a portfolio of videogame writings
I’ve heard people compare Ed Key and David Kanaga’s Proteus to many things this year: an acid trip, a patchwork of pixels, tantric sex and most peculiarly, a mash-up of Minecraft and Halo. But for me there’s a far better comparison to be drawn than any of these, one that sums up my relationship with this often abstruse videogame better than any other: that of the semi-frozen sugar syrup, sorbet.
Hear me out.
Sorbet is a simple, unassuming dessert, constructed of little more than flavored water and sugar, frozen and blended. Similarly, Proteus is a simple and unassuming videogame, constructed of little else than pastel pixels and polygonal landscapes, composed and randomized. Sorbet lacks the lavish extravagance of its dairy-based brethren, ice cream, much like Proteus eschews the frivolity of the bump-mapped, high-resolution textures adorning its peers, instead opting for light, retro-styled cell shading.
Both of these creations have a decided simplicity to their appeal: sorbet isn’t a grandiose display of culinary extravagance, but a humble solidified ball of the most common liquid molecule on earth. And just as sorbet proves that simple food can be delicious, Proteus is a poignant reminder that simplicity in videogame design is a powerful tool, demonstrating that photorealism isn’t necessarily the pathway to emotional resonance, that discovery in videogames is often most powerful when left to occur organically and that games can be equally if not more affecting as simple experiences than as difficult challenges.