This page is a primer on Interactive Digital Media: artworks that require computers for their creation and exhibition, and that are interactive. Some exciting, innovative projects have been created by artists and designers over the past few years, and I’d like them to get more exposure.

I don’t really like the term ‘Interactive Digital Media,’ however I think it’s a more descriptive name for this new medium than ‘Videogames.’ The word ‘game’ has a significant number of implications and design constraints attached to it, and many of the works listed here move beyond those constraints. I like to think of videogames as a specific type of interactive digital media.

I’ll be periodically updating this page with new works, and initially with descriptions and images for all of the works listed.

NOTE: Some of the works here deal with adult themes and subject matter. Use your discretion.

 

PKN 15 Examples

 

Loop Raccord – Nicolai Troshinsky

In Loop Raccord, video clips showing simple motions such as the flick of a wrist or a ball being thrown, are arranged in chains. By pausing and playing the individual clips, the player must synchronize the motions between them. When they succeed, a single motion flows between the clips.
NOTE: there is a free PC version as well as the iPad version.
 
 

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Prosopamnesia – Alejandro Grilli J.

Prosopamnesia is the inability to remember faces. The work explores this through a meditative process of collage. It’s plugged into Google Images, and the picture of a face that you’re layering onto the composition changes about every 30 seconds.
 
 

REZ – UGA, Tetsuya Mizuguchi

From one condition to another, synesthesia is the blending of senses. Strange phenomena such as tasting colours or seeing music. Taking the work of Kandinsky as inspiration, REZ synchronizes its tactility, music, and visuals to create a synesthetic experience.
 
 

13 Gates – Ian Snyder

13 Gates challenges you to navigate a space with only the barest information. These patterned strips are your view into the world, and their width and position changes as you move around. The experience of trying to navigate these simple spaces is sort of like feeling your way in a dark room.
 
 

Way – CoCo & Co, Chris Bell

Way is about 2 strangers learning to communicate. Two users are anonymously connected, and have to cooperate to navigate parallel obstacle courses. Each player can see invisible objects in the other player’s course, and their only form of communication is simple hand gestures of their avatars.
 

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The Pleasuredromes of Kubla Khan – thecatamites

The Pleasuredromes of Kubla Khan is parody of edutainment games that riffs on the Coleridge poem of the same name. And it can best be described as an interactive Monty Python sketch. As you explore this ugly world, the narrator becomes increasingly appalled at the historical practices he sees.
 

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Slave of God – Stephen Lavelle [aka increpare]

Slave of God is a short story about a night out. The strength of the narrative comes from the details of the world for you to discover, and its honest representation of an attack on the senses. You explore the club hoping to make a connection, eventually loosing yourself in a state of euphoria on the dance floor.
 

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Knytt Stories – Nicklas Nygren [aka Nifflas]

Knytt Stories is all about atmosphere. The subtle combinations of light, colour, and sound that create a strong sense of place. The world comes alive through the faint sounds of flowing water, falling leaves, and the pitter-patter of footsteps. The sole purpose here is exploration, with only the barest fragments of narrative. It also features a level editor and a plethora of user-created worlds.
 
 

Machinarium – Amanita Design

Machinarium is also about exploration, but the richness of this decaying city is in sharp contrast to the minimalist landscapes of Knytt. The Czech creators have really drawn on the history of animation in their country, and even the communication between characters takes the form of simple animations within speech bubbles.
 
 
ErgonLogos

Ergon/Logos – Paolo Pedercini [aka Molleindustria]

The use of typography makes a strong contribution to the existential narrative of Ergon/Logos. You read this text as you’re propelled along its branches, occasionally being forced to quickly choose a route. Exploring this text fully takes a few plays, and a few very uncomfortable choices.
 
 

Kentucky Route Zero – Cardboard Computer

Kentucky Route Zero is a magical realist story set in the American South that owes a great deal to other mediums. It has extremely strong cinematography and bold graphic design in its vignettes and highway map. And the entire experience is explicitly structured as a five act play.
 

Additional  Works and People

These works deserve as much attention as the ones listed above! It was very tough to choose which ones to present.

Works …in no particular order

Proteus – Ed Key and David Kanaga
An exploration game with generative music.

MirrorMoon – Santa Ragione
Explore this planet during an eclipse. Then start moving the moon to change what you can see.

Knot-Pharmacard Subcondition J  – Michael Brough
A bricolage.

VESPER.5– Michael Brough
Only one move of your journey can be made each day. You’ll need to make it a part of your life for at least 100.

The Divine is Hidden Behind the Noise of the World – Niall Moody
What the title says.

TRAUMA – Krystian Majewski
Exploration through photographs; an amazing interface and a strong atmosphere.

Love Punks – Yijala Yala Project
A strange little exploration game created by a group of 9-11 year old Australian aboriginal students.

Judith – Stephen Lavelle and Terry Cavanaugh
A chilling interactive re-telling of the Bluebeard story.

To My First Born Son – Stephen Lavelle
A brief musing on the structure of patriarchy.

dys4ia – anna anthropy
A short series of small autobiographical games about hormone therapy and trans experiences.

This is Infinity
– Jonaton Söderström [aka cactus]
Infinitely confusing spaces.

Botanicula – Amanita Design
Follow up to Machinarium, with twice as much whimsy.

The Sea Will Claim Everything – Jonas and Verena Kyratzes
Political and philosophical storybook adventure.

Ulitsa Dimitrova – Lea Schönfelder and Gerard Delmàs
About a homeless child in St. Petersburg. Have some fun, smoke some cigarettes.

Standard Bits – Mark Johns
An abstract exploration game.

Feign – Ian Snyder
Collect Nine Bodies.

Unmanned – Paolo Pedercini [aka Molleindustria]
A day in the life of a drone pilot. Political and mundane.

Artists and Designers

Stephen Lavelle [aka increpare]
thecatamites
Mark Essen [aka messhof]
Nicolai Troshinsky
Amanita Design
Santa Ragione
Paolo Pedercini [aka Molleindustria]
Alejandro Grilli
Nicklas Nygren
Niall Moody
Ian Snyder
Michael Brough

The blog FreeIndieGam.es is worth following for new stuff like this.

And my friend Alejandro has his own list of works here.

 

Art Installations

 

Archifon I. [co-created by Amanita Design composer Tomáš Dvorák!]

 

Perspective Lyrique

 

Tools to Create this Stuff

Most of the works presented here were created in software that reduces or eliminates programming in the creation process. There are a lot of programs out there, so this list is far from exhaustive.

Twine
A free tool for creating interactive fiction. Very easy to use; if you can write a story you can use Twine.

Adventure Game Studio
A free tool for creating point and click adventure games.

Game Maker
Great for creating most types of 2D games. Easy to learn, and to slowly transition from Drag and Drop into scripting. I use it myself. Free and Pro versions.

Other 2d game creation programs:
stencyl
Construct 2
Multimedia Fusion 2

Unity
Best engine for creating 3d stuff. Making the jump from 2d to 3d immediately adds a ton of complexity though. Creating 3d exploration games is well within the reach of a beginner. A very sizable number of games on this page were created in Unity. Free and Pro versions.

And Finally…

If you have any questions or comments about this stuff, don’t hesitate to send me a message at gwhistancesmith [at] gmail [dot] com or @greg_ws on twitter!