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.

The Witness journey Antichamber01

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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?

At A Distance screen Among the sleep soundshapes_1

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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.

keitabrain

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: The Unfinished Swan (PS3)

The conjecture when facing a blank canvas makes for a poignant introduction. The environments we step into are usually pre-fabricated with refinement and lustre; to captivate and hold our attention.

The Unfinished Swan inaugurates a white space poised with a central reticule; it wants you to surrender with an impatient button press. Any provisional ideas of exploring negative space are immediately abolished, without some kind of reference point there is no sense of movement or progress. The inevitable yielding launches an insolent black ball of paint; the staining of its target brings a revelation; the appearance of surrounding structures underneath the void. It is a remarkable sight and it sets the temperament of its shooter; the competitive will quickly race to uncover a way out, the completest will reveal the integrity of the structures and the stunned will just stand there, beguiled by the possibilities.

The linearity of your path is equipoise by the freedom to reveal your pathway, there is no limitation to the amount of ink you command, but self-restraint creates an appealing impressionistic view of the landscape. The opposite effect is throwing copious amounts of black onto black which renders everything invisible again. Despite the world’s pre-existence behind the emptiness, it is an ambit you have uniquely revealed. It is all too easy to disclose the intricacies of both the story and the visions, but the central mechanic excels by stumbling upon the wonders rather having an anticipatory mindset.

As you progress; shadows introduced to the emptiness accentuate edges of constructions, the architecture almost begging not to be spoiled by your dye. The developers (Giant Sparrow) later indulge in this unblemished vista by replacing your ink cache with spheres of water. The spectacle of seeing water thrown onto white is arguably more appealing than ink; flirting with insights of the locale and then evaporating into nothing.

In contrast to the initial elucidation, pre-rendered buildings are presented bathing you in a haze of relaxation. The unhurried pace and minimal aesthetic is a pleasure to traverse, reminiscent of a lazy Mediterranean town in the summer. This departure from the opening however has been controversial. The introduction of auxiliary mechanics and change of graphical integrity had some critics unconvinced, citing a mismatch of ideas usurping the opportunities that could have been explored. It is a valid point but does not diminish cohesion, The Unfinished swan is clearly introduced as an imaginative bedtime story. The interrelation of conducting ascendable vines to the latter creation of geometric blocks fits within this whimsical realm of magic, giants and Floating airships.

The Unfinished swan may have been more impactful following its initial concept but Giant Sparrow should be applauded for exploring diversity over the one visual trick, and perhaps this departure makes that aesthetic even more potent. There is a simple exploitation of traditional game proponents which unifies conviviality, such as walking over a maze instead of through it. It is not innovative but it supplements the simplicity of the puzzles, they are completed effortlessly and feel congenial rather than taxing. Like the visions of relative contemporaries; Thatgamecompany, to whose work this will be compared, restraint is needed from revealing too much.

Ultimately The Unfinished swan takes a stimulating game mechanic and offers eloquence, nurtured through the warmth and buoyancy of its story. It’s virtues lie in the enchantment of a unique atmosphere and this ambiance keeps you seduced until the credits roll. Ian Dallas, Max Geiger and the rest of  the Giant Sparrow team have somehow bottled vivacity; inimitable energy pours from bleached buildings and crystal waters, they serve as conduits of peacefulness, for you to get lost in, for you to uncover reverence.

Hindsight: Tokyo game show 2012

The dust has settled over the Makuhari Messe convention centre, home of the Tokyo game show. An event to showcase new ideas and ingenuity; the creation of the future and the unimaginable. In hindsight the future was nothing but deja-vu; reminiscent of a prosaic E3 earlier this year. TGS’s main floor was replete with the sequels and micro extensions of franchises found in previous years, all vying for consumer attention. The obliging crowds queued feverishly, not for the creative thinkers however but for the imitators; games already played in some incarnation or another. The lack of basic self-questioning from attendees was bewildering, a simple ‘what am I playing and have I played this before?’ would have redirected hour+ queues to the creative integrity of something like The Unfinished Swan.

Thankfully TGS’s outlet for lionizing innovation was the presentation of SOWN (Sense of wonder night); it brought some much-needed originality to the event and stood as an advocate of individualism.

Objectives of SOWN:

  • To introduce games with a game design and ideas that are experimental and creative, and that cannot be called conventional or traditional
  • To heighten awareness of the importance of creating a game that gives people a “sense of wonder”, a sense that something will change in their world, and to invigorate the game industry
  •  To offer people creating experimental games opportunities for the future
  •  To create new domains in the game industry

Those objectives would make an exemplary template for the whole of the Tokyo Game Show and for E3 for that matter, rather than the plagiarism that filled 95% of both spaces. For that to happen a different mind-set would be required from both the developers and the consumers; where ques were formed for ideas not seen before, rather than the incredulous fraud that seems to be blindly followed each year.

These were the visions of developers that were unique and offered something neoteric

TENGAMI

A company made of former Rare developers delivered understated elegance in the form of Tengami; a paper engineered pop up adventure capturing the tranquility of Japanese romanticism.

MEMORY OF A BROKEN DIMENSION

Ezra Hanson-White’s superlative first person work, proved to be the most unique of the show which can be read in a previous feature here.

THE LIGHT SHOOTER

A Tokyo University of Technology project designed by Masasuke Yasumoto. The work earned an award from Microsoft Japan for its stunning light based interaction.

UNFINISHED SWAN

Shortly due for release by Giant Sparrow, this unalloyed wonder captures the imagination through its paint throwing mechanics.

BREAKS

Takayuki Yanagihara’s visceral lazer show delivers hectic ball play through a touch pad interface.

E3: Superlative opportunities?

This year’s E3 delivered predictable franchise sequels and not much in the way of originality. Is the developer reproach misplaced however, highlighting insentient consumer support for more of the same?

New IP: Watch Dogs (Ubisoft) and The last of us (Naughty Dog) helped to refresh the lacklustre event. They inadvertently emphasised however that we still traverse the same obstacle courses, littered with the same generic thugs with the same missions. There is no doubt both games will be entertaining, but there is a feeling that we have witnessed the inauguration for myriad sequels at future shows.

The games that offered us superlative opportunities were predominantly for Sony Platforms and inventive content at the IndieCade booth. The unveiling of Nintendo’s new Wii U software failed to capture imaginations with only Platinum games offering something refreshing (arguably usurping Pikmin 3’s announcement).

In an ocean of generic content, these were the games that offered us something inventive:

UNFINISHED SWAN (PS3)

Giant Sparrow’s experimental adventure of throwing paint, turning negative space into tangible assets.

SOUND SHAPES (PS3/PS Vita)

A phonic tool that amalgamates sound and 2D objects in unison, developed by Queasy games.

LANGUISH (PC)

Designed by Erik Loyer, Languish is a journey through the mind by interacting with collective ideas.

A MOTHER’S INFERNO (PC)

Students at DADIU created this vociferous First person horror that aesthetically reminiscent of Suda 51’s Killer 7.

BEYOND: TWO SOULS (PS3)

David cage and Quantic dream tease their next project after the successful Heavy Rain.

CHASING AURORA (Multi)

Developer Broken Rules origami enthused dream of flight.

PROJECT P-100 (Wii U)

Platinum games, creators of  Bayonetta and the upcoming Metal Gear Rising bring this exclusively to Wii U.