I played The Marriage, read the explanation and read the interview with Rod Humble on Arthouse Games. Good thoughts all around. Good interview. If you haven’t yet played the game, do so. If you haven’t read the interview, I suggest it.
The circles represent outside elements effecting the marriage. Will this one be for the better?
The game is interesting. I’m glad it’s getting the attention it is, but I must say I’m disappointed. I remember hearing about The Marriage a while back in an Arthouse Games interview with Jonathan Blow. I loved hearing Blow discuss games because I really felt like someone was out there saying some words I thought needed to be said, doing some work I thought needed to be done. Reading that kind of stuff really charges me up. But some devilish part of my mind was still struck with a sense of jealousy or maybe intimidation, or some combination of the two, when he mentioned working on a pure art game called The Marriage.
Bergman would have made one hell of a game designer. . . .
I heard the title and immediately thought we’d see a game like an Ingmar Bergman movie and I couldn’t help but think “I want to make that game!” Well, The Marriage is not that at all, which gives me mixed feelings.
In his explanation of The Marriage, Humble says he hoped to “have the primary medium of expression something unique to games” and describes his attempt to express ideas through game rules. He also states that upon finishing the game, he believed it to be a failure (however his interview suggests that his spirits were raised by the audience’s positive response).
Taking Humble’s aim into consideration, I believe he was successful. One can play the game and get a sense of Humble’s definition of marriage as a sometimes chaotic relationship that requires effort and sacrifice to protect. That’s all there is to get though.
Humble succeeded, but he had set the bar rather low for himself. The concepts at play in The Marriage are good, but they really ought to be a single element of a more complex game. I don’t think one would even need a game of extreme complexity, but simply more of it. This may be because, to me, complexity is a fundamental aspect of relationships, but it is also because relationships involve many more principles than simply “balance and sacrifice.”
The Marriage also fails to represent any of the emotion tied up in marriage. Even if the player could not connect to a single character, we all tend to treat the souring of a marriage as sad news, but when the screen fades to black, I only ever experienced confusion (before I read the rules) or annoyance (after I figured it all out, got bored and got sloppy). No, I don’t think it needs a low ringing bell over a game over screen. Off the top of my head, I don’t know what it would need to give us the feeling of a marriage. I do consider emotions to be an important aspect of marriage that cannot be ignored by any work of art titled as bluntly as The Marriage.
This is the desktop icon for The Marriage. Each square unified by a circle, as marriange bonds two individuals into a single unit. It is that conflict between individualism and unity that threatens a marriage. . . . Too bad the game makes no mention of this fascinating paradox. . . . Maybe in the sequel.
So I was disappointed. When I first heard of the game, I just wished I could be a part of it, but I also wanted to see someone else achieve what I was hoping to do myself. I wanted a personal and honest expression of a close relationship with another human being, expressed through a video game. Now, having played it, I realize Humble and I weren’t quite imagining the same thing, but I can still appreciate his work.
One thing I like is the simple visuals. Accepting that kind of abstraction can really free up a game and it’s one of the factors that allows The Marriage to work. If I saw a man and a woman, I could criticize their acting and wardrobe, but give me two squares and we are simply discussing forms, ideas and allowing me to fill their blank expressions with looks and feelings. We often forget that even simple squares and circles can become people, beasts and machines in the world of games. Movement and deformation can make life of any object and when time is of the essence, a smart artist uses them.
All in all The Marriage is pretty cool. It does some good stuff that games just don’t normally do and for that, I am thankful.
Congrats Humble on a good piece. Keep ’em comin.
-Christopher J. Rock