All Aboard the Alteration Train!

February 6, 2012

I have always admired the computer game as a storytelling medium. The successful merger of narrative and gameplay is a rare and wonderful thing. One game designer who I think has mastered the art of delivering powerful messages through fun gameplay is Jonas Kyratzes, creator of many thought-provoking, beautiful, and joyfully mischievous games. My two favorites are “The Strange and Somewhat Sinister Tale of the House at Desert Bridge” and “The Book of Living Magic.” These games are woven together with humor, philosophy, social and political commentary, and fantastic point-and-clickery. You’ll unfortunately need a PC to play “Desert Bridge” (which means I can’t play it anymore – I’m Mac only these days), but you can play “The Book of Living Magic” on any computer. And you should.

These games are free. They are also obviously labors of love, and I can only imagine the hours that went into creating them. And so, when I saw that Jonas Kyratzes was asking for donations to help put food on his table and more games out into the world, I sent $10 his way. In return, he brought a small piece of his Lands of Dream (in which both “Desert Bridge” and “Book of Living Magic” are set) to life for me on his website. I gave him the prompt of “something related to trains,” and here is the result:

The Alteration Train

Jonas’s wife Verena created the artwork (as she does for most of the games), and Jonas provided the words. I think both are wonderful. Here’s an excerpt:

No-one has ever been able to establish the exact nature of the phenomenon – some say it was a hole in the fabric of reality, others claim it was more akin to a gate by accident unlocked – but what is certain is that for an instant, there was an opening into some unknowable Abyss, and through it came a train.

This train brings profound changes to all who witness its passing. Of course, in true Kyratzes style, the train is also politically active.  It is a great deterrent to war. Those who see it lay down their weapons and refuse to fight. I think we can all get on board with that.

I’d like to encourage everyone who reads this to make a small donation this week to a cause you care about. Think of something that enriches your life and send a little money that way. For me, this year, it was a literary journal database (, a podcast (RISK), and an amazing computer game designer.

Have a wondrous, strange, and somewhat sinister February!


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