The Endless Forest
The Endless Forest, created by Belgian artists Auriea Harvey and Michael Smyn in 2005, is a Massive Multi-Player Online Role Playing game that allows its users to create their own strange little deer avatar and prance around a seemingly endless forest. The game is as simple as its title. It creates a mutable online (or offline) forest where the user can change the settings until they are satisfied with the aesthetics of the forest. For example, on the home page there are a list of options that allow the user to make the game environment for detailed or surreal by playing with the softness slider. While playing the game, the user controls their deer avatar by moving it around to explore the forest, make noises, and perform simple movements such as sitting, laying down, and dancing. After aimlessly frolicking around the forest for a while, one will begin to notice the small changes that happen every once in a while. These changes include other deer disappearing in a dark mist, bunnies running across the screen, and the occasional interaction with another deer. These rather humble happenings are the sole contributors to the depth of the game.
Although a lovely intended concept, running through a forest as a odd looking deer with a man like face does not invoke too much excitement for the game player. Admittedly, there is a soothing, calming aspect of the light and dreamlike aesthetic to the forest atmosphere. However, there really is no other conversation to be held about this game other than the artistic choices in atmospheric visualizations. The concept is quite shallow. The game seemed to be designed in order to create a simple and easy way for its users to waste time. There is not much content or in depth interaction that the user can take part in rather than meandering through the dimly lit forest and essentially staring at other deer and wildlife. Consequently, this game is nothing more than a way to waste time.
In a blog post on Adventure Lantern, Donna states:
"I find this game incredibly soothing. When I’m sad and tired, I take a run around the forest or sit inside the Old Oak, listening to gentle music. If I’m lonely, I connect and dance with other deer. If I feel like being lonely, I log out and walk around all alone. There’s something amazing about spending time in a forest, even if it’s a virtual one. I love zooming in and admiring all the tiny details creators put in – emerald frogs, doves, sparkly fireflies and butterflies flying around flower fields. The atmosphere is simply amazing" Donna, (June 2006), The Endless Forest
Contradictory to the previous review, Steve "Khad" Grant writes:
"Your deer can do a variety of things such as rubbing against a tree, eating moss from a tree, dancing, sniffing other deer, and most importantly, mooing.... For starters, there is absolutely nothing to do in this game. Sure you can frolic and drink water from a pond and run around in a graphically inept forest, but that's it-- I am dead serious, that is the entire game.You can't even chat with people in some stupid secret deer language. The only means of communication include mooing or sniffing each other's virtual deer butt holes. Somehow these people actually enjoy doing this every day for hours on end. Life must be great, waking up Saturday morning, taking a deep breath of stale air from the basement, and exclaiming, 'It is that time again! Time to be a deer!'" Grant, Steve "Khad", (22 December, 2007), The Endless Forest
While at first the magical forest environment is entrapping, it's hard to see how someone would spend hours of their day interacting (in extremely restrictive ways) to other members of the rather dull community. The overly simplistic layout of the game does not seem like it would attract too much of a following with little to no new additions for the many years it has been active. There are only a handful of players still currently participating in the game. This game would provide a useful platform for stress or anxiety relief for some, but still doesn't have enough features to keep the players seeking enterprisingly adaptive virtual adventure interested. However, for those who are solely desire a soothing, meditative collective, logging onto The Enchanted Forest is the perfect game.
Molleindustria created a game called Every day the same dream where the user uses the arrow keys to move a monochromatic character in a monochromatic world repetitively doing the most mundane, dull activities. These activities include getting dressed, getting yelled at by the wife, turning off the TV, riding an elevator, going to work, getting yelled at by the boss, and working in a cubicle. If the player chooses to exit the office they are taken to the roof of a building where they are allowed to jump off, which sadly puts the character right back in their bedroom ready to start another boring day. Once all the tasks are completed, then the player is shown a clip of their character jumping off of a building and the game ends. This game relates to the boring, repetitive nature of The Endless Forest and to the dreamlike, hypnosis the player finds themselves lost in while playing the game. The main component of both games is also just to navigate through mundane activities, whether it be as a man or a deer, that gets one through their day. Unlike The Endless Forest, this game carries an eye-opening and rather brutal underlying message about those daily routines.
Another similar art piece is the Graveyard by Tale of Tales. This game is another simplistic game where the object is to painfully slowly walk as an old woman down to the bench at the end of the graveyard using the directional keys and sit. As she sits there a sad song plays where a man sings in a foreign language about how the people in her life have all passed away from various maladies. When the song is complete, she gets up and needs to be walked out of the graveyard. As the fragile woman is guided through the graveyard, one is overcome with the melancholic fact that this woman is choosing to spend her last moments contemplating the death of her loved ones in a graveyard. As seen in The Endless Forest, the aesthetic of the game's atmosphere is the main contributor to what gives the game something extra beyond the deeper meaning of the work. The game is offered in a free and sold version where the only difference is that the old woman might die in the bought version.
The Endless Forest is, however, for many people a great way to pass time in a peaceful setting within the comfort of their own home.