Yesterday, Ian released a new, updated version of Catacombs of Solaris, and it reminded me of this project he worked on last year that I really liked.
If we were allowed to visit is an anthology of poems by poet Gemma Mahadeo, rendered by game designer Ian MacLarty. You explore a sparse, rural Australian landscape, visualised as words implying the shapes around you. Each individual object has a text representation, usually a poem written by Gemma about that thing. As you move around the scene, a lot of care is taken from a technical perspective to ensure that any given screenshot of the game stands alone as a new generative poem.
I first encountered the game during a talk by Gemma and Ian at Freeplay 2019, where they showed an in-development prototype. I was absolutely blown away. Just, wow! This project is such a perfectly realised collaboration. Not only of the already unusual combination of poetry-meets-games, but of the particular type of poetry Gemma writes, and the particular type of games Ian makes. I was astonished, bordering on jealous.
The final version really delivers on the promise of that early prototype – it feels like such a pure, complete concept, not one character out of place. It’s really interesting to wander around in too, I enjoyed figuring out the shapes of things as I stumbled around, finding things in the noise, watching a tumbleweed drift by.