Analysing the IGF: Between

Analysing the IGF: Between

It was only after I'd finished I realised quite how long I'd spent.

Between is a game from Jason Rohrer, the maker of Passage and Gravitation, and it’s by far his most… baffling. It’s multiplayer only, requiring two people to play, and it relies on them having little to no direct contact with one another. Perhaps using the man’s own words to describe the game would be a good place to start.

You know exactly what you need to do — you can see it shimmering right there in front of you. You can see it while dreaming, too, and the difference has become subtle. Dreams wake into dreams, and people blend in and out: real characters and dream characters, all woven into the same script. Finally, they fade completely, and you’re alone in the expanse with the construction. With time, you feel something growing, a pinhole that eventually yawns into a deep ravine of longing. The construction languishes, though the expanse seems indifferent.

The point of Between is difficult to grasp at first. There is the shimmering tower of colours and blocks, and there is the ability to make blocks. So you begin to build, but it soon becomes shockingly apparent that you cannot make the tower by yourself; you simple don’t have enough variations of blocks. Beyond that point it’s almost impossible to describe the game without ruining it, but what apparently seems to be an entirely single player experience soon becomes incredibly involving and obviously requiring the second person.

Instead of talking about how the game plays, I’ll talk of the themes and ideas that seem to be behind it. I played the game with Mythrilfan, our irregular guest writer. He had previously expressed disdain for Passage, and was suspicious going in when we started playing Between. While his displeasure with the game was obvious, it was extremely interesting to play the game with someone who didn’t really want to play in the first place. My actions in building the tower didn’t gel well with his trying to build giant constructs in the open spaces, and we ended up thwarting one another without even knowing we were doing it.

The point of Between is that you are utterly alone, and yet at the same time you are helping another person. It has all the qualities of a complete multiplayer game without ever actually having any interaction with the other person. I’d recommend you try and restrict all contact with the other player, even instant messages, as it encourages both of you to play the game in the way that helps one another the most.

It’s becoming extremely difficult to talk about the game any more without ruining it, so I’ll stop, leaving you instead with a download link and an imploration to at least give it a go, try and find someone fun to play it with, and just enjoy it.

The mundanity of the scenes on the peripherals of Between is startling.

Between is nominated for the Innovation Award in the 2009 IGF Awards.

One thought on “Analysing the IGF: Between

  1. I did like the point of it, and as I think many people will find it entertaining, I think you should all try it. It’s kind of Spore-ish in concept, in that while you’re not actively touching and fondling each other, you’re passively still affecting each others’ game. His games have always been more what you think of them and less what they really are. Unfortunately, the formula hasn’t really worked on me yet.

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