Vanitas trailer

Our first iPhone app Vanitas will be launched on February 4 at the opening of the Art History of Games symposium for which it was commissioned. Vanitas will be exhibited in a special installation (including live ladybugs!), next to games commissioned from Jason Rohrer and Nathalie Pozzi & Eric Zimmerman, at the Kai Lin Art gallery in Atlanta, Georgia, USA, from Thursday, February 4 until Tuesday, March 2. The opening reception will take place Friday, February 5 from 8:00 pm until 10:00 pm. More information here.

There’s still some tickets for the symposium and exhibition.Register here!

And don’t forget to check the App Store as of 4 February!

Fatale reviewed in Spanish

Jaime San Simón describes how he experienced FATALE on the Spanish Eurogamer website.

Tale of Tales ha logrado recrear la figura de la Salomé de Wilde a un nivel de complejidad asombroso, creando a partir de ella una obra con sentido y valor propio. Un trabajo minucioso que da pie a una obra que no será bien recibida por todos los públicos, pero ya se sabe que los grandes artistas siempre vienen acompañados de polémica.

And no, there’s no score. 😉

Frictional: “How gameplay and narrative kill meaning”

We’re not alone! :)

Frictional Games is one of the most ambitious and at the same time under-appreciated independent developers. They are one of very few forward looking companies in the independent scene and don’t nearly get enough credit for it (this year’s IGF proved no exception with its jury ignorantly rejecting Frictional’s new project “Amnesia“).

Anyway, Frictional’s Thomas Grip has written a very clear analysis of how the “focus on narrative and gameplay is holding back interactive media’s potential”. The little essay echoes our own thoughts on the subject but Mr Grip suggests a certain terminology that is very helpful (if not entirely intuitive), opposing meaning to narrative and interaction to gameplay. With us, he is “quite convinced (…) that there is a vast new world to explore if the interaction is in focus, instead of gameplay and narrative”.

While gameplay at the core of game making, it comes with a lot of baggage and makes certain meanings harder to realize in the medium. The most striking issue is the entire failure mechanism that is used in just about any game. You try a certain task, you fail and then have to repeat it. As described in other posts, this can be especially damaging in horror games, where repeating scenes seriously lessens the experience. This mechanism also imposes limits on the player’s rate of progress and effectively tells the player: “Either you complete this or you will not proceed!”. Other baggage include the notion that gameplay must be fun and the need to constantly pose challenges. What I mean with the last point is that players assume that a game will always keep them occupied with some kind of obstacle to overcome. This leads to very little interactive content that is added for its intrinsic sake alone. Instead a game’s interactive content almost always have some connection to the goals of the gameplay.

Read the entire post here.

The Art History of Games

Ian Bogost has commissioned us to make a game to be revealed at the Art History of Games symposium in Atlanta. That game will be Vanitas, reported on earlier. Next to us, two other games have been commissioned. One by Jason Rohrer and one by Eric Zimmerman and Nathalie Pozzi. We applaud the initiative to commission artsists to create new pieces. Wish it would happen more often.

And if that wasn’t enough, the 3 day symposium will have presentations by all sorts of interesting speakers: Ian Bogost himself of course, but also Jay David Bolter, Brenda Brathwaite, Jesper Juul, Christoph Kluetsch, Frank Lantz, Henry Lowood, Michael Nitsche, Christiane Paul, Celia Pearce, John Romero, John Sharp and of course the commissioned artists (expect some provocative statements!).

Hope to see you there!

Register now for The Art History of Games, a symposium and exhibition jointly organized by SCAD-Atlanta and the Georgia Institute of Technology

February 4-6, 2010
Rich Auditorium at the High Museum of Art
1280 Peachtree St N.E., Atlanta GA 30308

Register at:

The Art History of Games is a three-day public symposium in which members of the fields of game studies, art history and related areas of cultural studies gather to investigate games as an art form.

Speakers include:

* John Romero, designer of Doom and co-founder of Gazillion Entertainment
* Christiane Paul, New School professor and Whitney Museum adjunct curator
* Jesper Juul, author of A Casual Revolution
* Brenda Brathwaite, creator of Vanguard Award-winning Train
* Frank Lantz, designer of Drop7 and Parking Wars
* And more…

Attendees are also invited to attend the premiere of three commissioned art games by Jason Rohrer, Tale of Tales, and Nathalie Pozzi and Eric Zimmerman, at Kai Lin Art (800 Peachtree St. N.E.).

Early registration ends Thusday, January 14: $15 for SCAD and Georgia Tech students, $25 for academics and students from other institutions, and $40 for the general public.

Register at:

For more information, please visit or contact

Our first app… coming soon!


Today we’ve submitted our first app for iPhone/iPod touch to the Apple app store for approval! Excitement!!

It is called Vanitas.

Vanitas has been commissioned for The Art History of Games, a public symposium which is taking place February 4th-6th, in Atlanta, Georgia, USA, at the High Museum of Art. Where we will be attending and speaking among good company. We are one of 3 developers selected to make something on occasion of the event. The other two being Jason Rohrer and Eric Zimmerman. All 3 projects will be at a special exhibition at the Kai Lin Gallery during the conference and for a month afterwards. We’re planning something special for the gallery … 😉

Vanitas is not a game. Hopefully the approval process won’t get complicated. It should be available in time for the exhibition opening, then you can find what its all about!

My New Year’s Resolutions

1. More Independence
2. Less games

The start of a new decade feels like an appropriate time to get ambitious. Out with the old, in with the new! Not that there’s going to be any extreme changes around here. My resolutions mostly concern a change in attitude, in philosophy. But, with any luck, they will take us further. And in the right direction.

While these resolutions have been bubbling up for a while, two things were direct triggers: Auriea’s realisation that her favourite games of the decade are all over 5 years old and our recent visit to the Belgian incarnation of the historical Game On exhibition where it became very clear how much more fun the old arcade games are than the new pseudo-narrative shiny next gen titles upon which I had based a lot of my hopes.


We don’t want to make obscure art. This is a big part of the reason why we choose to work with digital media. We don’t even want to make art per se. We just want to share beautiful moments and elegant thoughts with people who are open to them. And perhaps, in our most audacious daydreams, we’d hope to make a small contribution to a more harmonious world.

Accessibility is one of the reasons why we don’t shy away from commerce. Commerce is an efficient way to distribute things in a capitalist system. And thanks to the abundance of the digital, we can sell our work very cheaply. But commerce also has a way of confusing an artist, of holding you back. Commerce forces you to think about seduction -even when it’s not appropriate- and to favour projects with commercial potential over others that might be more relevant artistically. We like our work to be accessible. But we want that to be an artistic choice and not an economic requirement.

We’re not very good at commerce anyway. We don’t have clever business minds. And our work is just a bit too far away from the ordinary to appeal to people who do. But above all, thinking about commerce -however exciting it may sometimes be- always ends in bogging us down, to slowing us down, to depressing us.

I want us to become less dependent. Less dependent on money, less dependent on success, less dependent on quantity. And focus exclusively on quality. This includes improving the accessibility of our work! While commercial pressure may motivate one to lower the threshold of their productions, it only does so towards a specific target audience, effectively locking everyone else out. It would be possible to optimize our work to be very accessible for hardcore gamers. But at the expensive of other people we might also want to communicate with. We want our work to be more widely accessible. We don’t want to depend on any specific niche.

None of this leads to any radical decisions. This is just a resolution that can guide us when making future decisions. As of now, I want to focus on self-sufficiency. And favour non-profit or break-even operations over commercial ones. Or even figure out ways to make losing money bearable. It’s ok if that means working on smaller projects. As long as they are “big on the inside”.

Games over

This year, I’m going to care less about games. And as a result, I will probably enjoy them more.

I give up.
I give up on my hopes for videogames to become a valid cultural medium.
I’ve been fighting very hard. I’ve been putting my money where my mouth is. For several years already. Almost a decade.

But the games industry is merrily traveling in the opposite direction. Videogames are not changing anymore. They seem to have lost that capacity. Sure, the technology still evolves, so everything gets more shiny. But this is not leading to any sort of evolution, let alone the required revolution. The desire is simply not there.

Because videogames are happy just as they are. The videogame culture is extremely pleased with itself. A few years ago, people were still complaining about “sequelitis”. No everybody merrily plays Hip Shootgame #13 and Cool Jumpgame #26, with no objections. On the contrary! Everybody gets very solemn and deep when yet another war simulator hits the shelves. Only to forget it within the first week of release.

Gamers, publishers, journalists are all very happy! Who am I to spoil their fun? If they feel comfortable in a juvenile ghetto that is irrelevant to culture, good for them. I’m out of here.

Maybe this is another incarnation of my desire for independence: I want to be independent from the games industry. And from the games format.

Games are fun. Let them be fun. And let’s do something else, when we want to be serious. Let’s focus on interactive entertainment that is not games (let’s call them “notgames” for now :) ). With a technology that is so versatile and powerful, why should we limit our productions and enjoyment to the single format of games, a format that has been around for centuries and doesn’t even need computers to exist?

I realize that it has always been our mission at Tale of Tales to explore the potential of the interactive medium. But so far, this has happened in some form of conflict with videogames, based on our misguided belief that videogames had potential to grow, to grow into a medium (which, believe it our not, still seemed possible only 5 years ago). Simply letting go of the connection, will make our job a lot easier as it will help us explore with far less constraints. Leaving behind the idea that we’re making a game, opens up a world of creative possibilities!


But more than that, I want to stimulate research and development of notgames. Instead of continuously having senseless arguments with game fans, developers and theorists, I want to gather together the brightest ideas concerning non-game interactive entertainment. Without the noise and the distractions. Maybe we’ll start a blog about the subject, with news, essays, opinion pieces, debates. A place where ideas can be explored and shared and discussed. I would also like to commission designers and artists to make new non-game interactive projects. Maybe there can be a competition like those ubiquitous game making competitions, but about making interactive entertainment that is not games -far more exciting and certainly a much larger area to explore. And finally, I’m looking into the possibility of starting a sort of label -like a record label- to publish and distribute notgames.

If you would like to contribute to any of this, please post a comment or send email.

Happy New Year! :)

A new generation in The Endless Forest

When we hit the 50,000 registered players mark, we didn’t realize how close we were to running out of names for our deer. If that’s not a nice testament to how two people who know next to nothing about mathematics can still make complicated computer software, I don’t know what is. 😉

New Deer Names

Behold the new generation of deer names in version 3.31 of The Endless Forest.
Good for another 50,000 players!

When we designed The Endless Forest, we wanted to avoid language as much as possible. First of all because language puts a barrier between people, and we wanted The Endless Forest to be harmonious. Secondly, we wanted to avoid violence and competitive behaviour as much as possible. Language is often used in multiplayer games for insults and other out of character behaviour. So we decided to have no chat in our game. And we came up with the idea of using abstract symbols instead of text-based names to identify players. These symbols are easy enough to memorize to recognize your friends and still disconnected from the humans behind the avatar sufficiently, to encourage spontaneous playing together with total strangers.

The Vision of Saint Hubert The symbols are made up of a limited range of elements that are combined to form pictograms. Players can choose a pictogram for their deer when they register for the game. when they login, this pictogram appears above the head of the deer avatar (in a reference to the legend of Saint Hubert, who was converted to Christianity after encountering a deer with a crucifix between its antlers).

Since the amount of elements from which pictograms are composed, is limited, however, there are only a limited amount of unique pictograms. And we ran into that limit last month. So we closed registration for a while and created a new pictogram “alphabet”.

This solution was part of the original design of the game. To create generations of pictograms, which would contribute to the story of The Endless Forest. First generation deer will be older (wiser, more experienced, etc) than second generation deer. And so on.

You can name your deer here.
Please note that you’ll need the very latest version of The Endless Forest to see the new pictograms (version 3.31). You can download it here.

The Endless Forest is free thanks to the continuous support of the Musée d’Art Moderne Grand-Duc Jean in Luxembourg. Registration is not required to play the game (it just makes it more fun).

IGF official selection

The shortlist for the Independent Games Festival has been revealed. The good news is that our entry FATALE was not selected and so we don’t have to go through Homeland Security Fun Park San Francisco in Spring. The bad news is that the selection is rather… boring? Only a few noteworthy games were selected. I guess this confirms Derek Yu’s observation that 2009 was a slow year for indie games. Good thing my New Year’s Resolution includes a goodbye to games (*). Otherwise, I think I’d be sort of… upset?

(*) blog post to follow soon