‘ Game’ is Worth Your 10 Minutes 2023


If I ever was forced to relive last year, I'd only want to do it through Max Garkavyy's web app, 2020 Game.

The 10-minute experience took my player through some of the major events we experienced last year, including the Australia wildfires, the coronavirus pandemic, a stock market crash, quarantine and that weird rush for tissue, an election, and more. I thought the game was a success because it was light-hearted, while still touching on some major trends from 2020. 

And I'm not the only one who enjoyed the game. Garkavyy said over a video interview with Ach5 that the game is being played worldwide, with more than 2 million plays already.

Oddly, half of those players are from Spain. Garkavyy isn't sure why the game has attracted such a large following in Spain, but he did say a lot of Spanish newspapers have been reporting about the game's success, which has helped. 

The Game's Origin

Perhaps the most interesting thing about 2020 Game is how it came to be. Garkavyy coded the title in Javascript with no prior knowledge of game development. It took him six months to learn how to code, and he did it all by watching videos online.

"My basic idea was, it's simple, right? It's just a Mario kind of game in a browser with the side scrolling," Garkavyy said during the interview. "There were actually tutorials explaining that. Despite me being a total newbie in programming, it worked."

He used Visual Studio to edit the code of the game, Photoshop, and Aseprite, a pixel art tool that allows you to create 2D animations, for the graphics.

Based in Moscow, Russia, Garkavyy maintained a full-time job as a technical project manager while developing the game, but he may be switching things up a bit soon, now that the game has been such a success.

What's So Good About it?

2020 Game is a simple, 8-bit graphic side-scroller; it's short and easy to catch on to. Once I got to the game's website, I automatically started playing. Only the four arrow keys on the keyboard are necessary to play.

Despite the fact that there's not much action I could take besides jumping onto and around things, I still found myself immersed in the storyline. I got to save a koala from the Australian wildfires—how cute and humanitarian! Garkavyy has a bunch of those warm, human touches throughout the game. 

The hardest part of 2020 Game was avoiding the coronavirus (how very on-brand for 2020, right?) while wearing a mask. My turn would end and I would get sent back to a checkpoint or have to restart completely when I ran into the virus, which, again, feels like a fair metaphor for the entire pandemic. 

Then there was the section on collecting toilet paper. Oh boy. 

Garkavyy could have taken a simpler design route and skipped adding so much background imagery, but that really set the mood of the game. There were some closed gyms, stores, and empty streets, which match the scary reality we've all lived through this past year. And, as you can see in the screenshot below, George Floyd gets a tribute.

And I mean, come on, there was even a moment about Tik Tok's rise. Lovely.

Sure, there's room for improvement, including the ability to duck and some internal fixes to allow it to run in more browsers (I had trouble with a couple). Oh, and more levels, please! I was yearning to play more levels and embark on new storylines, but I get it, this video game creation stuff is not easy. 

"I omitted one level when I saw that I didn't have time to finish it," Garkavyy told me. "I wanted to make a level about tornadoes in the USA because the previous year was the biggest ever with 40 tornadoes all over the states."

I am not ashamed to say that I played this game more than once. I shared it with friends and even may play it again, just to time myself and see how fast I can beat it. That's really not my typical gaming style, but this fun little web app definitely has got me.