Garden is a web-based art game that follows a continuous loop for the user to explore. It was created by Owen Roberts and published on August 21st, 2021 after being worked on for 2 years. The game was inspired by Bosch’s painting “The Garden of Earthly Delights” and through using animated drawings, symbols and music, represents the complexity of mortal existence, as well as the afterlife. The web browser game utilizes point and click only to start the game, but continues utilizing keyboard WASD or the arrow keys in order to move around. There is also the possibility to utilize headphones for the sound, but this can be turned off as well. It was an example of electronic literature that was featured within The New River fall 2021 issue, which was posted Dec. 3 2021.
Roberts is a web-based artist and gamer designer but he is also an educator at a variety of different schools, spanning unique subjects such as coding and multimedia. He is based in Brooklyn, New York but his all of his work can be found online on his website. He also posts many of his games on his itch.io account where he goes by the name Owen Ribbit. Many sneak peeks of his future projects can be found on his Twitter and Instagram. Some of his other games are called “Infinite Hell 2” and “God is a Ghost” taking on similar religious themes that are found in Garden. Many of his games and artwork utilize the same simplistic animated style that are made up of basic lines and few colours.
The game begins giving you information on how to move around as well as giving you the option to turn off the sounds. I strongly suggest leaving the sound on, if you can, as it completely enhances the atmosphere of the game and makes it more interesting to do so. The music itself sounds of a church choir, however, the more you play around, the more the music changes. Without giving anything away too much, the music will alter to be louder or quieter and different locations will provide unique sounds, such as bells when you reach the heaven portion of the game. When you click to start, you are placed into a white background world as a 2d cat that has x’d out eyes. You’re surrounded by a multitude of surrealistic drawings, many featured in the screenshots below. You utilize the keys to walk around this unique, creepy, terrain, as the cat, and are unable to interact with anything that you see. You continue exploring the artwork, but after going in any direction for too long you end up returning to where you started, as it is a loop.
One may find the game a little simplistic, as the images are quite roughly and plainly drawn, however, many of the images are carefully thought out by the author and reflect the theme. One example is the use of countless ‘thank you’ grocery bags that are put on the map, along with other trash, as a reflection of mortal sins, and gluttony. I believe it is these little notions in the game that make its message a powerful environmental commentary as well.
Bosch’s painting, which the game is inspired by, features 3 panels that are representative of the garden of Eden, Earthly desires, and Hell. Mentioned on the website Art in Context, through including massive animals, unusual human and animal behaviour, as well as nonexistent objects, Bosch explores surrealism. Garden stays on theme with this, through representing animals such as birds eating cats, having massive animals interacting with human items like cell phones and even featuring quad copter cats as part of its fun. I think the game is extremely interesting to look at, and one needs many walk throughs to notice all the hidden symbols that Roberts carefully places in it. I urge the viewer to pay attention to things such as the snakes shapes, or the mysterious cat on the boat, as many of the images are symbolic of different religions.
Overall, I think the game lacks with it’s inability to interact with the objects. While the creepy atmosphere is nailed by the gyrating animals, eerie changing music and horrific surreal imagery, it would be more enjoyable to interact with such objects. I warn viewers that the images are quite graphic, showing death, rotting, excrement and other gross images. I find that the images are great representation of the theme and part of the enjoyment is the jarring nature of the images set before you. Overall, it has left a lasting impression on me because of this, so I recommend viewers to check it out.
This is a representation of digital literature, as it falls into the category of contemporary literature, specifically, interactive fiction. In Hayles’ 2007 article “Electronic Literature: What is it?"” she distinguishes that games can be considered electronic literature if they contain elements such as: interactive gameplay, graphics, animations, and modifications to traditional literature elements. Garden utilizes these ideas, while modifying literary themes like symbolism.
This entry was written as part of Dani Spinosa’s course ENGL 4309: Digital Adventures in English for Trent University in February 2022.