garden

by Drew Wallace '17

garden questions classical definitions of “interactivity” in games discourse. Historically, games discourse has privileged strict concepts of interactivity as desirable and/or formally necessary (Murray 1997, Costikyan 2000, etc). garden pushes back on these ideas, creating interaction by resisting it.

Formally, garden is an experiment in simple and constrained visuals. This aesthetic was motivated by the recognition that my usual “weird” aesthetic only functions for certain types of viewers, and appears careless and unremarkable to others. As this project was intended to question classical conceptions and readings of games as a medium by, crucially, self-presenting as a game, it seemed fitting that it use a visual language that was both clearly constructed and clearly of the medium.

The most involved creative consideration of the piece was its mode of spatial and visual abstraction. All onscreen images are inherently abstract. I chose a 2D-centric system to avoid the systematization implied by a projection-based 3D graphics pipeline. I aimed to avoid elements that referred strongly to game aesthetics, from pixel art to panning overhead cameras. The initial audience for the piece generally has an outsider’s view of games, and such strong symbols tend to overwhelm the content with the basic recognition that the object is a game. Such surface recognition of pre-known game conventions would be counter to viewers’ reconsideration of the game form.

garden transforms the dynamics of an abstracted simulation into outward visuals and audio. Simultaneously it transforms the movements (inputs) of the player into the structures produced in the simulation, which then feed through to the simulation outputs and back into the player. It is a loop.

For this reason, “transformation” may not be the best word to describe garden. “Transformation” suggests a directionality, and a start and end. Each of these elements is itself an initial condition for the piece, in addition to a result. Together they create something more complex and not so easily named.

garden is written in C++ using openFrameworks, OpenGL, and ClipperLib.