Vision: Mirror Moon EP


Santa Ragione is affixed with a statement; ‘Micro game design studio’. It is almost certainly referring to the size of the two-man studio that Pietro Righi Riva and Nicolò Tedeschi helm. To avoid confusion however perhaps it should be rewritten as “Macro game design studio” as a clear distinction that their ambitions are more expansive than their tagline indicates.

As curators of the exceptional Lunacade; an international exhibition that has visited Shanghai, Sydney (with Bryan Ma) and Milan, they have promoted work from efficacious developers such as Tale of Tales, Die Gute Fabrik, The Chinese Room and Terry Cavanagh. Most recently showing their support for the impending LA Game Space by creating 90’s movie search em-up; VideoHeroeS.

It is important to note the role the duo play in supporting their peers as they deserve to be celebrated as much as the studios they endorse. People who are sampling their latest work seem to agree, a saturnalia is taking place online inside a subastral explorer named Mirror Moon EP.


A tightly designed options screen introduces an obtuse cockpit; the insides of a spacecraft where switches and levers are poised without label or explanation. After fumbling around for a while, the curious are rewarded with accidental progression; and inadvertently launched onto the face of a red planet.

The studios design philosophy seems to incorporate a penchant for restricting freedom, but as a means to focus not hinder: Fotonica’s forward sprint fixated on jumping through duotone abstractions. Pipnis; a shooter with dual spacecraft joined at the hip concentrated on teamwork. Mirror Moon presents a familiar FPS layout only with the aim locked in trajectory at deep space. The obligatory weapon is replaced by a bizarre instrument. There is no official term for the tool but “key holder” and “power arm” was used in development, preferred over the inevitable ‘gun’ reference. Personally I was expecting something more fantastical like; ‘celestial speculum navigation imager’ but key holder is probably more catchy.

Exploring the landscape provokes a sense of loneliness, manifesting as you try to grasp an understanding of your locale and your role. The impatient or incurious might want to abort the search, but the colour palette evokes hypnosis; coercing you to roll the giant sphere beneath your feet. As your gaze is firmly anchored to the ether the planet’s surface is barely in view, but on reaching them; figurations pulsate and ghostly architecture looms vitreous on the horizon, opaque or transparent depending on your knowledge of it. The eclectic structures in Mirror Moon are not only mesmerizing but house something important; attachments for your key holder.


A revelation comes through discovering that distant moons genuflect to your commands, your key holder fires signals which reflect back onto the ground you walk. This creates a generative map that lights the way to points of interest. Moons can be plucked out of the infinity, spun and repositioned, essential for the completion of the planets puzzles.

Little by little you uncover the intricacies of space. You familiarise yourself with the nuances of the cockpit; a star chart teases an expansive galaxy, urging you to search wandering stars and decipher enigmas. Single player simultaneously induces feelings of uncertainty and (initially) a craving for guidance. The longing for companionship becomes palpable as you witness striking vistas that you want to share, players only come into unison however through the multiplayer component of Mirror Moon.

Exploration is still singular, but the knowledge that others are simultaneously probing feels comforting. Forums are awash with oracles, speculative coordinates and imagery of space tourism, all the impetus needed to be first to land on a undiscovered planet, and whoever does; gets to name it, it transforms the experience into quests of camaraderie and produces a collective effort. Newcomers fearing a galaxy already discovered are given updated ‘seasons’ which make room for new pathfinders, the previous seasons planets forever engraved by the names their venturers chose.

In previous work the studio paid homage to the anatomy of the book in The Dustjacket. Users were tasked with finding the minutiae of print; publisher logos, typefaces and cover art. Even though this takes place on a couple of shelves in a room, there are parallels with Mirror Moons expanse; discovery, attention to detail and accomplishment. Santa Ragione wants us to look at things that might go unnoticed, whether that is a book, a constellation or a developer (Cardboard Computers; kentucky Route Zero has its own planet). Maybe the ‘Micro’ statement is accurate after all, a hint that Santa Ragione pour over details as devoted micrologists?


LA Game Space: Inaugural experiments

Daniel Rehn and Adam Robezzoli are poised to change the future of videogames.

The doors are not yet open to their cultural hub for art, design and research but LA Game space is already a seminal venture for neoteric thinking. Their Kickstarter campaign was the epitome of benevolence; securing backers with the creation of 30 never before seen games by coveted developers. Incredulously, a $15 pledge would capture original work by the designers of Hotline Miami (Cactus), Mirror Moon EP (Santa Ragione), Katamari Damacy (Keita Takahashi), The Unfinished Swan (Ben Esposito) and Canabalt (Adam Saltsman) amongst other established creatives. Higher pledging tiers included work by Adventure Time’s creator; Pendleton Ward, Capy’s; Vic Nguyen and pixel artist Eboy.

Sony and Microsoft have both recently embraced indie developers in a bid to capitalise on more protean experiences. Such mainstream exposure is extremely positive but their success will largely be determined by an open-minded consumer, who dares to support ideas outside of the typical AAA space.

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LA/GS is certainly equipped to bridge the familiar and the empirical. The inaugural release of backer dividends has just been delivered and the results are astonishing. The types of experiments offered here are inventive and divergent, imbued with a creative freedom not found in most games. If this is a reflection of what we can expect from the space then we are witnessing an important revelation in the advancement of the videogame.

This venture was always conceived to sustain a global conversation (events will be streamed and archived for free online), The conversation is not only integral to pursue innovation but also to demand a metanoia towards experimentalism. There is always an expectancy that ‘next gen’ games will resemble skyscrapers, that tower over the previous, but that is habitually reserved for graphics, not necessarily theme or content. Polished facades can usurp the promise of a new console turning an investment in the future into a tool for re-visiting (and re-purchasing) the past.

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LA/GS will stand with a firm commitment to modernism and the credentials of its benefactors galvanize this; Adam Robezzoli lionized games both as an events organizer and as a designer. The presiding founder of Attract mode has also collaborated with illustrator Angie Wang on Wake up! which will appear in a later game pack.

Daniel Rehn is an authority in digital archaeology and preservation, the restless MacArthur award winner also fluctuates between editor of WWWTXT, ANI GIF, Z/Z/Z/, and Playpower. Rehn further extends himself by sharing an art space with Sarah Caluag; X me + Sarah, collaborating with live visuals and real world installations. Sarah’s contribution to LA/GS is understated; working behind the scenes as an advisor but possibly as a third (shadow) partner in the venture? Triforce or not, together they are an influence in exploratory thinking, showcasing demiurgic minds and contemporary visions.

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The advisory board for LA/GS solidifies a discerning reputation. A provident ensemble of mentors; from the amiable Venus Patrol and IGF luminary Brandon Boyer, to the accomplished jinsoo An; curator, researcher and ‘experience’ architect for myriad blue chip companies. They lead a meticulously thought out counsel that will bring lucidity to the creative output.

In an ideal world, the critical and commercial success of a game would not be determined by how accurately it repeats what has been made before, but in its ability to amaze through the courage of originality. The work created here is a bold example of thinking rather than reveling in plagiarism. Hopefully these types of ideas will inspire or amalgamate with the big budget monoliths, so future investments can be based on imagination rather than the tried and tested.

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For now though there is a clear distinction; the next construct of AAA architecture will have us gazing up, amazed by their splendour. I am confident however that LA Game Space will prompt us to look in all directions, and that is more exciting and much more important to advance the medium.

The experimental game pack can be purchased here for a limited time.

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Crown of Creation

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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.



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