Game Jam Winner Spotlight: Not A Fish

It’s time for another spotlight on one of the winners from our public domain game jam, Gaming Like It’s 1923. We’ve already looked at the Best Digital Game and Best Remix, and today we’re looking at one of the weirder entries: the winner for Best Deep Cut, Not A Fish by J. Walton.

We included the Deep Cut category because we wanted to recognize games that went beyond the “obvious” and well-known candidates from the crop of works that entered the public domain this year, and dig a little deeper into the wealth of 1923 material that doesn’t get much attention. And none of the entries dug deeper than Not A Fish, which is based on a pair of science journal articles by one S. F. Light: On Amphioxus and the Discovery of Amphioxus Fisheries in China and Amphioxus Fisheries Near the University of Amoy, China.

As you might have guessed, the amphioxus is technically… not a fish. But it is a window into a period of Chinese history, and the social and political implications of colonial scientific practices. The game takes chunks of narrative and information from throughout the scientific papers, weaves them together with elements of traditional Chinese mythology, and turns it all into pieces a free-flowing, exploratory jigsaw puzzle:

There aren’t many rules — players are simply instructed to begin laying out the puzzle pieces, and forming connections between keywords, at their leisure. The gameplay arises from the many ways in which the pieces can be put together to form a “map”, and the challenge of creating a map full of coherent threads — a task that will never quite be 100% complete. Your efforts will lead you to discover interesting and unexpected connections, and a story much deeper than you might expect from a pair of scientific journals about fisheries.

You can grab everything you need to print and play from the game’s page on Itch, plus don’t forget to check out our other winners as well as the many great entries that didn’t quite make the cut. We’ll be back next week with another spotlight!

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