IGF Factor 2010: Today I Die

By Kieron Gillen on February 10th, 2010 at 1:30 pm.

We’ve talked about Daniel Benmergui’s poetic work before, when Alec wrote about I Wish I Were The Moon and – relevantly – when John Wrote about this. It’s poetic, short-form work which has been shortlisted for the Nuovo award in this year’s festival. You can play it here, watch the spoiler-filled-video walkthrough below and then read what’s on Daniel’s mind in our interview.

RPS: Firstly, a brief intro to those who may not know you. Who are you? What’s your background? Why get into games? Why get into indie games?

Daniel Benmergui: I am an Argentinian indie game developer, studied computer science, worked at Gameloft as studio programmer lead, and right now I am trying to figure what’s the best way to live my life.

There are two good reasons to make games: you want to make a game, or you want to “make games”. The distinction is important, because large studios can only fulfill the latter. Indie is the only way if you believe the games themselves are important. I used to work on a large studio, now I choose the indie way.

RPS: And… the game. Tell us about it. What was its origins? What are you trying to do with it? What are you most pleased about it? What nags?

Daniel Benmergui: It originated on a clash of three elements: a visual impression of a girl sinking into stale water and then struggling her way back up, the poem changing mechanic I worked on before but didn’t know what to do with, and a spouse going through a depression.

I was only trying to make a game that felt important for me.

I am very pleased that a lot of people found the game important to them.

I wish I made a better game.

RPS: What’s your feelings on the IGF this year. Pleased to be nominated? Have particular love, bemusement or hate for any of the other entries? Is there anything you think is missing?

Daniel Benmergui: I am happy to be nominated, but perhaps for the wrong reason. I promised myself I would be an IGF finalist six years ago, during my first GDC. So I am happy I fulfilled that promise.

But I actually wish it happened last year, or perhaps the next. Last year I had a conflicted relationship with game development (my next project didn’t show up then), so I am still feeling a bit distant.

There’s a bunch of entries I love, others I would love to try. I will, during GDC. There’s VVVVVV missing, of course.

RPS: How do you feel about the indie scene generally this year? People have been relatively downbeat about 2009, after 2008 being so obviously incendiary. What are the themes, in your eyes? What are people missing?

Daniel Benmergui: There’s a lot of indies doing very important work… I don’t believe the distinction of years matter at all, as long as there’s people doing bold stuff.

RPS: And how does the future look for you? What are you working on now and the foreseeable future.

Daniel Benmergui: I am working on Today I Die Again, a revised version of Today I Die that will be released for the iPhone, which will hopefully be a great improvement!

RPS: Thanks for your time.

You can go and play Today I Die right now.

__________________

« | »

, , , , , , .

44 Comments »

  1. Will Tomas says:

    Beautiful game. Really lovely.

  2. Gap Gen says:

    I really like this kind of thing, where an interesting idea can be played through in a few minutes – a kind of gaming poetry, in some ways.

  3. Qjuad says:

    Fantastic little game that.

  4. El Stevo says:

    @ Kieron

    “We’ve talked about Daniel Benmergui’s poetic work before, when Alec wrote about I Wish I Were The Moon.”

    You’ve also talked about it when John wrote about Today I Die

    • Wulf says:

      True! And John did such a great job of writing it up, too, it’s a really nice post. Kieron, you should be ashamed for forgetting that, and you should make it up to John by buying him a beer! Something good though, nothing cheap. Perhaps something foreign, Belgian maybe.

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      I admit, I thought we did, but it didn’t turn up on the search or the tag so I presumed I was deluded. Presumably I entered something wrong.

      KG

  5. Bart says:

    Wow, you guys are a bit late to the party… still, better late then never, because I feel this little, umm, thing (hard to call it a game, actually) does deserve a mention and more people checking it.

    In my review I wrote:

    Today I Die is about digging oneself out from the bottom of dark waters that is depression, about changing our life by manipulating the words we use to describe ourselves and the world around us, thus changing the way we think about it, and about eventually becoming at peace with oneself and (possibly) others as a result.

    and I stand by this opinion. But even if it will read like something else for you, spare a few moments to give it a try. It is well worth it.

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      Bart: John wrote about it when it came out. I’m interviewing every single nominee. I was hoping I wouldn’t have to start every piece with “And another in the series…” except it seems that I have to. A million mouse-wheels die a tiny fraction little more…

      KG

    • Bart says:

      Yup, sorry Kieron, I noticed it after posting. This edit button could come in handy, goshdarnittoheck.

    • Wulf says:

      @Bart

      It’s an interactive toy, much like Windosill was. And absolutely lovely for it, much like Windosill was. >.>

      I’d really be very happy to see more of this kind of thing, as it reminds me of a bygone era of PC computing, back when the PC did just have these silly little toys that we played with and had a lot of fun with. And it tugs on the heartstrings, too. It’s certainly not just for kids, either, as Today I Die and Windosill prove.

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      Bart: Oh, edit button, we miss you so.

      (If you’re logged into the forum, I believe you can edit.)

      KG

  6. Psychopomp says:

    It was a lovely little piece of emotion, that game.

    • Wulf says:

      Agreed! It shows just how clever little Internet flash things can be, too, and why the PC is still a land of marvels which only we–ye olde faithful–are generally prithee to. I’ve sat through movies and played mainstream games that haven’t made me feel as much as those few minutes faffing about with Today I Die did. It’s stunning, really, whenever I think of an indie I think of a game I was exhilarated by in some way. It makes me glad I have a PC.

    • Bart says:

      Gotta agree with Wulf here – I actually felt emotionally involved in the story, which is a rather rare thing.

    • Igor Hardy says:

      Yey! I too had a similar experience with TID.

  7. Wulf says:

    On a more serious note, I have to say how surprised I am that every time I play this game after having not poked it in a while, it leaves me feeling quite a little bit happier. Proof that art games work, I’d think. Then again, I am easily moved, so that could have a lot to do with it too. But it’s so lovely and uplifting at the end that I can’t help but be. And to achieve the element that I believe makes a great game within a few minutes, to actually impact upon the player and make them feel something, is quite an achievement.

    His game is a marvel, and if I had one of those PhonyEye things, I’d actually pick it up! Maybe I should drop him a mail and ask if he’ll release the updated version for the PC at a similar price, I’d certainly by it. And yes, yes, I know… gasp(!), I don’t have an iPhone. I don’t have any kind of cell phone, as they make me a bit leery. Besides, it’s nice that when I go out for a walk in the local woods I’m actually free from my life’s concerns, I can’t imagine what it’s like for those people who take everything with them when they leave their house, thanks to their cell. Tangents aside… Today I Die should be experienced by anyone who’s got the will to click, even if they aren’t into poetry or art games, and if it makes them feel too then it’s accomplished its mission.

  8. sfury says:

    I loved that one so much that immediately donated and got the whole Moon Stories Pack :)

    http://www.ludomancy.com/blog/downloads/

    (which is sort of free, but after such sheer brilliance you just want to pay the man…)

    • Wulf says:

      Likewise. I felt the same way about this as I did about Knytt Stories, it has no ads and it doesn’t require any fee to play, but it’s worth some money regardless.

  9. Tei says:

    This is one game that make me proud to be a gammer.

    • Mark says:

      My gammer bakes a mean apple pie.

    • Wulf says:

      There was recently a poll on Slashdot on 101 classes. If someone had to take a mandatory 101 class on anything, what should it be? Grammar was there, which I was amused by. Also present was manners, I wanted to vote for ethics, but manners was the closest it got. There’s no reason to make fun of Tei for his grammar (something that happens far too often, I fear) as English is clearly not his native tongue.

      That’s the problem with those who obsess over grammar, they fail to realise that English isn’t the only language in the world and that it’s a secondary language for some.

    • AndrewC says:

      Mark: if you can mock him in fluent Portuguese, I will send you an apple pie.

    • terry says:

      I got the impression it was more gentle jest than anything else. Typos are reinterpretative spontaneous artworks anyway :-)

      And yes, a sweet game. More of this sort of thing!

    • Wulf says:

      @terry

      I understand that point of view, I truly do, but even a gentle jest can be hurtful when it’s picking fun at something that the person is unable to help.

      I suppose I’m just sensitive to this, because I’m disabled in a few particularly nasty ways, and I’ve have people, young and old, having a bit of a jest at my expense. The situation changes when it’s something that a person can’t do anything about, and I doubt Tei’s in a position to learn perfect English, which is a point that AndrewC made well. Unless the person making the jest knows a number of languages fluidly, it’s a bit hypocritical to pick at someone who can’t speak English perfectly.

      I guess it’s just a sore point for me, it’s different being on the other side of the jest most of the time.

    • Wulf says:

      Err… fluently.

      Even my English isn’t perfect, I make a lot of slips like that. But I have a reason for it too, heh.

      Still though, unless Tei says he’s okay with it, it might be nice to lay off him a bit.

    • TeeJay says:

      ps grammar ≠ spelling

    • Lilliput King says:

      I don’t know what the literary technique is called, but you know how in Trainspotting and Finnegan’s Wake the grammar and spelling are intentionally off to great artistic effect?

      Basically by making jibes directed at Tei you make yourself look foolish is what I’m saying here.

      Also what a beautiful little thing. This is what indie games do best, in my experience. There’s something about the way large-scale games are produced that means they lose the little spark of wonder this game captures so well.

    • disperse says:

      Wow, controversy sparked… It was more humorous in my head (with a southern US twang if you must know). I apologize for any hard feelings, I thought it was an interesting typo is all.

  10. MadMatty says:

    I tried it and it was beutiful

  11. tba says:

    hmmmm Belgian beer

    • Wulf says:

      And one of the most inebriating sorts of beer out there, considering the ridiculously high alcohol levels. That make it a good beer, or so I’m told.

  12. The Hammer says:

    This beautiful game inspired me. Every single bit of it was so profoundly composed. I linked it to as many people as I could too, because it’s one of those games which is very, very important. What a touching message it carries, and what a heartfelt reason to make a game.

  13. Tei says:

    I use to write very long essays in English years before having the ability to read or write English. Is my system to learn English. I know it don’t make any sense, but is my system. If you can understand this, It probably worked. People use to ask what drugs I was using, now people ask about my grammar, I think I have improved horizontally. I have a friend that is writting a tutorial to learn greek using this system, If anyone is interested…

    • ACS says:

      Frankly, Tei, your English is good enough. I don’t think I’ve ever had much of a problem telling what you’re saying. You’ve just got some peculiar grammar habits which, unlike most peoples’, sometimes produce results amusing to the Anglophone ear.

      (And, yes, even though ‘malus’ is the correct Latin antonym of ‘bonus,’ it’s not an English word. Even though it should be.)

  14. A-Scale says:

    For some reason I didn’t find it that appealing. I think it just wasn’t gamey enough for me.

    • Wulf says:

      I am unsurprised. I tend to recall you upholding the role of indie contrarian quite frequently, and that the mainstream floats your boat more.

      Different strokes for different folks, eh? I’m just glad that entertainment is varied enough for us to all find something to enjoy out there, even if we don’t all like the same thing.

    • A-Scale says:

      Indie contrarian? Hardly. I wasn’t aware that it was an all or nothing proposition. I dig plenty of indie. In fact, I just played and enjoyed the hell-and-back game the creator of this very game came up with. I just thought this was lacking in gameplay.

    • A-Scale says:

      Or was that not this guy? In any case, the game was “Don’t Look Back”. Liked that. Plenty of game, with the message important but secondary. Putting the message first and the gameplay second breaks the immersion and makes me feel like I’m having a message forced on me. I prefer my messages subtle and worked within something that is great on its own, like World of Goo, for instance.

    • Lilliput King says:

      That was Terry Cavanagh. He made Don’t Look Back and VVVVVV. Good games, both.

  15. Jayt says:

    Remember playing this when it was released, love this kind of work. Hope we see more of it!

  16. Vinraith says:

    I’m usually not much on “art games” but I played this one when RPS first wrote about it awhile ago and found it surprisingly affecting. It’s really a clever, well done little piece of art, and has generally driven me to try these sorts of games when they crop up just in the hopes they might have the same kind of impact.

  17. Ghil says:

    These games are experiences that pushes reflexion inward, and makes me look at life a little bit differently, with each of those games. I remember Passage, Dear Esther, and now this…

  18. caesarbear says:

    Am I the only one that found this maudlin? As art games go it had little emotional impact for me. The music, the art, and especially the story did not work at all for me. It seemed juvenile, even compared to Passage.

  19. Lambchops says:

    Aww . . . sweet.