creator Jason Rohrer's latest game, Between
, bears all of his hallmarks: austere, pixelated visual style, an abstract character, and an environment that combines the natural with the man-made -- but it requires two players, and designer and author Ian Bogost suggests fans of Rohrer's other titles might find it a bit confusing at first.
tasks two players with manipulating colored blocks together:
Here, temporarily, the player feels as though a collaboration with the second player will be both fruitful and facile: all that is needed are enough secondary color blocks to allow the solitary construction of the tower.
But then, and quickly, disappointment sets in: one player cannot simply request specific blocks from the other; rather, a complex and unseen process generates shadow blocks based on the structure the other player builds. This structure too remains unseen.
Players are limited in the processes they can use to wholly collaborate -- and Bogost analyzes Rohrer's deceptively complex game mechanics to explore the very nature of multiple-player games and the concept of player identity.
Between does not try to create identification through collaboration. The game aims to create a relationship between two players that focuses both on the chasm that separates them as human beings, rather than on a common foe, or one another as foes, or as a medium for social interaction.
You can now read the full feature
, in which Bogost explores the idea of "otherness" in the game, and discusses the concept of "disjunctive" play -- whereby the game mechanics emphasize the distance between players, rather than their cooperation (no registration required, please feel free to link to this feature from other websites).