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The Garden Of Earthly Delights turns Age Of Empires into an animal chatroom

Race you to the burning castle.

Towns burn, troops gather, armies are on the move. But who'll consider the wildlife left behind when civilizations go to war? Following their work on mixed-reality deathmatch futures, SCRNPRNT's The Garden Of Earthly Delights is a free online chatroom for the animals of Age Of Empires 2, letting them hang out amidst the fires of a low-res warzone.

Remember, man is as much an animal as any boar, bear, or bird - something to keep in mind, should you feel like waltzing around the battlefield as an unarmed, topless bloke.

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The Garden is a new virtual hangout spot from SCRNPRNT, the architects behind strange Counter-Strike dreamscape Dustnet. This time, they've taken their eyes to Age Of Empires 2, as framed within a low-res facsimile of Hieronymus Bosch's The Garden Of Earthly Delights.

Once inside, The Garden lets you walk and talk your way through a verdant forest, blissfully ignorant of the violent strategy game playing out across the scene. At any time, you can use the arrow keys to swap between different creatures, each with their own speeds and perspectives on the world.

Animals (both player and NPC) mass and sprint through the fields around you, as AI soldiers work their patrols. It pays to pay attention to the latter, mind - while The Garden appears a peaceful place to converse with your fellow cows, human hunters will take an arrow to players who stray too close. Once players showed up, an ostrich challenged me to a race. An eagle barked like a dog. Absurd. Brilliant.

SCRNPRNT see the garden as a continuation on Dustnet's themes of deconstructing game environments, explaining that "the two projects recontextualize game space, allowing for open-ended play and consideration of video games situated from a broader perspective". I'm ultimately less familiar with Age Of Empires than I am Dust_2, but I'll be curious to see how gatherings of player-controller prey evolve within The Garden's (quite literal) frame.

The Garden Of Earthly Delights is free to play in your browser right now. It'll be followed by a written piece later this month, concerning the "representation of nature in games (Animal Crossing, Red Dead Redemption 2, Minecraft), and the virtual pastoral fantasy". Y'know, should you fancy a read.

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