ceci n’est pas une art game.

at land screenshotI’ve been watching Auntie Pixelante post about the strange products of the Klik of the Month Klub for a while, but I’ve never been particularly interested in joining in because I’ve never really wanted to learn Klik ‘n’ Play, and two hours isn’t enough time to make something I’d be ready to share. Recently, however, a “Knytt of the Month” was announced, with the same rules as Klik of the Month but using Knytt Stories‘s level editor instead. The prospect of just making a short level for a game, working within the constraints of that game, seemed more doable in 2 hours to me than the stifling freedom of making a whole Klik ‘n’ Play game in 2 hours, so I joined up. The challenge was yesterday, during which I was able to crank out a “rough draft” of the game I wanted to make, and then over the next 24 hours I added the artwork and sound that I wanted. I’m pretty pleased with the results, especially since I’d never used the Knytt Stories level editor before. Since I only had 2 hours to make the core game, I decided to go the “art game” route, because art games are stupidly easy to make and never let anyone tell you otherwise. It looks like I chose wisely, since all the rest of the submissions were either art games or very short, very hard, “super challenge” levels. Except Anna Anthropy’s submission, which is a cute, fun little vignette with enough “game” to not fall into the “art game” trap, which is to be expected from her prior work with Knytt Stories.

The game I made is called At Land, and is based on the Maya Deren film of the same name. I’d originally looked up Maya Deren’s short films with the intention of derisively calling someone “the Maya Deren of video games”, but Maya Deren’s short films are actually pretty good. I tried to make this game a little more “gamey” than most art games; a friend recently commented, regarding a particular popular art game, “I wouldn’t mind calling it an art game if it didn’t fail so completely in being a game”, which I think applies to the vast majority of “art games” and is why they’re so commonly hated by people who play lots of games and people who design games. It would be like if I made the shape of a car out of paper maché, painted it garish colors, put a bicycle inside, and called it an “art car”; artists would stroke their chins at its artistic merits, other observers might be moved by its artistic “message”, but people who make cars and car enthusiasts would hop up and down and scream “a paper maché shell with a bicycle in it isn’t a ‘car’, you idiot!!” Which of these observers is “right”? Well, they all are, and I guess if the artist specifically wants to piss off car people that’s his prerogative, but in doing so he keeps car people from enjoying the other aspects of the work. The most successful “art car” would also be a functional car as well as a work of art, and the most successful “art games” are ones that are good solid games as well as works of art. At Land isn’t a very good example of this, because there’s not much game to it, but hopefully there’s enough game that its other merits aren’t undermined.

Anyway, please check out At Land, and remember that you’ll need to install Knytt Stories first in order to play it (there’s an option on Knytt Stories’ main menu to install new levels, which is what you’ll want to do to play this and any other additional levels). It helps if you’ve played at least the Tutorial level of Knytt Stories before, but it isn’t mandatory. Here are the rest of the submissions for “Knytt of the Month”, and here‘s the discussion of the event. I look forward to participating in the next one!

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