What Shape Is It?
Tomorrow, our newest game The Shape On The Ground - Steam Edition comes out. It is definitely the toughest sell in all of our current game catalog. It is hardly a game, as commonly understood : rather, TSOTG is an esoteric walking simulator that hopes to stimulate your brain and creativity, and offer the possibility of self-reflection, if one is so inclined.
Think of a game with an inspiring environment, then remove all gameplay until only walking around remains as a verb. That's basically it. As I said, tough sell.
But what is it about? I've touched on the subject before, and while revealing too much about the experience robs it of some of its potential magic, I can repeat what I've said about it before. The Shape On The Ground is about grief and my personal relationship with it.
The original incarnation of the software presented itself as a psychological evaluation test. Of course, this was all meta-fiction, because the themes and mood are anything but scientific or neutral, instead seeking to openly influence and impress a heavy atmosphere on the player / patient. None of it would reasonably pass as an actual psych eval, of course.
It's all meant to bring the player to reflect on the losses they've encountered personally. Loss due to death, yes, but also break ups, loss of a dream or ambition, etc. The anger, the fear, the self-loathing that comes with it. For a title that pretended on the surface to be scientific, it is very much corrupted by strong emotions. It was a cathartic experience to create, a few years ago, and I can only hope it brings a similar sense of closure to at least one player out there.
The title of the game comes from a song with the same name, from French musician Rodolphe Burger (the slower, moodier live version he recorded with his band Kat Onoma comes highly recommended). The song talks about the shape of people and things left after them in the ruins of the atomic bombs launched against Hiroshima in Japan. It is a sad and powerful song, in my humble opinion, and it reflects well on the themes of the game.
Because loss comes at us in different forms, but the way we recognize it best is by the hole it leaves in our minds, the contours of the missing piece. The shape on the ground. The person, the object, the dream we had still lives in our mind, as a shadow of what it was.
So yes, TSOTG is a sad game, at its core. But that's also why I included a short message system at the end. Completing the game (answering all of the questions and entering the church to see one of the five possible endings) leads the player to a final screen where a fortune-cookie-type message is displayed. Those messages, while meant to be vague as to reach the most people, are also meant to be encouraging. Because self-reflection should lead to a better understanding of, and thus, a better appreciation of oneself.
It is my wish, through TSOTG, to give people some inner peace, especially if they are wrestling with grief or loss of any form. It is a horror-themed experience, through its influences and somewhat depressing subject matter, but I hope some players can be surprised by its intentions and resolution.
You can play The Shape On The Ground - Steam Edition by downloading it here.