It seems so long ago now, but its only been 2 years since Roger Ebert famously conceded that he was wrong to say video games could never be art. It was the final blow to a debate that had raged for years, could video games ever be seriously considered an artform?
At the epicenter of the myriad examples to be offered that loudly said Yes, they could, there were games like Jonathan Blow’s Braid, Thatgamecompany’s Flower and a handful of games by none other than Jason Rohrer.
Just around that time Rohrer was finishing up his most ambitious project to date: Sleep is Death, a do-it-yourself co-op point-and-click adventure game. Forgive me if I take a few liberties in saying that the genre hadn’t been touched before. Rohrer is all about innovative new ideas that haven’t been tried and his collection of works is almost like a gallery of new game mechanics and self-discovery. I like to think of Rohrer’s works as “gaming art ground zero”; easily digestible, provocative and inspiring to artistic game designers all-around.
Rohrer’s next project is already complete, its called Diamond Trust of London and it will be for the Nintendo DS only. On top of that, to publish the game Rohrer has elected to fund it through Kickstarter and of course that’s where bloggers like myself come in, to get the word out and get this thing funded. I really wish I had known about the project sooner as its only a few days away from completing now and is barely scraping by its asking amount.
The game itself takes place in the lucrative diamond-trading business within Angola over a decade ago. In the months leading up to a new UN law that would outlaw diamond trading, players must scramble to get as many diamonds as they can out of the country. Using 3 agents within Angola, the player must bid for diamonds while their opponent simultaneously tries to outbid them.
Much of the information within the game is veiled in secret. For instance, you can bribe enemy agents to work for you and reveal the enemy’s bids, but at the same time you will have no idea if your own agents are still loyal to you or if they are already revealing your own bids. Those familiar with poker should be keen to the idea of revealing what you have without actually showing your cards and it sounds like Diamond Trust of London shares a lot of the same dynamic.
The Nintendo DS is an interesting platform choice and Kickstarter even more interesting. The market for Nintendo DS Jason Rohrer fans who frequent Kickstarter will probably be a little slim and I have some reason to believe this is probably why the project is still underfunded at the time of this writing, with only days to go. But the most interesting thing about the Nintendo DS choice is how great it is as a platform for this type of game. 2 screens are completely separated and can even be facing away from each other, in fact players could easily go into separate rooms for complete solitude with their decisions. Its the sort of idea Rohrer himself played with in his 2-different-computers-required game Between.
So while I do have some concerns over the potential amount of backers for this Kickstarter, I can still confidently say that this project will get funded without a doubt. Its getting it to a more respectable comfort zone (knowing the unexpected costs that always arise in these situations) that’s needed at this point. Anyone with a DS and a passion for strategy gaming needs to be checking this out, art game fandom not required.
Since time is short let me try to lay out all of the essentials to make it as easy to decide if you want to help as possible (have I mentioned I love to make lists?)
- New game by “games as art” veteran Jason Rohrer, creator of critically-acclaimed Passage (go play it if you haven’t yet, it only takes 5 minutes!)
- 2-player turn-based strategy game
- Nintendo DS platform
- Only 1 copy of the game required to play with friends (download and play supported)
- Sure-to-be a great test of trust and backstabbery between 2 players.
Check it out and then proceed to throw your money in their general direction.