In September, Adam Szymczyk wrote an article on three GAMBIT games for the Technopolis blog on the Polish website Polityka. With the help of translator Karolina Michalska, Adam has provided us with the English version of the same article. The full text is below the jump.
Singapore-MIT GAMBIT Game Lab is a collaborative research initiative between the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Interactive Digital Media R & D Programme Office, whose patron is the Media Development Authority of Singapore. The initiative in the assumption is supposed to combine two industries quite distant from each other: academic and industrial. As you can read on the project's website, GAMBIT is meant to be a specific translator between these two environments. On one hand it is supposed to satisfy academics turned for seeking new, interesting, theoretical solutions in video games, on the other to make industry sector interested in creating commercial and artistically profitable games.
Until now playable programs or their prototypes are already on the page, nearly 50, so for obvious reasons, I allowed myself to choose only three games, which I think is interesting, both in terms of concept, execution and theme. Because have you ever happened to play in depression or dream?
Playing motionless - Symon
The title Symon is seriously ill bedridden man. The game starts in a hospital room seen through the eyes of the hero. The only thing we can do is to look around the room and blink his eyes, clicking the left mouse button. Holding the closed eyes for a moment, we go to the proper game - the Symon's dreams. In sleep mode we can walk, take found items and give them to met characters or objects. Symon is a simple in use point and click adventure game. In an efficient manner it has managed to capture the fragile and often absurd dream property. Although the individual elements of the environment are known and their properties are properly maintained, they are often in a completely illogical combinations. So it is in Symon, where every time we have to figure out again which parts of the sad puzzle fit together and which don't. Why sad? Because it rarely happens in games that we impersonate in character as weak as the main figure.
There is no problem that the title is of short and simple mechanics - Symon has a high level of playability and proves the thesis that the games can also handle serious subjects. It is also worth noting, that the arrangement of characters, objects and two-dimensional levels is random, what means that each time the story looks a bit different. There are more challenging moments, where we have to think not only how to find and use various objects, but also for example, change their color.
The levels are mainly maintained in muted colors of autumn park fragments, between which we move through surreal door mounted in the space. (Mainly, because there's also a cemetery or a storeroom timber.) Everything depends on the locations and characters we come across in a particular dream. Objects are varied and often have symbolic meaning. There is an engagement ring for his beloved, children's tree house, an incubator or ventilator. The characters include children whom Symon never had, a broken frog, which Symon stepped in childhood and now will have to apologize, or even covered with a romantic dinner table and a few other things that you will encounter themselves, if you play in this great game.
The dreamy atmosphere is created by simple, cardboard graphic kept in gentle colors and subtle background soundtrack, mainly consisting of piano sounds. To "go through" the dream is to collect three different facilities given to us by the characters met on our way. You have to do a lot of walking around, but the reward is to give the three gifts we encountered in a dream to ourselves - Symon lying in bed. For each "successful" dream we get the photo that is hanged on the wall of the hospital room. It is the only link between wakefulness and sleep in the Symon's world. These three places on the pictures symbolize the "resolved" issues - such as the relationship with his family, return to home and confession of love. Symon is a very moving and clever title, which won the prize for the best browser game at last year's Indie Game Challenge. It is worth to play and delve into the mind of a paralyzed Symon. You can do this by clicking on this link. It sends the Kongregate site, where the recently was released higher, slightly extended version.
Play depression - Elude
Elude is a unique title, because it concerns the problem of depression. The player impersonates in the sad, nameless boy. The game is simple to use two-dimensional platform game in which we pass three short levels. The boy can jump, walk to the left and right and after pressing the space bar makes a voice - these are only elements of interaction in Elude.
Elude levels were included in the form of emotional states. First, where we start, is forest (normal mode), where we can jump high and while moving on the branches along the way we meet the birds reacting to our behavior. When we speak to them from appropriate, not too close nor too far distance, birds are twittering, what is marked with circle of dispersing light. Similarly, our hero: when he communicates with the environment with his weak voice there appears spreading circles. Once we manage to climb the tree and talk to the birds, we move to the level of heaven (the mode of joy). We start from the meadow and leaping on the leaves and jump up very high. White flowers let us jump even higher. This momentary idyll tends inevitably to fall from great height and back to the level of the forest. We are again at the beginning of the road, but are you sure this is the same forest?
Here, like in Simon, creators also managed to capture the subtle atmosphere of particular states of emotion of played hero. Depression in Elude is shown largely through exploration which gradually changes in the sense of encirclement, and finally ends as a kind of escape. Developers obtain these effects even by gradually toning down the color of background and hampering hero's possibility of moving. At some point, the mood starts to deteriorate accompanied by the effect of collapsing under the ground which further stresses the "depression" emotional states, which often passed by people affected by this disease. Although for those around the patient at first glance, everything looks right, often the patient takes with him a real struggle to do even the simplest activities - such as getting out of bed or out of the house. Clearly, the team working on Elude wanted to translate these various emotions associated with depression to the metaphorical language of the game. The idea is to make Elude a part of the clinical context, as part of a package to increase awareness of psycho-education and sensitivity, particularly in relatives of people with depression, so that in an easy and accessible way to give them the opportunity to understand the emotions of their loved ones.
While I was passing Elude for the first time shivers went down my back. It is surprising that in so simple and short form can contain so much content. At the end of the game we see a chart that shows our path - sine wave corresponding with a fluctuation in mood levels, which we visited during the game. Elude is not about to win, or get some points, or defeat adversaries. This title, which developers intended to help people understand the problem of depression and to show in a metaphorical way the danger involved in this quiet and dangerous disease. You can play Elude by clicking the link.
Turn on the light! - Poikilia
Poikilia is quite challenging puzzle game in which we follow a young boy looking for way out of the confused maze of the temple. Above his head he carries a tray, on which are located up to three flames of different colors. Colorful lasers unfolded after boards are extinguishing one color. For example, red laser red extinguishes on the tray the fire of the same color, what changes lights located around the boy. The second type of obstacles are colored grille, through which we can (or not) move, what depends on the color of light from the tray.
The game resembles famous art lessons in primary school classes with mixing colors. For example, if we join together green and red it forms yellow, blue with the same red gives pink, and through a combination of green with blue around the boy appears in a light turquoise. All three additional colors: yellow, pink and turquoise give white light.
It is worth noting that the first half of this short game is set in the dark, which is essential for the colors - they work in opposite way than in the levels of games played during the day. In Poikilia it is important to think logically - you just choose the color to pass various "gates" of the required color. Otherwise, you can't go through the color wall to the end of each level - the stone door. The game certainly is a different class from Elude and Symon: it is conceived as a base for research on the effects of narration in games on the effectiveness of solving puzzles. And although for many it can be frustrating, but worth a try to deal with the light mazes only find out that in half, or even at the end of the game they still have not understood the rules. If you want to deal with the theory of colors click the link.
Translate the concept
GAMBIT is an incubator for creative ideas. Games are created in the laboratory, small teams of few persons composed of students from the USA and Singapore. Groups are given the task of writing short, interesting game on the specified topic. Special mentors are assigned to help students transform ideas in virtual reality. For several weeks during an intensive workshop team creates together a game: from the level of conception to publication on the website for the project. In case of Symon the exploration a paradoxical logic of dreams was a subject, in Elude the problem of depression and Poikilia was supposed to address an issue of how the plot or its lack in the game affects the games..
There is plenty of games, some are free, some are interesting, some generally speaking I didn't liked (however, I must emphasize that I didn't play in all games available on the side). Certainly much more can be written about GAMBIT, but what I really mean are questions about what are the chances and what you need to do to initiatives such as GAMBIT also in Poland? Interested, intrigued or just wanting to play interesting games and prototypes I recommend visiting the project's site. In addition to GAMBIT games there are also seminars, lectures, research projects and a lot of interesting articles. Of course about the games.
Polityka.pl - Technopolis - about games with culture.
Translation: Karolina Michalska