Guilded Youth by Jim Munroe is a game I happened across almost by accident: I supported a Kickstarter campaign for this thing called LA Gamespace, where some interesting individuals wanted to outfit a building with the purpose of housing experimental games artists and acting as a kind of knowledge and sharing hub for devs. It sounded cool so I threw $15 at it, a little bit rankled that nothing like that was happening in Australia, and forgot about it. Then one day 15 small/experimental games showed up in my inbox as part of my reward, and among them was Guilded Youth.
We played through them all one listless morning at The Coop, just myself and Funny Guy Joel Burrows, and this was easily our pick of the bunch.
You play as Tony, an adolescent guy growing up in the 80s, and the game kicks off with you chatting to friends on a BBS where you all have online personas. You’re a level 5 thief, Paula is a mage, and so on. At first you’re not entirely sure what you’re supposed to be doing, but soon a goal emerges: you’re planning a night raid on the legendary abandoned Oakville Manor, to do what a thief does best – see what you can fit in your pockets.
In the chatroom characters will talk freely, and you interact with them by showing them items in an attempt to persuade them to coming to the manor with you. Then the game becomes more of a text adventure, where you meet up with whoever it is that’s joining you for the quest that night and can type commands to explore your environment and interact with world objects. What I find a beautiful touch is meeting the friends from the chat room for the first time, and seeing the difference between their online RPG personas and who they really are. If this game does anything remarkably well, it’s characterisation. The game is sweet, a little heartwarming, and definitely reminded me of my youth of breaking into shit for no better reason than we were curious to see what was inside.
The art by Matt Hammill needs to be mentioned too because it adds a whole dimension of charm to the game.
Guilded youth is free online, so definitely put aside 15 minutes to play through it. I promise it will be as rewarding as any of the best short stories you’ve read.