I’ve been checking up on IGN finalists for a while. And there’s this guy who often shows up in the Nuovo award section, which is given to the most artistic and innovative (usually a bit quirky) games of the year: Daniel Benmergui, who explicitly states in his blog that he makes “experimental games”.
Visit his blog here.
(You can play all of his games for free right away, as most of them are browser-based flash games. )
Games that receive Nuovo Awards do much more than giving first-time art game players a “huh?” feeling. They redefine the concept of “game”, and reach into the area of interactive art. Benmergui’s games are in fact one of the first art games that I’ve played, and they completely changed my perception of what a game could be: a beautiful combination of artwork, algorithm and music.
Benmergui apparently has a thing for 8-bit graphics. It might be that he doesn’t want to waste his time on the graphics, and that he would instead rather spend time on the algorithm and the gaming experience itself. Whatever the reason is, these graphics are his distinctive style–the characters are cute and exaggerated, with HUGE eyes.
In the first run, I wasn’t really a huge fan of his graphic style. As a 21C kid I don’t have a nostalgia for 8-bit graphics, so that’s one thing. The other thing is that some of his works can be very emotionally intense, and I felt that the overly cute graphics just halved the beautiful emotional tension in his games.
But now that I think of it, because the graphics are so simple and reduced into dots, Benmergui’s games leave you a big room for imagination. You can expand on the game’s graphics–consider it the skeleton–and recreate a totally different world on your own, amplifying the beauty of the in-game world.
I’d like to introduce some of the ones I’ve played:
Today I Die
This is the very first of Benmergui’s games that I’ve played, and so far the most beautiful. I’m telling you, in your first run you’ll get totally lost. Then as all lost gamers do, you would desperately click anywhere–and after finding progress, slowly, and slowly, get immersed in this game. The gameplay is very interesting, unlike any other I’ve seen in my life. Basically it is a classical point-and-click adventure but definitely more than that.
Probably the first thing that shocks you is how negative the whole game seems. The title is “Today I DIE” first of all–and you start off floating in a dark world full of evil piranhas. And wait what, there are… jellyfishes? (cough cough, I won’t go on spoiling anything,) But one thing you can be sure of is that this game isn’t negative at all. The whole game is about turning the dark into the bright, turning misery into beauty.
This game also has some puzzle-like elements, as oftentimes you’ll get stuck not knowing what to do next. But you have to keep in mind that this game allows interaction between different environments. You’ll have to make connections to proceed, and make the heroine’s world a better place.
The most “nuovo” thing I find about this game is its attempt to incorporate poetry into game. This reminds me of East Asian paintings, where words would often be written on a painting’s side to deepen its meaning. Before, words and lines in a game were merely instructions and labels, describing this and that; you never had controls over words. But in this game words are the major mode of story procession. You have to interact with them to change environments; words construct the game’s world, rather than describing them–like how words on an asian paintings do.
There’s a beautiful piano music running in the background too, perfectly matching the emotional beauty of this piece.
I Wish I Were the Moon
This is Benmergui’s second most well-known game, and much more simpler than the first one. Unlike “Today I die”, the gameplay(should we call it this way?) is much more straightforward. There’s a scene like the one above, and you are given a camera snapshot screen. You take photos! yay! and you can even duplicate certain objects.
While as not as emotionally intense as “Today I Die”, players will find themselves marveling over this simple piece. The keyword is “possibility”. For such a simple scene, there’s so much possibilities that you can create with a single camera. Benmergui programmed every single possibility of the duplication’s result into the game. You might move a random character into somewhere else and feel like, “hell, this is not gonna work,” but it happens right in front of you.
I guess the only limitation of these kind of games is that there aren’t that many objects to interact with at the first place. There’s a moon, two people, a seagull… One new object added to the scene would exponentially increase the possible situations that can happen, so I understand why Benmergui wanted to keep the scene so simple. I would definitely love it if he ever makes a more complicated one, though.
There is not much of a linear set storyline over here. Your only objective is to find all the endings, which is difficult, I assure you!
This is a prototype of a to-be-released game, recently recommended to me.
The basic point of this is to create complicated story branches. Benmergui introduces this game as follows: “For a long time, heroes in Storyteller were the only ones able to kill (erm… execute) people outside the villain. Other than that and the right to lock up villains, they did very little. But two new plot devices made them way more significant.”
Right. This game made “storytellers” a way more significant thing, since… you are the storyteller yourself. You get to choose the fate of these characters.
The stories branch out with complexity, and clicking the character around can produce unexpected results. It’s fun to play around for a few minutes, as there is really no goal.
This is actually just a prototype for an upcoming game. Coming out in “late 2013” for downloadable software, the real game is puzzle-like, requiring you to achieve certain endings by producing desired storylines. The stories’ possible branches would be also significantly increased.
Check this out:
Anyone who hasn’t played an art game before should definitely play these lovely 8bit games. There are other games for you to explore in Daniel Benmergui’s blog, so feel free to try out a few.