Crown of Creation

Everyone's gone to the rapture Memory of a broken dimension playchess

proteus Tengami the last guardian

We have an opportunity that some perhaps are not aware of. It is always prevalent in our lives but emphasised more so over the holiday period, especially with the influx of videogames vying for our dollars. To fulfil this potential requires a different mindset; a flexibility within our own personal habits. This opportunity is the ability to shape the gaming landscape, long before we see the effects.

There are visionaries amongst us and they walk in directions none of us knew existed. These are the innovators who build with only a desire to imagine new spaces, to see what can be achieved. But the most poignant sense of insecurity comes from standing alone and when a man or woman is armed only with their ideas, it can be arduous to realize their ambitions. The risk of failure is overwhelming; the burden of achieving commercial success without diluting self-integrity verges on the insurmountable. Furthermore the prospect of a non-receptive audience could eat away at a creative soul, inflicting risk aversion; turning a fluid mind into a stagnant, cautious one. Despite all these obstacles however, they forge ahead; defiant with unwavering courage, tenacious in remaining self-motivated against any adversity, and all because of what? So the visionary can make what sometimes seems impossible…games that we have never dreamed of.

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Who are these people? They are the great minds who formulate diversity while others rehash more of the same. The craftsmen who construct the unique and neoteric. Most incredulously, theirs are the concepts that you might avoid because they may appear obtuse next to other videogames.

Look at these images, and ask yourself; are these designs from people who sought the safety of bankable concepts, or are they from fantasists who want to know what is in the void of the medium? Our opportunity is that at any given time we can choose to indulge in this genius, simply by interacting with it.

As users of this instrument shouldn’t we all want to know what else is out there, to fulfill our curiosities? But as much as we say we want innovation, do we really support it?

I am under no illusions that people like what they like and there really is nothing wrong with that; nostalgia, sequels and annual updates of franchises have their place in the market. But know this; the future is not conceived from regurgitation or plagiarism, it is in something that you didn’t know you wanted, when people thought and not copied, when imagination manifested into something tangible. The artist who dares to bring outlandish ideas into fruition not only changes the medium, but also our lives.

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It is naïve to think that the masses will suddenly leave their comfort in search of some obscure game they do not understand or enjoy. But it is also naïve to think that progress comes from repeating what we already have, that an imitator should be held in higher regard than a thinker.

I feel the real barrier that consumers face is that they are failing to see what they are really playing? If this is true I would like to make a suggestion:

Play everything, all that you love but also play anything that you can get your hands on. Sample those, for whatever reason, you would normally avoid. Find the cause of your ignorance. How do you really know what you relate to if you only play the same games? The more you sample different content, the more you will start to notice patterns of repeated ideas in most games. You will start to understand what real innovation is rather than the incremental updates that are repackaged and sold to you as new. Your opportunity is to disregard your inhibitions and jump into what you are unsure about, because in every unusual screenshot or atypical idea might contain the sustenance you crave.

What does it feel like to explore conversations inspired by Marguerite Duras?

How do you use a reconstruction tool to navigate a fragmented landscape?

Where would you walk in your last hour of an impending apocalypse?

These are questions from minds which are more important to them than remaking what we already have. Arent there questions we want to know the answers to as well, outside of what we have seen?

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This is not a pretentious ploy to hold the games you see here as superior to others, I do not feel quality can be accurately measured, it is just a personal opinion. These opinions unfortunately, suppress most of the ingenuity of unique games; and by only comparing graphics, sound and gameplay, what happens to the themes that do not fit into these categories, how are they evaluated?

What I care about is that those who try to show us something different are not damned for having the courage to do so. If that means nothing to you then maybe the videogame will remain as a disposable plaything. For many however, the medium is the most unique tool of expression available to us and we want to see where and how far it can go.

If you want to support an innovative future there are an abundance of tools at our disposal; Steam, PSN, XBL, all have free demos. To sample unique content visit Free indie games and the experimental gameplay project. To support developers directly back Kickstarter and Steam Greenlight projects and perhaps the most important; for those who want to question what a videogame is, visit Notgames.

Our opportunity as consumers is that we can shape the mediums landscape every time we purchase a game. We give consent to keep it in the past or we allow it to grow into the future. I along with a handful of developers would like to see and feel things we never have before and we hope you do to.

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Images:

Everybody’s gone to the rapture, Memory of a broken dimension, Bientôt l’été, Proteus, Tengami, The last guardian, Bioshock Infinite, Amnesia: A machine for pigs, The Unfinished swan, Trip, Stanley parable, Hotline Miami, The Witness, Journey, Antichamber, Fotonica, POP: Methodology experiment one, Flower, At a distance, Among the sleep, Sound Shapes, Dear Esther, Sports friends, Noby noby boy, New untitled Keita Takahashi game

Vision: TRIP (PC/Mac)

If you could walk through the mind of an artist would you need distractions to validate that exploration?

Quests, stories and collectibles prompt our journeying and ultimately sustain our desire to ‘win’, but what if there were no pursuits or anecdotes and what if the feat of collecting didn’t return any tangible assets? The foundations of traditional games rely on the inputs of interactivity; jump, push, pull, hit etc. and there is a tendency to disdain visions that do not tick these boxes. But if the obstacle courses and challenges are removed, why would you need them? If we reduce interactivity to a minimum would we still label the work as a game?

TRIP is the projected mind of an artist named Axel Shokk, and it explodes through the screen in aesthetic delirium. The creativity Shokk has explicated on-screen is startling and officiously stands atypical next to other games. Riotous hues punctuate the senses with geometric spikes and impossible stellations, even blades of grass are composed of bar charts that sway gently in the wind. These visuals demand your attention by force feeding you colour and Shokk emphasises this through a pared down interface. Your sole interaction is movement in first person, there are no quests or challenges. You have to look at TRIP because that is all there is to accomplish, but more importantly, that is all you want to do.

LSD Dream emulator, Myst and Journey inspired to deconstruct the controls, leaving only the chromatics and audio to play with. “If it weren’t for them I wouldn’t have been bold enough to strip all gameplay mechanics, games like those pave the way for creative individuals to try new things. I’m just one of those guys trying out something new just for the sake of experimentation.”

There is a creative resonance here with the experimentation of early ZX Spectrum games; like the obtuse forms found in Jet Set Willy and Manic Miner. TRIP features familiar yet Ineffable characters with unique personalities. I question if a lot of this creativity has been lost in the pursuit of realism? “There was a creativity drought in the industry not too long ago, thanks to the recent explosion of indie gaming I see a lot more creative and fresh ideas being tested. These are very exciting times in the world of video games.”

Shokk has stated that Trip is more of an art piece to be observed rather than a game with traditional gameplay. But as developers such as Tale of Tales and The Chinese Room have proven; observation can be a powerful form of interaction, and isn’t the act of discovery a gameplay element in itself? “I strongly believe so, however the audience is still hung up on what constitutes a game. One of the reasons I created TRIP was to shake that ground and bring up the question, at what point can something be considered a game? I’m trying to open boundaries for other developers to get crazy without worrying about backlash, I feel games created in a ‘fuck it’ mentality speak most to me. I don’t think that these games will ever have a broad appeal, but I would rather make one person extremely satisfied than to mildly amuse a hundred.”

In a medium that does not have any real limitations it is hard to comprehend that imagination would not have a broad appeal. The landscape in TRIP inspires curiosity and exploration and there is a fervent desire to see what is around the next abstraction. From caverns and mountains to the brilliant sea of words, TRIP is a cohesive view of the familiar wrapped up in arbitrary geometries. There are sparse collectibles but Shokk states they serve no purpose, even though reaching them inadvertently offers a reward; a new view of the landscape.

If there is one thing missing it is the ability to see the whole of the terrain in its entirety, no matter how high you climb there is a desire to see more, the central mechanic of souvenir would serve the game well if only to accomplish this. Shokk had various ideas he wanted to incorporate to accomplish this; “I actually wanted several mechanics in TRIP like NPCs taking you places and showing you things, I was very limited by my complete lack of programming so I had to improvise. A lot. I’m slowly teaching myself programming so hopefully at some point I will be able to provide a much more interactive experience.”

This also expands into making TRIP open to user-generated content. “Oh how I’d love to, but I’m not sure how moddable Unity engine games are. If my dream of having a development team comes true I’ll definitely make the majority of my games open for user-generated content. I got into game development by making unreal maps and half-life mods.” As an incentive for a succesful kickstarter bid, Shock offered to create an area in-game under the backers specifications. It would be interesting to see various parts of other people’s minds amalgamated together.

The glue that binds this world together is the soundtrack, it is quite buoyant and upbeat but manages to deliver an ominous feeling over the abstract imagery. “My good friend Benjamin created the soundtrack, he suggested to create a melody that would be cohesive throughout the whole game. I told him to go for it, when he started the game world was kinda bare so I sketched up sound waves and gave him a list of key words that would inspire what each song would sound like. For example the city area I sent Ben images of sewers, metal, industrial areas, and gave him keywords like clanging, banging, clicking and to imagine an oppressive sound of steel and machinery.
When he showed me each track I was blown away at how well it fit the game world. He’s a real talented individual, and I’m not just saying that because I’m his friend!”

Critics have been trying to shoehorn TRIP into the appropriate mould and the difficulties with the term ‘game’ rears its head again; “The response has been mixed; thankfully most critics seem to praise the visuals. They find that TRIP works better as a piece of digital art than as a game.” I can’t help feeling that Digital art is misplaced, if only because traditional ‘game players’ might brush TRIP aside incredulously . We are familiar with all of the elements present here; the viewpoint, the type of landscape, spectrums of colour… so the only non-game like component is structured activity. As I said at the beginning, do we need distractions to validate exploration, TRIP is an opportunity to traverse the mind of an artist, does it need to be anything else?

What can we expect in the future From Axel Shokk? “My next project is Kat Attack, an action-oriented visual novel. I want it to be like an interactive motion-comic. It’s not nearly as experimental as TRIP is but I’ll be putting my storytelling and cartooning skills to the test, you’ll see a lot of my illustrative work in this comic which is something I’ve been meaning to show. Hopefully proving that the visual novel is a medium with a lot of potential.
Kat Attack takes place in a dystopian future as a space rock opera, centered around Kat – a space pirate wielding a guitar cannon which she also uses to surf through space with.
I will try to get this project kickstarted sometime August so keep an eye out!”

Check out Kat Attack’s development blog.