Friday, March 14, 2008

Game Space_1: Portal/Fez

At SXSW this past week, Bryan and John both alerted me to some interesting games out there. The first is kokoromi's Fez. Think Mario Bros. on X-Y-Z gimbal axes. The result is, to say the least, pretty awesome.

The second is Valve's Portal. The online entry for the game tells us that
The game consists primarily of a series of puzzles that must be solved by teleporting the player's character and other simple objects using the Aperture Science Handheld Portal Device ("Portal Gun" for short), a unit that can create an inter-spatial portal between flat planes. The player character is challenged by an AI named "GLaDOS" to complete each puzzle in the "Aperture Science Enrichment Center" using the Portal Gun with the promise of receiving cake when all the puzzles are completed. The unusual physics allowed by the portal gun are the emphasis of this game, and is an extension of a similar portal concept in Narbacular Drop; many of the team from the DigiPen Institute of Technology that worked on Narbacular Drop were hired by Valve for the creation of Portal.

These games are fascinating in that they involve some type of spatial manipulation. Specifically, Portal reminds us of the work of Israeli architect Eyal Weizman. In a 2006 essay, Weizman describes the IDF's theoretical approaches to navigating hostile urban spaces. He writes:
During the battle soldiers moved within the city across hundreds of metres of ‘overground tunnels’ carved out through a dense and contiguous urban structure. Although several thousand soldiers and Palestinian guerrillas were manuvering simultaneously in the city, they were so ‘saturated’ into the urban fabric that very few would have been visible from the air. Furthermore, they used none of the city’s streets, roads, alleys or courtyards, or any of the external doors, internal stairwells and windows, but moved horizontally through walls and vertically through holes blasted in ceilings and floors. This form of movement, described by the military as ‘infestation’, seeks to redefine inside as outside, and domestic interiors as thoroughfares. The IDF’s strategy of ‘walking through walls’ involves a conception of the city as not just the site but also the very medium of warfare – a flexible, almost liquid medium that is forever contingent and in flux.
All in all, these two games are evidence of practices that fall outside architecture's more normative realms.


bryan said...

Also check out Echochrome for some mind blowing 2D/3D conflative conflagrations. I've been meaning to write more about game space for a while. Steve Johnson started this dialog years ago but game spaces have changed dramatically and it could use a closer look. I'll, uhh, put that on the docket for the summer.

Anonymous said...

It is an exciting time in gaming right now! I've done a bit of writing about these specific titles. I'm really interested in how gaming could/should/might dovetail with architectural representation.