Plug & Play was the most awkward 15 minutes of my life. It’s a rude little game that never really explains anything and is perfectly content to leave you flailing around trying to figure out exactly what to do. It’s an uncomfortable and sometimes frustrating experience, yet I couldn’t stop thinking about it hours after it was over.

The game isn’t fun perse, nor is the end all that satisfying. In fact, the ending left me quite confused that it didn’t spell out what the heck it was trying to say to me. Then I realized that was the whole point. Plug & Play  is about relationships and just how awkward they can be. The seemingly disparate images of cords, plugs, buttons and sockets all made sense because of me. It was my job to figure them out and make sure everything plugged into the appropriate places no matter how obtuse and nonsensical the images on the screen seemed to be.

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Scenes of the socket and plug people fumbling around on screen appeared goofy and absurd in that moment. Sometimes it even turned a little bit awkward as several of them literally began to connect with each other. I literally shifted in my chair, wondering what the heck this game was doing. Then there was the cyclical dialogue about love that offered a bit of choice on the player’s part, but ultimately that choice becomes meaningless once it becomes obvious that the conversation is going nowhere. The game highlights the uncomfortable nature of all interactions by making my relationship to the game an awkward one and coming to that realization made  me appreciate the experience in the end.  

Plug & Play is defiantly obtuse, but there was an odd charm about having to chase its message. It really is a terrible game because the idea of a game implies that it is supposed to be fun, it’s supposed be satisfying and it’s supposed to be for me. Videogames are designed for an inherently selfish type of player that is used to being designed for and catered to. It doesn’t have to, but those are the type of titles that a majority of us decide to reward with money. Games like this one take the risk of alienating the one playing both through its design and that limits its audience. That doesn’t make it any less valuable than the $60 game in my library because I play this for the same reason I go to the museum to see a fine piece art or read a great work of literature. Just experiencing it affords the opportunity to view the world and myself in a different way and the chance for some kind of personal transformation no matter how slight is worth it.     

This is not an indictment on the tastes of anybody, nor is it a commentary on the types of games being made. It’s just a statement that the medium is broad and not every experience has to fit a certain mold to have value. Plug & Play  is built upon making me squirm, a risk that most developers deem not worth taking because I’m liable to walk away from it. Games like this one should exist and in a perfect world have a chance to be among the top ranked games on Steam. That would mean there’d be both diversity in the types of games being made and a willingness on the part of gamers to try a multitude of experiences.   

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Plug & Play reminds me of a conversation I used to have with Laura Kate Dale in the early days of the Indie Haven podcast whenever a game like this would come up. She’d often decry the term video game whenever a title didn’t quite fit into a certain mold people were used to. She opted for calling it “interactive media,” a term that I give her all the credit in the world for if it ever catches on. That more accurately explains why video games hold sway over the folks that play them. It’s the way the observer directly interacts with the art that gives games any sort of power no matter what the title is.

It’s easy to forget that all games are art, whether they are large scale commercial pieces like AAA titles are smaller bite sized experiences like indie games. Every one of them seeks to communicate something and evoke certain feelings through design. The value of Plug & Play  and why it’s worth playing is because it uses my relationship to the product to make a point. The titles that toy with that relationship and unique ways are often ignored and that’s the wrong message to send because there needs to be diversity within the medium.  

About The Author

Editor In Chief

Jose is a straight shooter who always goes the paragon route. He joined the team at Indie Haven to spread the word about indie games all across the galaxy. When not aboard the Normandy, he lives in the San Francisco Bay Area playing video games and plotting ways to rid the world of games like Colonial Marines.

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  • “Interactives” is the term increasingly used by broadcasters to describe supplemental materials they’ve prepared for people who visit their website about their broadcast (ie. probably the same mythical creatures who read the Twitter feeds of brand name household products.)