I was sitting in an Applebee’s with my roommate the other day. Just waiting for our food. Talking about the potential of movies and the underutilized technology that could really bring film to the next level. I’m not quite sure how we got there, but we did. Riveting story, I know.
During that conversation I couldn’t help but think about something I think about a whole lot: video games (or rather the capability of video games). Lately I’ve been studying quite a few games to see how they convey narrative through pacing, visuals, sound design, and dialogue, which are all very standard in media like literature and film. Think “Heavy Rain” for cinematics and “Portal 2” for dialogue (though I more so give credit to the voice acting than the writing in that game).
But there are so many other things that video games have to offer than what other media do: mainly the capability of choice and the tailoring of an experience to the player. I know this is supposed to be about visual art but I’m getting there, this is just a thing I think about a lot.
Have you guys ever heard of a game called “Antichamber”?
It’s a first-person perspective puzzle game where your main objective isn’t as important as the experiences you have. It plays around with your expectations of how a game should be designed and makes you relearn everything you’ve known. Need to run fast? Here’s a slow walk button, it’ll prove far more useful. Need to go back to that other room? I dare you to try, it’s not behind you anymore. Need to progress? Sorry, here’s a dead-end room that lets you in but not out, we needed to teach you this life lesson.
The visuals of the game compliment this sort of convention breaking. The minimal use of colors and textures create this sense that something is being made and that there’s so much to explore (kind of like a blank piece of paper). Rooms like these:
make you want to explore. That last one reminds me of some sort of M.C. Escher painting.
You're presented with this blank canvas and although you can't color it, you want to see every inch of it. The whole game is trip and a half because it looks so simple but then you'll find yourself walking in circles while walking in a straight line (a feat that can never be accomplished in the euclidian space the game is presented in).
"Antichamber" also has so many lessons to teach brought to you via cute images and short text.
You'll find these little gems all over the game and they keep the whole experience light hearted. At times when you feel lost, maybe you'll have a little sheep tell you that maybe doing the wrong thing is the right way to go.
I feel what ties this game together is the fourth-dimensional museum you walk into sometimes. it's filled with mathematical concepts, optical illusions, and homages to some old video games. Here's a video of someone going through it:
"Antichamber" is an adventure that needs to be experienced. It may not look the greatest but the design is very deliberate (if I wanted to talk about a pretty game I would have talked about "Ori and the Blind Forest" or "Bastion"). There are a lot of great things about this game but I'll leave you guys with this:
This is your life ticking by.