The Marriage, a game developed by Rod Humble, has ignited a very welcome discussion on games as art, and their capabilities to convey more complex and delicate matters. In case you are not familiar with the game, you can download it and read about its background, rules and interpretations on Rod's website. Here are some passages explaining the game experience:
"The Marriage is intended to be art. No excuses or ducking. As such its certainly meant to be enjoyable but not entertaining in the traditional sense most games are. This means I am certain to be perceived as being pretentious by some who read this, my apologies. This is also a very difficult game to understand, again my apologies, I have tried to assist those who are interested but frustrated with the rules summary below."
"Initially you have two squares a blue and a pink, on screen.
Soon different coloured circles will enter and leave the play space.
You have two controls.
1.) When you mouse over the blue or pink square the blue square reduces in size and both squares move towards each other.
2.) When you mouse over a circle it disappears and the pink square gets smaller."
The general game flow will be balancing the need to have the pink & blue squares “kiss” to insure the pink square does not fade from the marriage versus the blue square needing to touch the circles to insure it does not fade."
"The game is my expression of how a marriage feels. The blue and pink squares represent the masculine and feminine of a marriage. They have differing rules which must be balanced to keep the marriage going.
The circles represent outside elements entering the marriage. This can be anything. Work, family, ideas, each marriage is unique and the players response should be individual.."
Having played the thing myself, and having read some comments on several websites, here is some of what I think of the game:
The Marriage is art. Although I spoiled my experience by reading the game meaning before actually playing it, I was delighted to see how Humble managed to express his views, in a elegant way, on such an intricate subject as marriage.
Apparently, the economy of possible actions within the game has upset some players, who argue that a handful of variables cannot handle the complexity of the relationship it tries to simulate. I can understand it does not illustrate the total experience of being married. But at the same time, it is enough to express the author's view, if not in its totality, at least regarding a specific feeling he must have had at some point about a personal issue.
The Marriage feels, to me, like poetry. On a personal note, it fits within my interest in unorthodox game modes and non-games. The Marriage is an auteur game, for I've seen, through playing, how Humble perceives marriage and - maybe that's the point - how Humble perceives his personal experience of being married. This is not something we see everyday in games.