, I get nothing from this. Am I supposed to joyous and carefree and self-assured now?

All of these supposedly profound, poignant little indie games end up leaving me wondering what other people are reading into them. Jason Rohrer's games Passage and Gravitation similarly did pretty much nothing for me (in fact, their sappy, meloncholy music turned me off as a bit manipulative). I enjoyed Braid purely on a mechanical level, since the puzzles were really inventive, but any of Blow's deep philosophical waxing was totally lost on me.

I don't mean to down on them, but they strike me in the same way a lot of modern or abstract art does--essentially devoid of meaning on their own, empty vessels waiting for you to instill your own interpretation. Call it Rorschach gaming, I guess.

edit: they're/their

Count Elmdor wrote:
PyromanFO wrote:

I do agree that generally it sounds like Count is trying too hard to "get" it.

And this could be it, too. It's just with everyone falling over themselves talking about how it made them well up with tears and whatnot (see the comments on the dev's site), it makes me think there is something there to get out of it, and that I'm just missing out on that.

There are people who will well up with tears at a cheesy romance novel. Doesn't mean there's some greater meaning to be had.

I didn't realize there were multiple endings! It all seemed very single-solution to me. I enjoyed it if only for the piano music.

How do you get the "on my own" ending? The boy comes out every time I play.

Edit: Ok I got "Better by myself", my second ending. I'm still wondering how to get "On my own"?

Kojiro wrote:

I didn't realize there were multiple endings! It all seemed very single-solution to me. I enjoyed it if only for the piano music.

How do you get the "on my own" ending? The boy comes out every time I play.

Edit: Ok I got "Better by myself", my second ending. I'm still wondering how to get "On my own"?

I think it's the same ending. Just someone misremembering the actual words.

Beautiful. I enjoyed it and the ending definetly gave me a smile. However I understand the sentiment of those who weren't. Rohrer's Passage didn't do anything for me, but I think the problem was that I went into it with the expectation that the game was going to make me cry. I think all these games work better if you're expectations aren't as high. I go into them expecting a little mood, a simple beauty, an idea turning over in my head, but not to have my life views changed.