Art game: “Mountain”

“Mountain” is a software piece, an “art game”, scheduled to be published on July 1st. Journalist Carolina Miranda writes on the LA Times: “Mountain isn’t so much a game as an experience. Open up the app (which will be available for iOS, Mac and PC), and the game asks you a question that OReilly described in his presentation as “more psychologically invasive than anything Facebook wants to know about you.” There are questions about love and hate and how you feel about your mother. The gamer responds by drawing a picture that expresses this idea, which the program then transforms into a living, breathing mountain on your desktop”.

The homepage for the game is http://mountain-game.com/
Read the LA Times article at http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/arts/miranda/la-et-cam-animator-from-her-makes-real-video-game-20140612-column.html

A Game About War With No Guns (Because You’re The Housekeeper)

Tale of Tales, the studio responsible for the great The Graveyard and The Path, is working on Sunset, an exploration game that puts you in the role of a nosy housekeeper. Being the person taking care of the house is an interesting narrative twist. As the housekeeper, you look after an apartment belonging to someone involved in the war that has broken out around you.

The game is currently being funded on kickstarter. Read the full piece on http://kotaku.com/a-game-about-war-with-no-guns-because-youre-the-housek-1592315384/+patriciahernandez

Video game: A Song for Viggo’s

“A Song for Viggo’s” is an narrative art game that explores the grief, depression and guilt of a parent who accidentally kills his son. Developer Simon Karlsson writes: “Your goal is to maintain everyday life, despite the tragic circumstances. Be there for your daughter. Put food on the table. Do the dishes. Keep your marriage together. The struggles are of a psychological, rather than mechanical, nature. There is only one puzzle. It’s called life”.

Apart from the courageous approach to such a difficult and mature theme, it will be interesting to examine which strategies for narrative and game dynamics will be included in this piece.

A Song for Viggo’s is currently being crowdfunded at https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/109042642/a-song-for-viggo-a-game-made-of-paper-unfolding-de

Game: A Dark Room – when video games look at Cormac McCarthy’s The Road

“A Dark Room”, a text-only game available for free via a browser or at 0,99$ on iOS, seems simplistic and outdated (without any graphics?) but has been praised for its edgy narrative. On Slate, Will Oremus writes: “A Dark Room situates these mechanics in an ominous postapocalyptic landscape, evoked in spare language inspired by Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. And it layers onto them a role-playing, exploratory element, along with jolts of narrative that prod the story into darker terrain without ever fully illuminating it”.

The game can be played online for free at http://adarkroom.doublespeakgames.com/ or bought on https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/a-dark-room/id736683061

Also read Will’s article on Slate and Leigh Alexander’s piece on Gamasutra.

Game: 1,000 Days of Syria

1,000 Days of Syria is a video game / newsgame that tells the story of some journalists in the Syrian conflicts. Its author Mitch Swenson describes it as “part electric literature; part newscast; and part choose-your-own-adventure”.
In a recent news article on The Guardian, Simon Parkin wrote about the game: “You follow one of three narratives, that of a foreign photojournalist, a mother of two living in Daraa or a rebel youth living in Aleppo. The story is delivered in disparate chunks and, at the end of each excerpt, you make choices about what to do next: will you attempt to flee the country or stay put? How will you try to pass the time when you’re imprisoned in a dimly lit cell? Each character has three possible endings and, at times, their stories intersect.”

Play the game for free at http://1000daysofsyria.com/
Read the article online at http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/may/22/1000-days-of-syria-war-journalism-online-game

Book: Making Democracy Fun. How Game Design Can Empower Citizens and Transform Politics

“Making Democracy Fun”, by Josh Lerner, promises to apply game design techniques to make democracy more engaging. From the blurb: “Anyone who has ever been to a public hearing or community meeting would agree that participatory democracy can be boring. Hours of repetitive presentations, alternatingly alarmist or complacent, for or against, accompanied by constant heckling, often with no clear outcome or decision. Is this the best democracy can offer? In Making Democracy Fun, Josh Lerner offers a novel solution for the sad state of our deliberative democracy: the power of good game design”. Josh Lerner is Executive Director of The Participatory Budgeting Project, a nonprofit organization in New York City that empowers communities to decide how to spend public money.

It could be interesting, but it could also be a new twist on the gamification fad. I guess what Michel Foucault would think of it…

Thesis: a Storytelling Pervasive Game

Samuel Oest graduated from the Uppsala University with a thesis titled “A Playcentric Design Process of a Storytelling Pervasive Game” describing the design of a storytelling game intended as a tool for gathering stories. On a sidenote, prof. Annika Waern – a very well known figure in the study of live-action roleplaying games – was the supervisor for this work.

Download the thesis at http://urn.kb.se/resolve?urn=urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-143812

Essay: Understanding Kierkegaard playing Dark Souls 2

“At no point can I find the necessary resting place from which to understand [my life] backwards” Søren Kierkegaard

Jordan Smith wrote a long, well-argumentated blog post making the case for a Kierkegaardian reading of Dark Souls 2. He writes “In From Software’s Souls series, ramifications of decisions are instantaneous, and death is ubiquitous, but is no longer intransigent. The countless deaths of ghostly strangers—reenacted in fragments through the ether—cryptically guide your path, and your own deaths serve as both punishing reminders to tread lightly and the genesis of an overarching question: why do I press on?”.

Read the full article at http://killscreendaily.com/articles/beginners-guide-kierkegaard-dark-souls-2/ (it’s a relatively long read, but it’s well worth it!)

Thesis: Narrative Construction in a Board Game

Let’s Play a Story Together: Narrative Construction in a Board Game is an interesting thesis by Samu Lattu from the University of Helsinki.

He writes: “This study delves into the relationship between stories and games with a cognitive perspective. The subject of narrative in games in the past decade has overheated running in place. With this in mind a game medium previously untapped – board games – was chosen as the means of study and an approach to narrative untested in the context of games previously was chosen as the lenses of inquiry. The study considers what in board games gets players to interpret the flow of the game as narrative; how players pick and choose parts of the game experience and use them to construct a chain of events; how players picture a world and its inhabitants; how players experience the character they play; what is their relationship with the game world; what games tell us about the narrativity of games and whether a narrative tool or way of meaning is particular to games”.

Read the full thesis at http://urn.fi/URN:NBN:fi-fe2014053026064