Thesis: Related Games


This post is formatted somewhat like an annotated bibliography, listing games that relate to relevant concepts such as:

  • the impossible object
  • paradox
  • four dimensional space
  • optical illusion
  • forced-perspective
  • and non-euclidean geometry.


Antichamber (Demruth, 2013) is puzzle based and plays with non-euclidean spaces (space is not mapped flatly but can connect to itself in weird ways, making things like portals possible). Spaces change behind the player when they go around a corner. It is hard to watch play throughs without getting motion sickness. This is likely because the game is about looking around, and someone else is moving the camera to try to make us understand the puzzles.

The game has a minimal shading style, the ambiguity of which relates to multistable perception, which is what happens when “a single physical stimulus produces alternations between different subjective percepts. Multistability was first described for vision, where it occurs, for example, when different stimuli are presented to the two eyes or for certain ambiguous figures.” (Schwartz, 1). An example of multistability is Rubin’s face/vase image (where the multiple interpretations consist of a picture of  either two faces or of one vase).

Antichamber. [Alexander Bruce]. Demruth. January 31, 2013. Video Game.


Schwartz, J.-L., N. Grimault, J.-M. Hupe, B. C. J. Moore, and D. Pressnitzer. “Multistability in Perception: Binding Sensory Modalities, an Overview.”Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 367.1591 (2012): 896-905. Web.


There is literally a game called Perspective that makes use of (and constantly communicates) the fact that 3D games are 3D digital spaces mapped to 2D for screens. Perspective (DigiPen) is a platform jumping puzzle game where you can do things that are 3-dimensionally impossible, but that make sense if you make your eyes go blurry and try not to see depth. (The website has a helpful video).

Perspective. [Jason Meisel, etal] DigiPen Institute of Technology. Video Game.

Monument Valley

Similarly, Monument Valley (Ustwo, 2014), makes use of the fact that it is 2.5D (fixed isometric views) to show impossibilities (such as the Penrose triangle) that are usually part of the challenge of the game. Monument valley is similar to M.C. Escher’s implying 3D paradoxes by mapping them in 2D, and is aesthetically similar.

Escher Waterfall.jpg

Escher, M.C. Waterfall. 1961. Lithograph. N.p.

Monument Valley. Ustwo. April 3 2014. Video Game.


Museum of Simulation Technology

A few years back, I saw a demo for a game in development that is now called Museum of Simulation Technology (Pillow Castle). It is a game where you walk through a series of rooms solving puzzles that are often based around forced perspective. You might pick up a tower that is large that is  far away, and in your hand, have it be as small as it looked in the distance; a souvenir of a  tower. Pillow Castle has an updated demo you can watch to better understand this concept.

Museum of Simulation Technology. Pillow Castle Games. Under development. Video Game.



I bought Fez a few years ago and was really inspired by it. My favourite part was exploring the little town at the beginning (I preferred this to doing the actual puzzles, which probably says something about my relationship with games). Fez is another example of that 3D to 2D mapping trick that games have used. It’s also a good source for my research because it’s fully developed, and you can see how the essential logical/illogical aspect of the game has been tied into the aesthetics and the story.

More on surrealism

Because I’m struggling with how overtly surreal I want the transitions in my game to be, and how much I should address the impossibility of what is being portrayed, I’ve been noticing These ideas have been appearing in my research:

  • Diegetic vs non-diegetic sound
  • Breaking the 4th wall
  • Meta-textual references

Emma Westecott, who is acting as a thesis instructor this semester, noted that text is a sort of a layer between the player and the game world. How many non-diegetic or surreal things do I want in my game?

Wes Anderson’s scenes are often theatre-like and break the forth wall. Similarly, the  prolog of Dogville (2003) is highly stylized, but the scenes still feel rich and interesting. Part way through the introductory part of the game, Fez re-shows the Polytron start-up logo sequence, as if the main character’s discovery of a new dimension is so universe shifting that it affects the running of the actual game. These things bring attention to the medium and to the un-realness of what is being portrayed. Surprisingly, they don’t necessarily keep the viewer/player from feeling like they’re exploring a rich, lived-in world.

Dogville. Dir. Lars Von Trier. Lions Gate Entertainment, 2003. Film Clip. Dogville Prolog. Youtube, 11 Jan. 2011. Web. 22 Nov. 2016.

Fez. [Phil Fish, Renaurd Bédard]. Polytron Corporation. April 13, 2012. Video Game.


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