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November 20, 2020

MOD.’s top five games for uncertain times

We've had more time indoors than we would have liked this week, so CityMag reached out to MOD.'s Kristin Alford for her favourite video games to pass the time when the outside world is all a bit too much.

  • Words: Kristin Alford
  • Main image: Daniel Marks


At MOD., we’ve explored the benefits of video games through a range exhibition and programs.

We have also adapted our most recent exhibition SEVEN SIBLINGS FROM THE FUTURE into an online browser version, which will be available on our website from the end of November.

Video games are an important way for us to engage visitors to our gallery and website in thinking different about future issues, including promoting peace and understanding, exploring research into games and education and looking at ways to stay connected during pandemic lockdown.

Our favourite video games are those that challenge the stereotype of shooting and driving games and instead offer players a chance for collaboration, enquiry and perspective-taking.

In rollercoaster times of stress and uncertainty, these types of video games also develop futures literacies as they encourage players to step into different scenarios, test pathways and practice anticipation.

Here are our top 5 video games that do their bit to promote empathy, cooperation, and resilience.


Bad News Game

In today’s sea of misinformation, science rejection and influencers spouting conspiracy theories, it’s sometimes hard to make sense of it all.

There may not be a vaccine yet for COVID-19, but there’s good news: there is a vaccine for fake news. Netherlands-based media group DROG produced this browser game a few years back, but it is still deeply relevant.

While we trust that you don’t currently live in a fort made up of toilet paper and canned soup and you probably know better, you may as well take a course of Bad News Game just in case. Lucky for you it’s quick, painless, and you may even enjoy it.

Genre: Simulation, News Game
Developer: DROG
Platforms: Browser based (free) – Australia version commission by MOD. or Original Game
Single player? Yes
Cross-platform multiplayer? No
Online PvP / co-op? No
Local PvP / co-op? No



If you can’t get enough COVID-19 news, then why not immerse yourself further?

First released as a board game, Pandemic is based on the premise that four diseases have broken out. Take on the role of a team of medical specialists and work together to find a cure. The game uses cooperation, not competition, in an attempt to save the world.

In the spirit of exploring many scenarios, MOD. Moderator Piet Groenewegen notes that “it can also be played as the virus with the objective of eliminating as many humans as possible, a dark twist we streamed for our audience.”

Genre: Simulation, Strategy
Developer: Z-Man Games and Asmodee Digital 
App Store ($7.99), Google Play ($7.99), or Steam ($14.50)
Single player? Yes
Cross-platform multiplayer? No
Online PvP / co-op? No
Local PvP / co-op? Yes, split-screen co-op



Sometimes distraction is a better course of action for managing stress, especially if it allows you to connect and collaborate with friends.

When the galleries at MOD. were closed earlier this year, the team switched modes to become professional streamers, and Terraria was a clear favourite.

There are plenty of activities to do in a pacifist run: from gathering resources to building houses, decorating the interior, and growing a glowing mushroom farm. Terraria‘s ‘Journey Mode’ is especially forgiving for beginners, as players have the flexibility to change the difficulty of the game.

Enjoy interacting with different NPCs (non playable characters) who will move to your newly built houses, in return you can trade with them to get an upgrade in tools, clothes or even a Santa hat.

“Shared goals and endless space for creativity and collaboration is what made Terraria have a special place in our lockdown-bruised hearts”, says MOD. Moderator Laura Phan.

“It started off being dropped into a randomly-generated world with nothing but a keyboard and our talking heads on Zoom. We explored, asked questions that none of us really knew the answers to, and clumsily figured our way about collecting resources, foraging for food, and crafting hardly-durable swords out of trees. That is, until reaching different terrain and learning those skills all over again to adapt to a new environment, new climate, and new area-specific goodies from the land.

“From there, the collaborative opportunities only kept growing. First sharehouse – built; first villager – here to stay; first blood moon – summoned; first boss – defeated! We came across a mysterious being who imparted us with even more mysterious wisdom about entering the underworld, and eventually came to building a fully operational, underground mushroom farm for a sustainable food source.

“To say that our team had a blast playing this game is an understatement, and having visitors join the adventure in MOD.’s online server only added to the fun.”

This also speaks to the large community of Terraria players all over the world. According to SteamCharts, Terraria hit its all-time high peak player count of >480,000 in April 2020. It seems Terraria was a go-to for connecting with friends as the world gravitated to social isolation.

If this appeals, then also check out Stardew Valley, an absolute favourite for managing stress for many of the team including, moderators Chealin Chhut and Willa Budiman.

Exhibition Coordinator Natalie Carfora says, “I would 100% have not been as sane in the first lockdown without Stardew Valley, there is something so calming about the regular rhythm of the town, the crops and fighting monsters.”

A tonic for putting the outside world to one side.

Genre: Open world, Survival, Sandbox, 2D
Developer: Re-Logic
Windows ($14.25)
Single player? Yes
Cross-platform multiplayer? No
Online PvP / co-op? Yes
Local PvP / co-op? No


Never Alone (Kisima Ingitchuna)

Never Alone (Kisima Ingitchuna) is a game created in collaboration with the Iñupiat, Alaskan Native people, and developed from their traditional stories.

The game is centred around Nuna and her arctic fox as they search for the source of an eternal blizzard.

As you play you will guide both of the characters using their different strengths, while hearing stories from Alaskan Native Elders.

If this appeals, then also check out Journey, another MOD. favourite. Brilliant example of single player immersion with plenty to explore, or The Stanley Parable, a humorous existential game.

Genre: Action, Adventure, Casual, Indie
Developer: Upper One Games and E-Line Media 
App Store ($4.99), Google Play ($7.99), or Steam ($21.50)
Single player? Yes
Cross-platform multiplayer? No
Online PvP / co-op? No
Local PvP / co-op? Yes, split-screen co-op


Papers, Please

This was the first game that MOD. Production Manager Daniel Lawrance recommended when we started exploring video games for promoting peace.

It starts with the premise that war has ended between the communist state of Arstotzka and its neighbour Kolechia. You have won the labour lottery and have been sent to work as an immigration inspector. Will you make decisions based on what is best for the people who need your help, for the government, or to protect your family?

This is a haunting game that forces the player to actively negotiate ethical decisions and, in the process, learn more about how they themselves might deal in situations of uncertainty and conflict.

Genre: Adventure, Indie
Developer: Lucas Pope
Platforms: App Store ($7.99) or Steam ($14.50)
Single player? Yes
Cross-platform multiplayer? No
Online PvP / co-op? No
Local PvP / co-op? No


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