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