Video games can be art and art can be video games, but rarely are either regarded as such. You don’t play a video game, enamored by its beauty. And, if you do, you are probably losing the gameplay. Video games are rarely written up in Artforum and art is rarely written up in IGN. The two worlds do not collide and do not seem to have a reason to, beyond the limits of the tangential video art world.
Limbo, an Xbox Live game released last summer, straddles this line. It is a video game, but it also is an incredibly deep artistic thought. The game plays simply enough, side-scrolling in 2D with only two “moves” (jump and push/pull) that you must discover for yourself. The game is “trial by death,” if you will. The story is simplistic and is not really explained: you play as a little boy who is just roaming through a dark, dangerous world searching for something. You deduce from the name that he is in a purgatory of sorts, which manifests itself as many different demons. There are many puzzles and “challenges,” but it being so simultaneously basic and difficult makes it a gamer’s delight: good gameplay, good story, good visuals–and nothing is ever explained.
In terms of artistry, the game–literally–feels like you are manipulating a melancholy, minimalist, monochromatic animated painting. It’s a dark cartoon-like version of a German Expressionist film. Created by Danish independent game studio Playdead, Limbo is the brainchild of Arnt Jensen, the game’s director. Through ups and downs over creative control, the group decided to ensure that the product was exactly how they wanted it–not Microsoft, not IO Interactive. The result is magnificent: a stoic, dark meditation on the search that befalls us in the afterlife. In this case, the search for answers and meaning underlines the ultimate goal in the game, which is stated in the tagline: “Uncertain of his sister’s fate, a boy enters Limbo.”
No one actually knows what limbo or purgatory or “the in-between” is like at all. But, if it is actually like this, then I guess we have a beautiful, puzzle filled, black/white/gray pre-heaven to look forward to.
Mondays may be a relief for workaholics, but most of us are trying to disguise the fact that we either didn’t have time to shower this morning or that we’re still drunk from last night. So while you’re pretending to work, why not exercise your visual acuity?
I found online versions of the Munsell Hue Test posted a few differentplaces, but either place you take the test, it’s not as easy as it looks. The game involves putting lines of colored tiles in spectral order. The distinction between tiles is harder for some than others, especially if your rods and cones are still sleeping. But if you can prevail against eye fatigue, hereditary eye disease and the watchful eyes of bosses… then maybe your week is looking up.
In an effort to lift your eyelids this Monday, I am directing your shortened attention span to the eyeballing game. Developed by a woodworker for his friends, the game consists of a series of tasks intended to determine how accurately you can eyeball things. It would be interesting to know how designers fared compared to non-designers, and how designers fared against each other: are graphic designers more precise than architects? Do fashion designers shame industrial designers? My average is 3.91… neither fantastic nor shabby. How’d you do?
What word describes the feeling you get when you look back on bad design decisions you’ve made in the past? You think: “Did I really think it was okay to use a photoshop filter on top of fully saturated cyan verdana type?”
Moments of insight are always a little suspicious. Maybe this is because I grew up in the Bible Belt and heard stories about dramatic revelations almost incessantly. But there was a moment in my second year of college when I saw the light and realized that everything is designed. This is probably one of the biggest eye-openers I took away from architecture school that literally changed the way I perceive things. And not just the objects that surround us that are explicitly designed, but also ideas and language around those ideas are cleverly and critically constructed. Which is really a long way to say: I like to make up words.
Verbotomy is a place for people who also like to make up words. It’s a daily competition to create a word for some gap in language. For instance: What do you call folks who Googles themselves? What should you call congratulating a woman on her pregnancy only to realize she isn’t pregnant? Anyone can submit words and anyone can vote for their favorites. I do this almost every day and I enjoy doing it. Maybe you will enjoy it too?
A few weekends back I said I was going to try and put up more games on the weekends for those of you in need of some mindless entertainment, but unfortunately finding rad games isn’t as easy as I thought it would be. But thanks to the tip of a reader named Taylor Carroll I was pointed in the direction of a game called Mogo Mogo.
Mogo Mogo is about a civilization of people called Mogos, who work all day and night doing manual labor to survive. You play as Bogo, an inventor who dreams of helping the Mogo’s lives better my making some tools to ease their burden. He has a Newtonian moment when a fruit falls on his head and he’s sent into a dream world to find the invention that will help his people.
The game is a series of puzzles which definitely start to get harder as you go. As I’m writing this I’m on Level 12 and I was ready to quit. But I haven’t yet because the production and design of this game is really great, and I think you’ll get sucked into it like I have. Simply click the little blue dot above to get started.
This little video has been making the rounds today with great force and for good reason. Created by the folks over at One More Production and written & directed by Patrick Jean, PIXELS explores the idea of 8 bit characters and items crossing over to modern day New York and pixelating the hell out of it. The design and animation of this whole video is amazing and hysterical, kind of like District 9 except with Donkey Kong and Space Invaders. Through it all though I think I’d have to say my favorite part is when the Tetris pieces descend, like omniscient, translucent gods coming to PWN your buildings.
This little video is one of the weirder things I’ve ever posted, so we’ll see how it goes over… Justin Wallis, aka MILKBBI, sent me a link to this little video he did called Puppy Love which he describes as a found love letter translated into an old Sega Saturn Japanese dating game… right. It’s pretty weird but you have to give him some props for really making it feel like a weirdo, Japanese game from the late 90’s.
It always seems like artsy video games are a rare commodity to come by. I’m talking about games like Katamari Damacy, Parappa the Rapper or Ico, these kind of games that rely upon a beautiful aesthetic and simple controls to make a game that’s pure enjoyment.
So when I saw this preview of the upcoming Superbrothers game I got pretty excited. Here you have one guy, Craig Adams, who’s taken his unique visual style and crafted an old school styled game called Sword & Sworcery. the game seems rather simple, you explore a beautiful world and kill the bad guys. But it’s the visual style of the world that really makes it seem special. As I was writing this I came across this great “article”, I guess you could call it, that Mr. Adams wrote which is simply titled, Less Talk More Rock. I highly suggest reading it as well.