KUUKIYOMI: (Re)considering Microgames

KUUKIYOMI: (Re)considering Microgames

Nintendo’s WarioWare series logged its tenth installment in early September, and with it returned my fondness for its distinctive microgame format. While their larger counterparts, minigames, can take the form of any game within a game—from Mario Party’s four-player intermissions to Final Fantasy X’s Blitzball—microgames conform to a stricter criteria. They must be completed within the span of about five seconds and require the player to fulfill a single objective, paring the idea of what a game is down to its skeleton. 

Play enough of them in rapid succession, and they’ll induce a trance-like state. Though each game on its own is a little nugget of weird ephemera—a polygonal nose to be picked or a haunted windmill to spin—a full playthrough reveals the game’s unified dream logic. WarioWare is a test of reflexed and quick thinking, yes, but more importantly, it’s its own surreal aesthetic: a journey into the subconscious in which you’re subjected to the whims of an entire team of artists. 

Though the WarioWare formula continues to work nearly twenty years after its creation, there’s a lot of unexplored space for experimentation within the microgame genre. Besides a few re-skinned Wario clones that made for a fun novelty playthrough, I’d long believed that Big Brain Academy was the only series that had really done anything new with the format. 

Until I purchased Kuukiyomi: Consider It from the Switch eShop, that is. 

In Some Way or Another, Considerate…

An abbreviation of the Japanese phrase kuuki yomenai, which means “unable to read the room,” developer G-MODE’s Kuukiyomi: Consider It trilogy is billed as a test to “see how considerate you can be.” That’s technically true, but the banal description disguises how absurdly subjective the concept of such a test is. Can you quantify consideration? And what does the term even mean in this context? Is it mere selflessness, or does consideration to one’s self apply? Kuukiyomi won’t answer these questions for you, but its open-ended gameplay might help you come to your own conclusions. 

Though there are multiplayer options and a few extra games to play, the core of each Kuukiyomi entry is its titular “Consider It” mode, which requires a single player to complete 100 microgames in a row. As in WarioWare, each one opens with an intentionally vague prompt and gives the player a few seconds to apply it to a particular scenario. 

While WarioWare’s appeal lies in its laissez faire attitude towards design, cycling between different styles and media, Kuukiyomi is visually cohesive. Its world is populated by identical, stick figure-like people and filled with black and white line art that looks as if it’s been lifted from a bored student’s journal. 

The player takes control of a red object or individual in the scene and does their best to blend in, performing their role as a cog in the machine. You might even play the part of a single tapioca ball at the bottom of a bubble tea, swimming towards the end of a straw. As Kuukiyomi’s full English title suggests, playing the game isn’t just about being considerate, but also your ability to Consider It—“it” being the perspective of all things living and nonliving. In fact, broadening your perspective may be its greater goal. 

There’s no way to win or lose at Kuukiyomi. No matter how well you play, you’ll continue until the end of the 100-part quiz, though you’ll receive an indistinct evaluation every 10 questions. Maybe you’re “mildly considerate,” “very vaguely considerate,” or “in some way or another, considerate.” Even the game itself is too concerned with being polite to be real with you. Just as in real life, it’s up to the individual to analyze the situation and their surroundings to tell how well they’re fitting in. As an office supervisor, do you leave at closing to assure your subordinates that they can leave early, or do you stick around to be the last to leave? Will you correctly guess the final answer in a TV game show, or let your needy opponent take home the cash prize? You’ll only find out whether you guessed right if you can read the room—get it?

And when you do fail to make the right decision—and I say when because you will spend much of your initial playthrough blindly stumbling through confusing scenarios—that’s all part of the game too. In Kuukiyomi 2’s penultimate test, a teacher gives their class a few words of parting advice on the last day of school. 

“Being considerate all the time isn’t always a good thing,” they say. “You need to also think of yourself. Being considerate of others and knowing when to take care of yourself are both vital skills. I want you all to become strong adults who can do both.” 

After each game’s final act, you’ll get to see a full breakdown of your performance in true Big Brain Academy fashion. Your score is divided into a number of subcategories, from empathy to spatial awareness to good old common sense, urging the player to see how making different choices might affect their social chemistry. It’s tough to get a solid score, but that’s kind of the point. While traditional Japanese culture may encourage its participants to avoid conflict and prioritize the needs of a group over the individual, Kuukiyomi suggests that finding a balance between selflessness and self-care might be healthier. 

Completing the main campaign unlocks a new “Inconsiderate Mode,” which doles out points for subverting social norms. Ever daydreamed about skipping the line or clocking out of work early? Well here’s your chance to do it in a safe, consequence-free context. You’ve repressed your ego for 100 questions, so a break feels like a warranted reprieve. 

Though Kuukiyomi’s gameplay might bear some similarity to WarioWare, it eschews the latter’s simple point A to point B progression in favor of experimental storytelling. It’s much less playable for it, but I’m happy to shell out a few bucks for a thought-provoking (and hilarious) work of interactive fiction. 

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