art games

On “Gravitation”

I’ve had a love/hate relationship with art games over the past year or two. I find I Can Hold My Breath Forever and I Wish I Were The Moon sort of pretentious while I adore Small Worlds and The Company of MyselfPassage was somewhat interesting to me, but probably fell a bit in between adoration and apathy for me. Still, Passage is somewhat charming and interesting for what it does. Regardless, this post is not about Passage, it’s about Gravitation, which I find actually more interesting.

Jason Rohrer’s “Gravitation”

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On “Every Day the Same Dream”

A definitive quality of most games is that they present to the player some freedom in which to make interesting decisions. Narrative choices, however, seem to have a limited range of effects in modern videogames. Many choices appear unsubstantial; creating a façade of freedom that always leads to the same outcome. Other games scatter choices across the story in order to trigger one in a handful of alternate endings; Chrono Trigger for example. Finally, games like Mass Effect do their best to morph the story world and character reactions to the seemingly endless barrage of dialogue-based choices the player must endure. However, what happens when a narrative game becomes not about what the choices result in, but about the process of making the choices itself? In Every Day the Same Dream, a brief 10-minute flash game by Paolo Pedercini, the player’s journey through making the different choices in the game’s small world is essentially the entirety of the gameplay experience.

The starting screen of the game, and the top of the game tree.

Play begins with the unremarkable character awakening from bed into a black, white and grey world. In the first screen he is presented with two immediate choices. He can turn the alarm off or not, and he can get dressed or not. Either way he then proceeds to the next screen where he can turn off the TV or not, and a few screens later he has the option to walk left or right. This goes on for another handful of screens. The player must select their way down the game’s decision tree until eventually it resets and starts the player over in the bedroom again. A woman in the elevator of your building hints that you have X amount of steps to take on your way to becoming a new man, and the player eventually puts together that this means exploring the various different possibility trees the game has to offer.

The woman “subtly” hinting at the paths left to explore.

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