by Dann Sullivan
Grace Bruxner’s itch.io page, on the whole, is a precious place to me. Whenever something new appears there I make sure to lose myself in it for as long as I can spare. Fish Market, which released almost a year ago now, will likely remain my favourite due to the memories it calls back.
Fish Market—which is listed by the author as an environment, rather than a game—has players walk around a clearing within a coral reef. The clearing hosts twenty stalls, three ATMs and a music marquee. A marquee playing the Venga Boys, no less. Most of the objects in Fish Market, definitely those stands, carry with them puns or deliberately misspelled nonsense. While browsing, lifeforms pass by the stands, while others simply rest and wait.
Occasionally a whale passes overhead, like a plane full of holiday-goers heading off overseas for some faraway place.
My family holidays were never overseas as we could not afford the flights or ferries in good conscience, nor the lifestyle. In fact my first flight was to Gothenburg for the Sweden Games Conference in 2017.
Another issue was time. My father worked nights in the freezer section of a distribution warehouse; each morning, he’d return home while me and my siblings slept, put himself to bed, then re-emerge for dinnertime before heading off to work. His shift pattern is something I’ve thankfully never had to experience—five weeks on, one week off.
Somehow mum and dad managed to sync their time off to match the school term structure and, while we were too poor to afford to fly or stay in hotels, we owned a car and camping gear. If you drive anywhere from ninety minutes to four hours up the road , you can escape from the shadow of London; cement satellite towns give way to glorious countryside, five-hundred-year-old towns and agricultural villages, as well as oceans, castles, windmills and other amazing things which you never truly get proper time to experience when you are poor, living on the periphery of a large city.
Each of these little three-to-four-day holidays always seemed to feature stopping at a market, normally set up in an out-of-use carpark. Most of them had little over a dozen stalls and were mostly jumble sales: people clearing out their sheds, attics and garages. We never really had any money, though, so it was simply a nice walk. Half an hour in the sun, nobody shouting, occasional money changing hands, the smells of nearby cafes and food stands.
Many games feature shops you can’t go into and markets you can’t interact with. I fondly remember the Pawn Shop in Zak McKracken where you could buy basically anything in the store. I have great memories of the Yakuza series (and Shenmue before it) allowing me intricate looks around each of the stores. And I adored Diaries of a Spaceport Janitor’s living marketplace. But Fish Market, with its child-like innocence, is the game which brings back those sunny fifteen minutes within the holidays in which my family and I stole some time away from the daily grind. ◒
Dann Sullivan is the founder and Editor in Chief of Bigbossbattle.com, as well as the web-developer and a founder (and occasional writer) for Indiegamesplus.com. He is a regular judge for industry events and has been playing games for all of his life and enjoys discovering new experiences within the medium. He can occasionally be found on Twitter at @FBFDann.