Grab your wellies, readers. Educator, developer and museophile Pippin Barr has once again dipped his toes back into the world of virtual puddles. Following 2017’s v r 3, Barr’s new b r 3 exhibition (official site) once again explores the many ways devs choose to draw their streams, rivers and oceans – this time, through the lens of free game-making webtool Bitsy.
Water’s a strange thing, really. We all know what it’s supposed to look like, how it’s supposed to act, but it’s routinely one of the hardest things to really nail down in a videogame. In 2017, Barr’s v r 3 museum collected dozens of different water samples from the Unity Asset Store – motivated by the absurdity of discovering the “Pro Water” addon. “It really is impressive water,” Barr reflected, “and the fact that one can be impressed by water interests me”.
Framed this way, their unique quirks were heightened – reflectivity, ripples, gloss and colour varying from exhibit to exhibit. Pip Warr took a tour of v r 3 for us at the time, enraptured by its “pleasing snapshot of different game aesthetics”.
B r 3 offers a more challenging premise, if only by virtue of Bitsy’s absolute minimalism. That’s sort of the appeal though, ain’t it? How many ways can you really render water with 64 pixels, 2 colours and 2 frames?
More than you’d think, it turns out. Bitsy’s limitations lead to radically different interpretations of good ol’ H2O – whether that’s When I Was A Bubble I Could Talk With The Trees using a shimmering grid to convey a stillness, or how Racing… accomplishes plenty with a waving line, used sparingly. Each exhibit lets you hop into a bespoke room, letting you view each water tile in context alongside a link to the source game.
I’m forever in awe at the momentum the Bitsy community keeps up, even if its overwhelming speed had me tapping out fairly early on. B r 3 isn’t even the only Bitsy museum running at the moment – in lieu of physical meet-ups, Pittsburgh arcade-slash-arts collective LIKELIKE set up their own browser-based Bitsy museum earlier this month.
B r 3 is free to check out over on Pippin Barr’s site. If you’ve found yourself (for whatever reason) craving more museum trips during this lockdown period, you can’t go wrong with some of the stellar institutions lined up in my digital museum dive from last year.
Disclosure: b r 3 contains examples of work from former RPS columnist Porpentine and personal friend Claire Morley.