Leading on from my previous blog about the emotional design of Wrong Tree, Ned Kelly, a short experience by Ian Maclarty, highlights another kind of experience – the ‘art-game’.
“Art”, is – as far as I’m concerned – anything that says more about itself (or its subject than the sum of its parts. A portrait is fairly innocuous, but its style use of composition, colours, textures, lines and shapes will say something about the subject – more than just “a person is painted on a canvas”. Games are no exception, and an entire category of games exists to send messages and make statements about their subjects.
Ned Kelly is a short experience by Ian Maclarty. The player enters a tall grassy landscape, adorned by a shack in the middle. Seeing through the visor of the Australian icon, the player can walk through the Australian outback environment. Ned Kelly utilises two recognisable icons of the man himself – his visor, and the Australian outback. With a 1st person perspective, the player takes on the role of Kelly, and can explore the environment. With nothing else to do, the player is encouraged to contemplate the meaning of the experience – why are they here? And that’s the beauty – the experience represents Kelly through a very narrow vertical slice of his existence. The visor and landscape already represent Kelly himself, so player interactivity only serves to embed them in the scene.
Ned Kelly is a great lesson in these sorts of games – if you want to represent an idea, concept or experience, it’s best to do it in a very short amount of time with which the experience itself is most prevalent.
Another example of a game in this category is Ian Mclarty’s The Storm – a non playable piece for his cinematheque-jam in 2016. It’s less a game, and more of an experience. Inspired by Viscont’s La Terra Trema (1952), The Storm presents players with a view of a thundering stormy ocean, lightning cracking overhead, and waves that flood the camera. As a non-playable experience, we are helplessly observing the storming ocean, all we can do is turn the camera. The dark and foreboding visuals and sound evoke strong primal emotions, being alone and tiny amongst the giant waves with nowhere to go. Like before, the beauty of the experience is its simplicity. With nothing to do but watch, viewers are forced to interpret the experience themselves. There is nothing to distract from the experience.
Lastly, the third game I looked at is IMPRESSIONISTa – Windmills; a literal ‘art-game’ by Gigoia Studios. Starting the game, the player find them self in an art gallery observing a painting of Paul Joseph’s “In the month of July” (1889).
When they approach the work, the player can enter it, transferring them into the realm of the painting:
The player is free to roam the world, observing animals, sceneries and other paintings throughout the world.
IMPRESSIONISTa – Windmills is an analogue for the way we experience art, sucked into its world and impression of its subject. The artist invites us into their understanding of the world through soft lighting and dream-like colours which evoke bright and passionate feelings for the outdoors. The big blotchy strokes of oil paint add a playful persona to the canvas. As a game, controlling a character in first person firmly plants us in its world, and exploring and observing the scene is analogous to observing it in real life.
Working on my own art-derived game based on Anish Kapoor’s 2007 ‘Untitled’ work, I want to represent the feeling of being in the same room as the work, how it envelops my attention and contemplation and the way it stirs primal emotions simply by proximity. I can derive his use of positive and negative space with holes that recede into spaces that don’t seem possible. I can mimic the sheer size of these objects for replicating the level of forced contemplation I felt as a viewer. I can use deep reds and black to stir primal feelings of danger and desire. I can contrast its look with the surrounding objects for it to stand out to the viewer. I can utilise audio to add another layer to the work’s potency. Overall, I want this experience to be analogous to the feeling of observing this object at GOMA, like IMPRESSIONISTa – Windmills achieves. Like Ned Kelly and The Storm, the succinctness of the project is paramount for communicating its meaning, and for me, a short and simple project is most effective (and better for time constraints).