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  • Moments From Florence

    [09.02.21]
    - Nikhil Murthy

  • The Medium

    The story falls very neatly into a very well-defined archetype, that of the rise and fall of a relationship. It's normal to view this as something of a defect, as evidence of a lack of imagination, but here the innovation is not in the message, but in the medium. When the novelty is so formal, keeping the message minimal keeps the game clear and coherent.

    A lot of what the game has to say is not in the actual relationship, but instead in the isomorphisms that it presents. It translates everyday actions into minigames and the delight of the game is in these isomorphisms. It's fun to see work presented as mindlessly matching numbers or conversation as piecing together the pieces of what you want to say like a jigsaw or scratching off the conversation bubble to reveal the meaning behind the words. These are all established metaphors that now get a video game representation and that novelty is fun in itself.

    On Autonomy

    I often feel that game design theory has a tendency to get caught up in autonomy as it is the most obvious point of difference between video games and traditional media, and this preoccupation can somethings us lead us off-base. Personally, I feel that had the game allowed the player to keep the relationship together or even to win conversations, it would have been a poorer game. Concrete goals almost always dominate games that they are in. Their binary nature and numerical clarity are very easy for players to latch onto and so they very easily define the game. For many games, this sharp definition is exactly what you want, but here, I feel it would have been atonal.

    I claim the joy of the game is in the isomorphisms and if that is true, then it becomes hard to fit autonomy to that aesthetic. One can imagine a game about building a system to express the entirety of the relationship (The Quiet Sleep actually even does this), but this is not a game built to express big statements like that, but instead one that finds beauty in details.

    Genre

    There's a cross-media genre here that I've never fully pinned down, but want to signal towards. So, I'm just going to list out a bunch of things that seem to fall into the same category:

    • L'Illusionniste
    • "Service Road" by Better Oblivion Community Center
    • Machinarium
    • Old Man's Journey
    • An Artist of the Floating World
    • "Chinatown" by Girlpool
    • Asterios Polyp
    • "The Suburbs" by Arcade Fire
    • 500 Days of Summer
    • Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
    • I Am Easy To Find by The National.

     

    All of these feel like they evoke the same emotions and share the same make-up. To me, Machinarium is closer to Florence than it is to a point-and-click like Day of the Tentacle and I'd like better vocabulary to express this partially orthogonal axis.

    This genre is melancholy.

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