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BG 41 – Last Tuesday: How to Make an Art House Video Game

July 20, 2011

Futurismic have my latest Blasphemous Geometries Column.

The column arose from the fact that, instead of playing a new game like a good columnist, I instead devoted all of my video game time over the last month to replaying Oblivion and Europa Universalis III. By the way, Oblivion is so much more fun if you play it as a warrior instead of a sneaky bloke with a bow. As the deadline loomed, I realised that I had better start looking around for a slightly shorter game to play and I stumbled across Jake Elliott’s indie game Last Tuesday, which can be downloaded for free HERE. Elliott’s game so closely adhered to the template of art house cinema that the column pretty much wrote itself:

Many of the earliest writings on film are psychological in nature because filmmakers were desperate to understand how it was that the human brain took a series of stills photographs and constructed it into not just a moving image but also an entire narrative. Indeed, it is said that when the Lumiere brothers first showed moving images of an approaching train to Parisian audiences, members of the audience fled in panic because they had not yet learned to distinguish between a large moving image of an oncoming train and an actual oncoming train. In order to ‘make sense’ of what it was they were seeing, audiences had to acquire the correct interpretative strategy.  A hundred years later and art house audiences are expected to be able to draw not only on the skills required to make sense of moving images but also upon a veritable arsenal of interpretative techniques used to shed light on narratives filled with the sorts of intentional ambiguities, inconsistencies and plot holes that would be decried as incompetence were it not for the fact that they were evidence of genius.

While I’m particularly proud of how my analysis of the art-house sensibility turned out, I’m also quite happy with my analysis of Elliott’s game. Go play it!

2 Comments
  1. July 21, 2011 11:12 am

    I was struck by how easily your arguments about the defining features of “art house” could be transferred over to the interminable discussions of what makes for “literary” genre fiction. Also heartened that you’re identifying tendencies which can be partaken of as opposed to yes/no binary qualifications; the Mixing Desk Theory Of Genre continues to grow, mushroom-like, in the dank cellar of my mind. :)

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  2. July 21, 2011 12:24 pm

    Art house cinema is *definitely* a genre. Some works move the genre forward, others simply re-use old techniques to tackle the same old ideas and the same old themes.

    I like the idea of a mixing desk, I tend to think of genre as a series of lenses: Genre isn’t something that exists in the body of a text, rather it’s a set of ideas that we use to interrogate a text. So, for example, you can read Mountains of Madness in terms of it being Horror and in terms of it being SF.

    Obviously, the idea that genre sits in the mind of the reader rather than the body of the text is very much a critic’s viewpoint as it relies upon the idea that there is no ‘correct’ reading of any text. However, from a writer’s point of view, this is not particularly helpful and I kind of like the idea that different genres are effects that the writer can ‘dial up’ or ‘dial down’ depending upon their feelings. Whatever works for you I guess :-)

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