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.