Astra Fund, a venture fund that supports developers making “thinking games,” revealed the first batch of games it’s funding, including an unannounced title from Good Sudoku developer Zach Gage.
Let’s first back up and discuss what a “thinking game” is. According to Astra, the term is defined as “cognitively challenging games whose systems and mechanics spark curiosity and require problem solving.” Astra looks for three main features, per its website: “thinky” mechanics, like in Baba Is You and Portal 2; “welcoming worlds,” like in Pikuniku and Thinkrolls; and “compelling narratives,” like in The Gardens Between and Outer Wilds.
Here is the list of games:
- Rytmos, a “musical puzzle game where you create music by solving puzzles,” by Floppy Club
- Paper Trail, a “top-down puzzle adventure about leaving home” that’s “set in a paper world,” by Newfangled Games
- Star Stuff, a “cosmic tale about a young alien’s first day at a star factory,” by Ánimo Games
- Schrödinger’s Cat Burglar by Abandoned Sheep
- A game from Furniture & Mattress, a new indie studio that includes Braid artist David Hellman, with an unannounced title
- A game from Zach Gage and Orta Therox with an unannounced title
The first games from the bunch are expected to come out in the fourth quarter of 2022, while “a lot of them” will be released in 2023, Astra Fund co-founder Eileen Hollinger told me in an interview.
The Astra Fund is part of Carina Initiatives, a nonprofit that works to make “a better math talent system” for kids. Developers can apply to receive funding and support from Astra Fund, and co-founder Josh Taylor expects the fund will do “roughly three to five deals a year.”
Right now, the fund is focused on supporting the development of thinking games. But, in the long term, the fund wants to advocate more for the thinking games genre, he said. “How do we help people see the value in these games so that we can build an audience and improve discoverability of these games?” Taylor said. If games like Baba Is You are the inspiration, I feel like there will be a lot of good things to look forward to.