Retrospective: Frog Factions

Browser based games aren't just games you play when you're blowing off work anymore. Twinbeard's Frog Fractions has quite little to do with mathematics, but might make your head hurt nonetheless.

By Tony Walter | Feb 13, 2013

Sometimes a stigma is attached to a platform and we find ourselves overlooking something that defies our preconceived notions. I'm certainly not innocent in this; I've found myself associating negative outlooks on games based entirely on the fact that I had to play them in a web browser. Slowly, these stigmas are chipped away at, eventually destroyed, by games that force us to pay attention, force us to defy ourselves, and make us realize what we have been missing.

Frog Fractions is one such title.

Before December I can't remember the last time that I purposefully found myself hunting down and playing (to completion) a Flash based game. This is because it's never happened before I played Frog Fractions. With a zeitgeist hurricane from the games media Frog Factions found itself mentioned on several top ten lists, with some serious 'Game of the Year' discussion. The game only barely found itself knocked off my own list.

We see popularity bursts like this happen on occasion. A game will hit at just the right time under just the right circumstances, and it will explode. What is different with Frog Fractions is that it is one of the first times that a Flash game was at the source of this hype. Certainly to the extent that Frog Fractions was.

For those who haven't played it yet: stop reading this and go play this game now. Seriously. It's a free game, it takes around forty-five minutes, you have no excuse. Look, I'll even give you the link. Here.

Here's your hint: turtles can swim.

Did you finish it? Good.

Frog Fractions has single-handedly convinced me that browser based games are worth paying attention to. Not just as a means to kill an hour or two when I should be doing something constructive, but as a legitimate part of the medium. Frog Fractions is an important game and we're better off for having noticed.

What makes Frog Fractions important? It plays off the nostalgia of old educational games, it's one of those rare funny games that is actually funny, and it's one of the most memorable games of the last year. But, these aren't really why it's important. It's important because it defies our notions, and proves browser based games can be good. 

What kind of circular-ass logic is that? Browser based games are proven as a medium because Frog Factions is important, and Frog Factions is important because it proves browser based games as a medium?

Truth be told, the game Frog Fractions is interchangeable in this notion with any of the hundreds of other amazing browser-based Flash games we've missed over the years. Frankly, Frog Fractions is important because it was noticed.

I quit paying attention to browser games around the same time I graduated high school. I'm not exactly sure what that says about my idea of these games. They're immature? They're not worth my full attention? Whatever the reason was, it is safe to say that during that time I have certainly missed many fantastic games. N+, the unique Xbox Live Arcade and handheld game, started as N, the Flash game. Super Meat Boy, the brutally fun platformer, started as Meat Boy, the Flash game. Did we give them the attention they deserved before their wider releases? Had we even heard of them? Yet they are fantastic games.

The difference between Frog Fractions and those games is that, for some reason beyond my understanding, it was noticed and they weren't.

Don't get me wrong. Frog Fractions is an incredible game that will probably hold a special place in my heart for years to come. I'll certainly be referencing its bizarre sense of humor whenever I get the chance. I mean, Bug Mars might be my favorite fictional location ever created. 

Browser based games aren't what has changed. Frog Fractions didn't come along and do things that Flash games couldn't or didn't do before. Amazing Flash games have existed for a very long time. What it is that has changed here is us. Our perception is beginning to shift. Games no longer need thirty million dollar budgets to make top ten lists. The small guys, the underdogs, are just doing what they always have been doing - trying to make the best games that they can - we're just starting to notice.

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