Ruins: Digital Dream Poetry

This is going to be a very brief impression, but there’s another game I wanted to share with you.

Ruins, developed by Cardboard Computer, is a new digital art piece in which you control a dog, Agatha, who chases a number of white rabbits in a dreamlike landscape which is dominated by ruins, trees, fog, and piano. The dog can speak with the rabbits, who convey a narrative from the perspective of one of the dog’s owners. Through these dialogues, about a dozen in total before the play session ends, we can catch glimpses of Agatha’s life with her owners and the relationship between the three. There is an emotional charge in these understated short conversations between Agatha and the rabbits, and combined with the sadness inherent in the dreamscape, the music softly playing in the background, this makes Ruins a rich emotional experience.

Agatha explores the ruins of her dreams.

The emotional weight of the work is enhanced by the resonances of Caspar David Friedrich’s moody paintings of ruins in the visual design, as well as the link between the music playing (two of Chopin’s Preludes) and the same music featuring literally and symbolically in the narrative, that is, the link between preludes and ruins as ‘unwhole’ states of thoughts and creations.

Perhaps most touching is the ambiguity of the whole situation. Is Agatha the dog merely dreaming she is chasing rabbits? If so, it seems a rather weighted and dark setting for such an upbeat doggy activity. Or could it be that she has died, and is living through retrospective remnants of her life, sharing her thoughts with her owner for a final time? Like many good works of art, the interpretation is left to the viewer, reader, player, listener, or whatever you want to be in this case. Regardless, Ruins is another testament, if a short and small one, to the fascinating works that are produced at the forefront of digital art.

You can download Ruins for free (Windows and Mac) here.

A longer (and recommended) impression of Ruins can be read on Rock Paper Shotgun.

The Abbey in the Oakwood by Caspar David Friedrich