Saturday, 3 March 2012

Syberia and Digital Art Part 1

There has been debate about whether video games can be classified as art, with both gaming's detractors and fans giving their input. Some claim that the interactive nature of games stops it from being art, others have played many games which have genuinely touched them or affected them. In my opinion, art is something that makes you think or affects you in some interesting or profound way, and many games have done that for me. Perhaps this discussion will be re-visited later on, but for now I would like to discuss two computer adventure games, in the same series, that struck me as being particularly profound: Syberia and Syberia 2. This blog will focus on these games, not the games as art debate.

Syberia was released in 2002 and Syberia 2 came out in 2004. They were released for the PC, but ports were made for the Xbox (original) and PS2, and a more recent adaption for the DS (for the first game). The games are, however,  outstanding and old-school examples of the computer adventure game genre. What do I mean by adventure games? Adventure can mean so many things nowadays  including action games with exploration elements, but that is not the kind of adventure game I am referring to. These games are point-and-click, inventory and puzzle based adventure games. You control a character, wandering around different environments, picking up a ludicrous number of items (that your character could not realistically fit on their body!) and interacting with characters and environmental puzzles. The Syberia series is more than its gameplay, if that makes sense. It is a beautiful and moving experience with a poignant story to tell and a timeless message, the endlessly bleak yet evocative windswept environments of the game mirror the delicateness, isolation and slow pace of the unraveling story. Syberia would not work nearly as well as a movie or book, the interaction inherent to gaming actually adds to the uniqueness of the story.

Your protagonist, Kate Walker, is an ambitious, hip, resourceful lawyer from New York whose outward confidence hides insecurity and a kind streak. She has arrived in the small, quaintly picturesque French town of Valadilene, hidden away in the European Alps. The game world is set in modern times in a slightly altered timeline: one where automatons were, for a brief time in the 1800s, extremely important and widespread inventions in the fields of toy-making, industry, transport and war. Automatons are wind-up mechanical inventions, ranging from moving figurines to wind-up trains to automated workers. These automatons became obsolete with the onset of electricity, and by modern times, they are nothing but a faded memory. Valadilene happens to be the home-town of the Voralberg automaton factory which was the most popular and profitable automaton producer back in its hey-day.

So why is Kate in Valadeline? She is a lawyer for a large law firm which is currently representing Universal Toy Co, a toy mega-corporation. Their client wants to buy-out the Valadeline factory to acquire its historical name, and convert it to a modern producer of electric and battery-powered toys. I assume taking over and modernizing a company with nostalgic appeal in Europe would have appealed to local customers as a brand name. In any case, the deal seems simple. Voralberg Toys is on the verge of bankruptcy, unable to pay its debts. The current owner, Anna Voralberg, cleverly mitigated the decline of the industry by advertising the company to obscure, wealthy art-house clients. This enabled the company to barely eke out an existence for years, but recently this meager source of income is no longer enough to even pay the company's debts. An offer to acquire the company for a large sum, from a wealthy corporation, seems like an irresistible offer, especially considering the potential economic revitalization of the fading town. And Anna Voralberg did agree to the terms, Kate is there merely to take care of the formalities, the contract and signatures required.

Naturally, as stories tend to go, Kate finds out her newest job will not be so straightforward. Upon arriving at Valadeline, she witnesses a funeral procession for the recently deceased Anna Voralberg...

Look out for the epic, dark fantasy ebooks of Goodreads-rated author T.P. Grish at: 

No comments:

Post a Comment