Monday, January 5, 2015

Video games as contemporary art - Endless Forest

     A while ago I discovered Tale of Tales a small company or studio run by Auriea Harvey and Michaël Samyn out of Belgium.  Together they create unique ways to think about experiences that we would classify as video games.  The first one I discovered, quite by accident, and explored with my friend ColeMarie Soleil was called Endless Forest.   In a previous post I talked about how I have been trying out video games that get ratings of around 90% or so to see why they are so popular, Endless Forest didn't get rated by anyone and is the bane of teenage boys from what I can see online.  Despite this I quite like the idea of it.  Some video games I have come to see as contemporary works of art whose focus is on interaction, immersion and usually narrative.  Many of the best ones I have come across have been open ended too.. meaning that you can pretty much go wherever you wish without following a linear path as we are accustomed to do in cinema and other forms of art.  In the good experiences we are active participants rather than passive observers, and that, as you already know if you follow my blog, is the type of art experiences I attempt to create in the virtual world of Second Life.
     The vast majority of video games I come across involve some type of violence and most try to include at least one exploding head.  The developers tend to follow a well trodden successful path for the majority of players, so when I see a new way of thinking it always intrigues me.  It is a brave thing to take a chance on something which completely goes against the current trends of success.  That is what Tale of Tales tends to do with most of their work.  In endless forest there is no goal.  You arrive to a forest as a baby deer or foal.  Above your head is a unique glowing symbol which is you, and what others recognize you by.  You will come across other deer and will realize quite quickly that there is no way to communicate with them.  There is no typing out text to one another but instead you have a variety of ways to communicate with
body language.  Shake your head, rear up onto your back legs and so on.  It is a community embracing the absence of normal communication, and then what happens in that environment.  It was interesting to me how simplified the language became and how simplistic the pleasures became.  From wandering around to comfortably laying close to another deer.  I remember over time a little doe began to follow me around and get genuinely excited when we would bump into each other in the forest.  It was both bizarre and adorable at once.
   Now I am not suggesting this is a game you would play for months on end, but rather an experience to have, to think about, then move on from.  Many would no doubt find it stupid, boring and odd yet I do quite enjoy odd so that is why I am including it.  It is a uniquely strange and beautiful experience at a vastly slower pace than a large game developer would dare attempt and I respect them for thinking of then creating it.  It is original as well as a different way to use the medium, so if you would also like to try it then you can download it here.  The Endless Forest
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