Friday 6 July 2012

The Sea Will Claim Everything

Jonas Kyratzes is one of my favourite designers. I don't believe there's anyone else right now doing story-focused videogames better. Playing his games makes me question my entire approach to game design, makes me want to forget about trying to generate "meaningful" decisions with game mechanics and focus instead on actually meaningfully meaning something.

His Lands of Dream games are special. The colourful hand-drawn graphics (drawn by his wife Verena) make them resemble children's books, and like all the best books for children they're not aimed at children at all. They deal both with childish things - philosophy, politics, economics - and with serious grown-up topics like what you get if you cross a squirrel with a fox. (A squox, of course - and they're unbearably cute.)

The stories cover the full spectrum of human emotion, not just what fits into the action-movie hero-saga mold videogames usually cling to. They've made me cry, not because of hackneyed tragedies, but by honestly expressing something that was personally meaningful to me. They've also made me laugh, and smile a lot; there's a sense of joy and playfulness to them. For all that games are naturally about "play", they usually take themselves so seriously, as though they're trying to be accepted as "art" and they believe that's a prerequisite - these games don't take themselves seriously at all, and because of that are far worthier artistically than any SERIOUS ART about death or whatever. They're made with love, and I love them.

I highly recommend The Sea Will Claim Everything, the latest entry in the series and the first being offered as a people-directly-pay-money-for-it-rather-than-being-subjected-to-advertising-thing.

Jonas and Verena have also been doing a series of pictures and short stories set in the Lands of Dream: The Oneiropolis Compendium. They're nice.

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