Tuesday 17 September 2019

A Journey to Lavender Town

Journey To Lavender Town (2019) is a 27-hour piece of video art I made earlier this year. It is footage of a game of Pokémon Red, where the game is gradually corrupted as the player plays the game.

As the player’s journey through the game continues, entropy plays a bigger and bigger role. The screen becomes less readable and simple actions take longer and longer to perform.

The video is below, split into four separate parts.

My vision is for it to be installed at an exhibition, playing on a loop. The viewer will be able to witness a part of the journey, but no individual can feasibly witness the entire thing. Everyone who spends time watching it will see a different fragment of time.

This article is about how this video piece came to be.

Sunday 4 August 2019

Pebbles in a Jar

It’s been just over a year now since I first exhibited The Book Ritual. After multiple tweaks and changes I’m happy to say that it’s reached a point where I think it’s complete. The Book Ritual, at version 1.3.1, with the custom-modified shredder living in a real-world environment and piles of paper shreds mounting over several days, is the game it always needed to be.

The Book Ritual on exhibition at A MAZE 2019 

It’s been an exciting year. It was part of the Leftfield Collection at EGX, and then was nominated for the Most Creative Game Award at PLAY18. In 2019 I took it to GDC, where it was one of the six nominees for the Alt.Ctrl.GDC award, and then to A MAZE in Berlin where it was selected as an Honourable Mention. The Shredder adopted the name Shredward, despite not being given a name the text itself. I played around in mountains of paper and I made myself a T-shirt from pictures of the old shreds.

The Book Ritual is a game that I made for myself. From its conception I knew I was not making something that could be sold, and I was not making something that would make sense to hire for parties. It was a game I needed to make because it said things I needed to say.

Creating The Book Ritual

The Book Ritual is an installation played with a real book and a real shredder. The player chooses a book and it is personified on the screen. This book asks them questions about their lives, and also has a story of its own to tell. At various points in the story the book asks the player to tear out a page and put it through the shredder. Inside the shredder are infra-red sensors that detect when paper is being fed through it. The story won’t continue until the player destroys a page.

It is a story about grief and loss, and coming to terms with the fact that loss is inevitable. It is about accepting that our memories and our connections will fade and lose their meaning over time. I like to hope it is about finding strength and new meaning in the face of sadness.

Monday 27 May 2019

Why is the Ocarina of Time Randomiser an Engaging Experience?

Over the last week I’ve been playing the Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time for the Nintendo 64. It’s a game I’ve played several times before, but this time was a little different. This time I was playing a custom mod of the game: the Ocarina of Time Randomiser.

Developed by the Zelda speedrunning community, the Randomiser is an online tool which takes a ROM of Ocarina of Time, and patches it to create a new adventure. In particular it takes every key item - every item found in a shop, or a chest, sold by a scrub, taught as a song, or in some way permanently collectable - and swaps them around. So important items like the titular Ocarina of Time might be sold for 10 rupees in a shop, while the big golden chest that would usually contain an essential item might now contain a single Deku stick.

Additionally the background music in each area, as well as assorted colours, are randomised to make an even more surprising experience.

Link checks out his dapper new orange tunic

A checking algorithm is run to make sure that the game can definitely be beaten, and the player begins the game from Link’s house and figures out the rest from there. In case you get stuck, the randomiser also generates a “spoiler log”: a list of all items and where they’re hidden.

Speedrunning, ROM hacking and custom controllers have really captured my imagination in recent years. I love the idea that a game is not a finished object, but a starting point for totally new experiences. Watching speedrunners break Ocarina of Time, solving puzzles in the wrong order, abusing the mechanics to get where they shouldn’t be able to, has always fascinated me.

Having watched several runners playing the randomiser I decided to give it a go myself. Not to speedrun it, but to simply explore what I got out of the experience.

In particular I wanted to ask myself: if I connect to this as a play experience, what is it that drives that connection? Why do I value it? What makes it a meaningful experience