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SFTW: The Graveyard

Each week Iain Simons picks a game so you can while away a few hours at your desk. This week the Gra

This week I'd like to share another entry from the Independent Games Festival shortlist, and something of a radically different timbre.

One of the qualities that excites me the most about the videogame is that after more than 30 years of development it's impossible to concisely describe what one is. More than any other kind of media, they can be characterised by the fuzziness of their boundaries - this week's game is especially provocative in its questioning the definitions of the form.

Belgian developer Tale of Tales create their work from a conspicuously artist-led approach. Their declaration that they "..explicitly want to cater to people who are not enchanted by most contemporary computer games, or who wouldn't mind more variety in their gameplay experiences.." gives a strong indication of the kind of project to expect.

Working as they do within a critical framework of new-media art, founders Auriea Harvey and Michael Samyn take a transparent approach to their development, publishing papers expressing their ideas and maintaining a series of project blogs which candidly expose their process.

Their nominated project at IGF is The Graveyard, a radical and innovative piece which casts you in the unusual (for a videogame at least) role of an old lady. As the description of the project states on the site, " walk around, sit on a bench and listen to a song...", and that's really all the description you need.

The Graveyard is extremely challenging in that it constantly instills in the player the nagging sense that they should somehow be doing more- after all this is a videogame? Surely there must be more required of our intervention in this than simply hobbling an old woman slowly over to a bench? It's in the playing out of those limitations within the beautifully rendered world of the game, that the atmospheres that ToT are aspiring to create become evident. The Graveyard is as much about what you can't do, as what you can. The developers would describe it as a painting which you can explore, a useful summation.

The Graveyard requires no particular skills to 'play', just a little time. Wonderfully, the free to download demo version is exactly the same as the $5 one except for one feature - the full version offers the possibility that the old lady might die.

The Graveyard

The Graveyard development post-mortem

The Graveyard from Tale of Tales on Vimeo

Iain Simons writes, talks and tweets about videogames and technology. His new book, Play Britannia, is to be published in 2009. He is the director of the GameCity festival at Nottingham Trent University.