Salome in the Bible

But when Herod’s birthday was kept, the daughter of Herodias danced before them, and pleased Herod. Whereupon he promised with an oath to give her whatsoever she would ask. And she, being before instructed of her mother, said, Give me here John Baptist’s head in a charger. And the king was sorry: nevertheless for the oath’s sake, and them which sat with him at meat, he commanded it to be given her. And he sent, and beheaded John in the prison. And his head was brought in a charger, and given to the damsel: and she brought it to her mother.

Matthew 14:6-11

And when the daughter of the said Herodias came in, and danced, and pleased Herod and them that sat with him, the king said unto the damsel, Ask of me whatsoever thou wilt, and I will give it thee. And he sware unto her, Whatsoever thou shalt ask of me, I will give it thee, unto the half of my kingdom. And she went forth, and said unto her mother, What shall I ask? And she said, The head of John the Baptist. And she came in straightway with haste unto the king, and asked, saying, I will that thou give me by and by in a charger the head of John the Baptist. And the king was exceeding sorry; yet for his oath’s sake, and for their sakes which sat with him, he would not reject her. And immediately the king sent an executioner, and commanded his head to be brought: and he went and beheaded him in the prison, And brought his head in a charger, and gave it to the damsel: and the damsel gave it to her mother.

Mark 6:22-28

This is all the text referring to Salomé in the Bible. Note that her name is not even mentioned. She was named almost 100 years later by a Jewish/Roman historian.

Del Toro sees a better future for games

Unfortunately, I’ve found in my videogame experience that the big companies are just as conservative as the [Hollywood] studios. I was disappointed with the first Hellboy game. I’m very impressed with the sandbox of Grand Theft Auto. You can get lost in that world. But we’re using it just to shoot people and run over old ladies. We could be doing so much more.

Guillermo del Toro in an interview with Wired

The rest of the article refers to games in the typical broad strokes of an executive -as opposed to somebody who has actually created software- but I was happy to read that some film directors share the dream of the potential of this medium (and don’t fall into the trap that Spielberg and Cameron are falling into: embracing videogames as if the current fare is all there is to them).

We all know what del Toro is talking about. I’ll be interested to see if somebody with such economic (and cultural) power will be able to pull it off. It’s doubtful, since he seems to be thinking BIG, but at least he is trying. Which is more than can be said about most people within the games industry.

And I wish more film directors would stand up and speak out against the game adaptations of their work. So many great opportunities have been lost in the process of making cheap commercial games out of movies. It really shows the embarrassing contrast between an industry manufacturing product and a creative industry which at least pretends to respect creative vision and artistic expression. We shouldn’t let Hollywood out-art us!

Thank you, Alice, for pointing this out. Though I wouldn’t have called del Toro “extremely arty”…

New developers save videogames from boredom

Indie games in mainstream press

Christian Schiffer expresses his hopes for the future of videogames in German mainstream newspaper Die Welt, focussing on yours truly and ignoring that we may not be all that representative of the indie scene. His optimism sure is contagious and confirms my belief that Europe is currently the best place in the world for innovation and exploration of the medium (partially because we’re running behind in market terms).

The article is also available online (in German, of course).

How to play The Path

perjensendanishanimeconvention-rubyPlaying The Path is a very moving and enjoyable experience to many. But others just get bored and cannot detect any point or find any joy in it. We tend to dismiss this issue by accepting that The Path is not for everyone. But maybe that’s too simple.

Enjoying The Path is not difficult. You don’t need to have special skills for it, or have read any heavy literature or seen any particular artworks. From observing play behaviour and listening to reports of experiences, we have learned that the difference between enjoying The Path and not is often simply a difference in attitude.

For some people this attitude comes naturally. But others may need to do an extra effort, or perhaps simply learn about it. It is for them that I’m writing this post. Because I have a feeling that many might be looking for an answer in the distance while it’s actually right in front of them.

“Once I figured out that the demo is solely attempting to establish an atmosphere, I enjoyed it quite a bit.”
– from a comment referring to “The Path – Prologue” from WK on TigSource

Tip #1: It’s about the girls
We realize that in many videogames, your avatar is mostly a vehicle that allows you to navigate through a virtual world. In The Path, however, the behaviour and personality of the girls is crucial. If you witness them carefully and try to imagine what they are thinking -and perhaps respond to that by caring for them- the game will become a lot more meaningful.

“Each girl’s journey through the forest is not so much a series of plot points but a non-sequential, undirected character study of the girl herself, leading up to a confrontation between that psyche and the adult world.”
– from a review by Rebecca Wigandt on Gamer’s Intuition

Tip #2: It’s about playing together
The avatars in The Path have a certain degree of autonomy. And sometimes they do things that you did not expect or do not want. This is on purpose. The idea is that you try to develop a relationship with the avatar and play the game together. You do your part, she does hers.

“Do not even try to fight against the pace, just surrender.”
– from a blog post by Tetelo on Femina Ludens

Tip #3: Everything is meaningful
While some things might appear absurd or the result of bad design at first sight, in most cases they are the fruit of careful consideration. The Path becomes much more enjoyable if you take everything that you see seriously and interpret it as part of the story. This is a very playful activity (feel free to even include technical errors in this “game”: it’s fun!).

“The effort put into The Path is equal to the enjoyment received. Look at the game like a difficult piece of literature that needs to be sampled over and over again.”
– from a review by Aaron Thayer on The Silicon Sasquatch

Tip #4: Play pretend
The Path is a fiction. It is not real. The girls are composed of polygons and pixels and algorithms, the leaves of the trees are abstract ornaments, day turns into night depending on place, etc. But you need to forget about all that and pretend that everything is real. The Path asks you to suspend your disbelief but it doesn’t force you to. If you can willingly do this, you will enjoy the game much more.

“The joy of it comes not from the way in which the journey ends but rather in the full immersion that one experiences on the way.”
– from a blog post by Joshua on Mouseandcat

Tip #5: Play, don’t game
Elements in The Path that appear to be traditional (rules, goals, collecting, grading, inventory, etc) form part of the narrative that we invite you to ponder. They are not the point of the game. Traditional gaming behaviour (like trying to completely explore the forest or collect all the flowers or beat the game in a minimum amount of time) is not rewarded. For joy, ignore those urges and approach things with wonder instead. Delight in what you receive and don’t go “hunting”.

“I found the game more enjoyable when approaching it more as an interactive narrative than a traditional “game”.”
– from a review by Dan Liebman on Game Zone

Tip #6: It’s pretty
If all else fails, just enjoy the sights and sounds that The Path brings. If music can be simply beautiful and a painting can be enjoyed purely for its aesthetics, why not a game? Just look, listen and enjoy. Don’t even try to find meaning. Indulge yourself. The gameplay will not get in your way in this game.

The whole environment is beautiful, and I love how the look and feel changes depending on whether you’re on the path, in the woods, or near a wolf. The game IS artwork.
– from a review by Allison Boyer on Binge Gamer

I may have missed some possible tips. Maybe I’ll create a second post like this in the future, with more tips. If you have enjoyed The Path, please comment about how you did it, what attitude you assumed versus the game, what expectations you brought, etc.

Awesome Ruby cosplay photo, sent to us by Per Janssen, as seen at an anime convention.

The Endless Forest at Laguna Art Museum

Just giving Blizzard some tips on how to create MMOs…

Opening tonight, The Endless Forest is a part of an exhibition at the Laguna Art Museum, in the Los Angeles area in California. The show is dedicated to World of Warcraft and sponsored by Blizzard. But curator Grace Kook-Anderson decided to contrast the Awesome Art of the dungeon masters with the far more modest creations of regular media artists such as Alexander Galloway, John Klima, Eddo Stern, yours truly and many others. Sounds like an epic battle!

We’ve been told that the Forest is looking wonderful in projection, it will be playable in the museum on two computers. If you can’t make it there then play online and see if you can find the two deer controlled by visitors in the museum.

wowdeer-laguna2 wowdeer-laguna

They’ll probably be asleep. 😉 So cast some Forest Magic on them! :)

The postmodernism of The Path

I think The Path is so freakin’ postmodern that its whole purpose is to challenge classification. And, therefore, whether or not it’s a game is irrelevant. Let me explain…

Not many critics have talked much about the actual design of The Path (apart from the relatively general mantra “as a game, it sucks”). Despite our sincerity as storytellers, we do find this “meta-layer” important -and amusing. Check out Touché Bitches for some interesting observations.

We’re not the world’s greatest authorities on deconstructivism and intertextuality but we have always considered the interactive medium to be the single artistic medium that is truly able to embrace the conclusions of postmodernism and allow us to use them to create better experiences for the viewer/reader/player -instead of falling into the trap of “cleverness”, irony, cynicism en relativism we’ve seen in a lot of fine art. The multiple layers of experience and the multitude of realities that can be created simultaneously in a virtual world offer opportunities for telling stories in ways that they have never been told before and, more importantly, about things that we were never able to talk about before.

I’m not claiming that The Path does all of that with equal success. But we do believe that this is one of the more interesting areas of the medium to explore.

Interview in Dutch

Michel Musters interviewed us for about The Path, its production process and the games industry in general. Good thing none of you can read Dutch. 😉

De retoriek is goed: iedereen zoekt naar manieren om games vernieuwend en toegankelijk voor een groot publiek te maken. Maar de realiteit is dat er weinig games gemaakt worden die buiten de nauwe genres vallen. We willen dat verschil tussen de retoriek en de realiteit verkleinen. En we willen ontwikkelaars aanmoedigen om onafhankelijk te werken en te denken, niet koste wat het kost deel uit te willen maken van deze industrie.