Games as Poetry

Joe Rheaume's picture
I Wish I Were the Moon
I Wish I Were the Moon's strange love-triangle

Last week I wrote about games that tried to turn text into a playable experience. One of the games I didn't get a chance to talk about was Today I Die by Daniel Benmergui, which doesn't quite fit in the same category. It would be more accurate to describe it as a "playable poem". There have been a few other playable poems that have been recognized in the Casual Games scene recently, such as I Wish I Were the Moon (also by Daniel Benmergui) and The Majesty of Colors by Gregory Weir (Author of Silent Conversation).

I use the term Playable Poem rather than Interactive Poem for a reason. Interactive art tends to feel more like a toy than a game. You can play with it, but you can't play it. These three poems are not just interactive, they are games. You play them by trying different things until you find one of the "endings". Each of these games has multiple endings, and some of the endings are not easy to find. This creates a challenge and an incentive to overcome that challenge.

"I Wish I Were the Moon" starts out with no text. There is an animated scene of a girl in a rowboat staring up at a boy who is sitting on the Moon. The player interacts with the game by using the mouse to take a photo of a small portion of the scene, and then clicking somewhere else on the scene to drop the photo. The photograph magically moves the subject of the photo from one spot to another, which affects the story. During play, the player gains an understanding of the feelings of the two characters in the scene. The girl is in love with the boy, but the boy is in love with the Moon. Is there a way to make them both happy? Or is it more important for one of them to let go of their desires? There are at least eight different possible endings.

"Today I Die" has only two endings, as far as I am aware. The only difference being how you handle the very last scene. You begin with a scene of a girl tied to a rock, sinking in the water. The text at the top of the screen is a very dark poem suggesting the girl's suicidal thoughts. The way you interact with this game is by clicking and dragging the art objects and the highlighted words in the poem. Right away you'll discover you can change the background scene by changing the words in the poem. You can also make more words become available by interacting with with objects on screen. It's easy to get stuck at the beginning, but it's well worth figuring out. The one hint I will give is that some objects change slowly as you hold onto them with the mouse.

"The Majesty of Colors" is a told from the perspective of a Lovecraftian creature living at the bottom of the sea. By clicking and dragging, you can extend one of the creature's tentacles in an attempt to interact with the strange and newly discovered world of humans. Text at the top displays your character's inner thoughts as you try to comprehend the alien concept of humanity. There are six endings.

What do these games have to do with education? Each one is using gameplay, text and visuals to tell a story that has an emotional impact. They each have something to say about life, death, longing, or humanity and they use that emotional impact to make sure that their point leaves a lasting impression. Creating an interactive experience that sticks with a player should be the goal of any educational game designer.

Play I Wish I Were the Moon

Play Today I Die

Play The Majesty of Colors



Very nice interpretation of

Very nice interpretation of the games, I've never heard of them as playable poems before, neat concept. I do agree that all games definitely leave a lasting impression, pretty powerful stuff for such simple creations.