Some flash games were simple and creative iterations on existing games, like Hangman. Others simply nailed down a satisfyingly solid mechanic and, well, Ran with it, like with Run.
And then there’s the weird stuff, like There Is No Game.
Made by a developer named KaMiZoTo for a game jam in 2015, There Is No Game opens with a title card and a gruff voice apologetically informing you in questionable English that there is, in fact, no game to be found here, and that you should move along.
Of course, there’s more to this game than just some words and a detached voice, but to go into more detail would be spoiling what makes There Is No Game so fun, so before reading further I would recommend that you click that link and play the game yourself first. Or you could download it on Steam for free, because that’s also something you can do. It’s fun, won’t take you more than like ten, fifteen minutes, tops.
Okay, we good? Or do you at least not care? Then lets get on with it.
There Is No Game is a nice example of what we call Metafiction—fiction that acknowledges and plays with the medium in which it’s presented. The most famous modern examples of these (at least in terms of video games) would probably be Undertale and Doki Doki Literature Club, but There Is No Game is a prime example of how a story can utilize metafiction without going into outright horror territory like those two games.
By asserting that there is no game, while still obviously being a game, There Is No Game is already breaking the fourth wall the second you click on it. Then it adds a familiar-looking speaker icon, and then incorporates that into its story by having the voice complain when you attempt to mute him. All of this is done in good fun, which lets the game be accessible to children, allowing them to gain a more nuanced understanding of the medium of video games, while requiring them to think outside the box to solve a selection of inventive puzzles.
The downside to this, of course, is that the game is very short and not particularly replayable. But when you were given only a few minutes of free time in class after practicing typing for half an hour, a short game was a the best thing in the world.