We’ve been wanting to talk about the Russian studio Ice-Pick Lodge for a while now. Their 2005 game Pathologic is truly fascinating, even if it is “broken”, as John Walker put it.
Thanks to Rock Paper Shotgun we can now enjoy the game by proxy, through a grandiose triptych of a review, divided in Body, Mind and Soul.

A good read, especially with the new game, Tension, on the way.

Ice-Pick Lodge is one of those very few studios that make games from a deep artistic motivation. They don’t mess around with clever control schemes or gathering points. They have a story to tell and they use the interactive medium to tell it. Even if that means sacrificing the overrated “fun factor”. If games are ever going to become a mature artistic medium, this is where it’s going to happen.

How I wish Pathologic wouldn’t crash on my PC…

7 thoughts on “Pathologic”

  1. What a great site. I just found this again and immediately signed up this time. I’ve heard of Pathologic, and the links to the reviews and discussions are fabulous.
    Makes me excited about games to know there are folks looking to push it beyond the Hollywood inspired drivel and co-marketing of action films.

  2. Here’s a nice quote from the article that applieas to much more than just Pathologic (bolds by me):

    A couple of years ago I had an argument with a friend, one of those differences of opinion that leaves you fuming and coming up with witty ripostes for days afterwards. I was saying that a good game doesn’t have to be fun. She was saying that was ridiculous.

    My argument, though I botched my explanation at the time, is that games have incredible untapped potential in the field of negative emotions. Just as the lowest common denominator of any art form appeals to ‘positive’ emotions, whether it’s humour, arousal or excitement, so it is that our young games industry is obsessed with the idea of ‘fun’.

    I think this is one of the core reasons that the games industry hasn’t had its Casablanca or Citizen Kane- we’re still in the era of musicals and slapstick comedy. No games developer’s going to try and make its audience feel sad, or lonely, or pathetic, at least not for long stretches. You might get games that dip their toes into that water from time to time, but by and large developers are keen to keep you smiling.

    While I wholeheartedly agree, there’s another side to this, however. And that is that it is far easier for a critic to recognize something as artistic if it is obviously sad and depressing. In a way, to be recognized as an artist making games, it’s easier to create a sad horror game than it is to create a romantic, uplifting game, which can be equally deep and meaningful. But I guess such is the nature of contemporary art anyway.

  3. What’s with you artistic game developers and depressing horror games? 😉

    Anyway, some fascinating reviews there, thanks for the links. I don’t think I’ll be playing Pathologic any time soon, but it’s good to know that it exists, in case I find myself with a lot of free time to fill.

  4. We are in Russia just testing our minds by Tension. ^_~ Quite different from Pathologic, it’s also makes brain work.) I hope it will be soon released in english – translation promises to be more good than in Pathologic.

    Speaking about “deep games”, take into account Sublustrum – Unfirtunately, nothing is clear about the international release, but description below gives us a hope.)

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