Humble’s Last Thoughts Of The Aurochs

By John Walker on April 21st, 2010 at 11:19 pm.

Is art games?

In a collision of appropriateness, Mr Sims, Rod Humble, contacted us to let us know his latest art game is partly inspired by cave paintings. Which is also to say, Rod Humble has a new art game, joining The Marriage and Stars Over Half Moon Bay. It’s called Last Thoughts Of The Aurochs. Rod describes it himself as “slight”, made as he continues to work on the as-yet unreleased Perfect Distance. Oh, and presumably works on the Sims too, that being his job and all.

“When you aim for slight you enter a lovely realm,” Humble explains on his site. “The dandelion seed floating by on a summer day, a rabbit darting out of sight, a half thought – half feeling you try to catch but it is gone.” The aurochs in question were an ancestor of domestic cattle, eventually dying out in 1627. You may recognise them from cave paintings. It’s the last moments of a species that the game is intended to capture, which Humble explains appealed to him for four reasons:

1.) Expressing thoughts is an interest of mine, expressing animal thoughts presented an extra contour which I found pleasant.
2.) Deliberately aiming for such a delicate and tiny matter was a challenge. It is long for a painting and short for a game.
3.) It pushed the limits of interactivity. This has more player control than say Snake and Ladders or many dice games but less than a wargame. Defining a game or a toy or interactive painting is a noble fools errand, I hope this work can be an extra bell on the hat of the brave fool who tries.
4.) Make something beautiful. That should be enough for anyone.

To play you move the mouse over small photographs that causes a swirl of colourful lines to paint themselves across the area of the screen. Mouse movement makes the pattern increasingly random, which is essentially the only active interaction you have with the game.

I recommend playing it for yourself before reading my thoughts, as they really are just my thoughts and it would be a shame to colour your experience of it. That said, these are my thoughts:

At first I figured it would be filed under “Don’t get it”. But like The Marriage, it was a case of persisting to gain a degree of understanding. The initial stages bemused me, as I barely interacted with the creation of this big colourful, blurry pattern. Very pretty it was, but I found nothing I could connect with the disappearance of a species. Until it started to disappear. At which point I realised I’d somehow become attached to that colourful mess, and I didn’t want it to go.

There’s something about the encroaching bleakness, the way it sneaks in. By moving the mouse I could agitate the swirling colours, encourage them, attempt to create more as the background became increasingly dark. It was fading out, and my efforts to save it were futile, and yet I persisted. Now all that remains is a couple of barely moving blobs against a black background.

Because of the description I’d read beforehand I can associate this with the loss of the creatures. But stepping away from that, I think the game captures a greater sense of loss – not loss of life, or others’ lives, but a loss of dreams, of hopes.
Bye bye.

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23 Comments »

  1. Lambchops says:

    At first I figured it would be filed under “Don’t get it”
    For me it was. just seemed like an utterly pointless exercise, which I quickly abandoned.
    Read John’s thoughts after, can’t say I ever would have taken something like that from it – however the day I start attributing any thoughts other than “ooh pretty” or “what the fuck is that” to a random pattern is the day that I’ve probably lost some modicum of my sanity.

    • dadioflex says:

      I think we’re still supposed to be giving Ebert a hard time and this is supposed to justify games as art.

      If this was what it took to justify video games as art then I’d prefer to still be playing with a bat and ball. Honest to god, a bat and ball.

      Throwing balls at bats is quite fun but don’t get caught doing it at the Nocturnal House in the Zoo.

    • dadioflex says:

      Oh, and to the folks that accused me of trolling when I posted my “games are wank” or “gaming journalism is wank” drunken post on the forum a few months back. We now have this:

      “There’s something about the encroaching bleakness, the way it sneaks in. By moving the mouse I could agitate the swirling colours, encourage them, attempt to create more as the background became increasingly dark. It was fading out, and my efforts to save it were futile, and yet I persisted. ”

      Now, I’m not saying this is, or isn’t, a load of wank, BUT…

    • DJ Phantoon says:

      Dadioflex, as an American, I can tell you with empirical authority you have it backwards.

      You’re supposed to throw the bat at the ball.

    • John Walker says:

      Er, dadioflex, you seem to have confused my posting my thoughts about a game with about everything else in the universe.

  2. Svenska says:

    Yeah, I had to backtrack to this page a few times to understand wtf was going on.
    I suppose it sucks to see the colors bleed away…..but not really

  3. Tunips says:

    I felt that the little images at the bottom represented some sort of stimuli, if not to an individual Aurochs, then to the collective idea of the Aurochs. And bright colourful thinking happened! Layer upon layer, building up a history, an identity perhaps.
    But then it starts to fade away.
    The little picture at the bottom displayed the thought field. The only thing it could think about was its own decaying thought.

    (I’m not sure if it was meant to fade quite that slowly – it looked more like computer trouble)

  4. Rod Humble says:

    Thanks John and all who tried it.

    It makes me glad a couple of you got out of it a sense of loss and thoughts.

    Thanks again for your time, in the end that probably the most valuable thing you can give.

  5. Skree238 says:

    Without trying to (but ultimately failing not to) sound posh, my college at university has an aurochs drinking horn back from the 1400s or something … we all drink out of it at graduation…

  6. alinkdeejay says:

    It was on the news recently, like a few months back at most, that some efforts are being made to clone the Aurochs and bring it back to life. Can’t be bothered to look it up but if someone has a particular interest in antique lifestock, and don’t know about this yet, then I would say they are a very specific person, and they should use google or something.

  7. Wulf says:

    I took a sort of similar thing from it to John, similar-ish. My first thoughts were basically along the lines of “Hey, this is like a rorschach test!

    I had the words of the author in my mind as I continued, and I wondered if these were the sort of hallucinations a dying creature would see, mixed from both living experiences and imagination, all that wonder, all that beauty, all the things they’d seen… and then it just all goes away, forever.

    I had two things come to mind at the end of it…

    1.) Blade Runner. I feel that Blade Runner made the same point very, very well. That segment of Blade Runner was art, by my own definitions. It was truly poignant when I first saw it and I just couldn’t stop thinking about it, it played on my mind. I’m sure this will play on my mind, too. These things do.

    2.) I really don’t care for dying. Cryo for me, thank you very much! I have so much going around in my head that I haven’t shared, some that I may never share, and it’s the stuff of dreams, my dreams, dreams that no one else could ever have. There are things I want that I’ve seen no other express a desire for, things I wish to be, things I wish to experience, and those desires would die with me.

    Thanks for that, John. It was good.

  8. Mario Figueiredo says:

    I find the Aurochs extinction particularly dramatic because it was a species under our care. We had these animal domesticated for 8,000 years. And it’s even more terrifying because legal measures were actually taken to stop its extinction. In Prussia, for instance, there was a death penalty awaiting anyone caught illegally hunting the Aurochs.

    While we have been directly or indirectly responsible for the extinction of a few species, we couldn’t ever compare to Nature own abilities at wiping out life in our planet. Mass extinctions happened in our planet history that nearly cleaned it of all forms of life. One of them, aptly dubbed The Great Dying was particularly severe, killing close to 80% of all terrestrial life and a staggering 96% of all marine life (oceans almost always suffered the most). It’s also the only extinction event that provoked… hold your jaw… a mass extinction of insects!

    But “our” Aurochs? I sometimes think of them as a similar event. The Aurochs extinction was one of the our most dramatic failures in human history. These beasts were under our direct care as domesticated animals.

    As for the “game”, I confess I wasn’t particularly thrilled. I’m positive the author tried to bring forth his artistic impression of the theme. It just didn’t find a chord with me. I found the whole thing a bit naive and too obvious.

    • Wulf says:

      Interesting post, Fig.

      Only thing that I have thoughts that I wish to write about though is this: “I found the whole thing a bit naive and too obvious.” I don’t know why something can’t be obvious, naive, and still beautiful.

      Regardless, you’re right in regards to the Aurochs, as a species we’re not particularly good for caring for those in our charge; we’re lousy parents, we haven’t got our home world’s best interests at heart, we don’t care what happens to the flora/fauna of our world, we don’t care about the things we do and how they damage the world… and really, the greatest enemy of life is apathy. Due to our overbearing apathy, we’re a very hopeless race.

    • Mario Figueiredo says:

      Because beautiful has a stronger meaning to me. At best I found it… pretty. It’s not something I find myself aroused to come back over and over again. It will be gone from my memory in a few days.

      While “the dandelion seed floating by on a summer day” is an eternally inspiring image, this is not. To me.

    • Wulf says:

      @Fig

      “Because beautiful has a stronger meaning to me.”

      I’m not sure if it’s a stronger meaning, but more appropriately a different meaning. If it is stronger, can you explain how?

      “While “the dandelion seed floating by on a summer day” is an eternally inspiring image, this is not. To me.”

      This makes perfect sense, since everyone has their own perceptions.

    • mandrill says:

      Beauty is more often than not naive and obvious, its just that we rarely see it. We’ve been spoiled by the cynical and subtle so we no longer appreciate the beauty in what is right in front of us. Art doesn’t have to have a point, or a deeper meaning for it to have an intrinsic beauty, most of the time it just has to be.

      There is more beauty in watching a child chase a butterfly than there is in 100 diamond encrusted skulls or a preserved shark, or even a picture of a vase of sunflowers. We just have to see it.

      OT: login on front page please, I’ve given up logging in and willingly subject myself to the captcha because its less hassle. Surely there’s something backwards about that?

  9. Thants says:

    Didn’t run at all, I just get an error message. Even after updating Java.

  10. KingCathcart says:

    Too much art and not enough game.

  11. Sobric says:

    Games wont be Art until western art “society” (made up of people in the “Art” world, including any of you lot who appreciate “Art” in any form) accepts it as such.

    So, if you want gaming to be considered “Art” then keep fighting the good fight, you’ll probably get there in the end.

  12. Chaz says:

    This is what happens when hippies make computer games.

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