The Greatest Video Game You May Never Play

Tuesday, April 08, 2014 - 03:26 PM

(Twinbeard)

Back in 2012, a small browser game came out that reminded us of the limitless possibilities of a video game, and no one knew about it. The game was called Frog Fractions, and it was made by the independent game development studio, Twinbeard, and its sole employee, Jim Crawford.

Today, Frog Fractions is well known as a game with little to do with frogs or fractions. Instead, it’s a game about discovering what lie beneath the surface of the water, both literally and metaphorically. “This was actually one of my goals for the original Frog Fractions was to make you wonder about games again because that’s how every game used to be,” Crawford said when I spoke with him last week.

Frog Fractions can take less than an hour to play, but the beauty of the game comes from taking the time to discover the numerous and hilarious secrets Crawford buried within the already absurd main story – from learning a detailed (albeit fictional) history of boxing to a lengthy conversation between purchasable item descriptions as you install and uninstall lock-on targeting.

“I didn’t really know what to expect,” Crawford said of posting the game online for the first time, “I was making this game, for most of its development, thinking like zero people are going to play it. I’m going to show it to my friends and they’ll think it’s funny, and that’ll be it.” To date, just shy of a million people have played the original Frog Fractions, and, one month ago, a Kickstarter campaign began to fund a sequel.

What makes the first Frog Fractions so great is the element of surprise and, as Crawford says, “You can’t surprise people again … If people are expecting this sort of thing from me, if they’re playing a game called Frog Fractions 2, they’re going to be ‘Oh, here comes the surprise.’” To keep his players guessing, Crawford has turned the very act of finding Frog Fractions 2 into a game.

Twinbeard is not going to announce the release of the Frog Fractions 2. Backers will not receive their digital copies before or even necessarily when the game goes live. The game won’t even be called Frog Fractions 2. Basically, any game indie game posted after the Kickstarter is finished could be Frog Fractions 2, and players may never know if it is or not.

“There’s gonna be hoaxes,” says Crawford. “Bring it on, please. I would love to see there be a dozen fake Frog Fractions games in the next year, and I’ll never deny any of them.”

This, then, is Crawford’s secret to being secretive again, to recreating that element of surprise omnipresent in all games before the internet and walkthrough guides dispelled the mysterious quality of a new game. With Frog Fractions and its sequel Crawford hopes to, “establish a mindset in the player that games are weird. Games can be this weird thing where anything can happen.” So the next time you are playing Titanfall or Battlefield, maybe try jumping off a cliff or drowning your character in a lake. Who knows, it might just be Frog Fractions 2.

There’s a little less than 24 hours left before the Kickstarter campaign ends, and though the campaign is already funded, if it receives roughly $1.9 billion more, then Crawford plans to buy Oculus back from Facebook. However, if financial backing isn’t your thing, you can also head to Twinbeard’s website and play some of the studio’s other games.

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TLDR is a short podcast and blog about the internet by PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman. You can subscribe to our podcast here. You can follow our blog here. We’re also on Twitter, and we play Team Fortress 2 more or less constantly, so find us there if you like to communicate via computer games from six years ago.

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