Game on: Scottish artists bring their work to life with video games
- Murray Robertson
- 9 November 2018
Simon Meek and Jack King-Spooner explain how they're using the medium of video games
It's a hoary old question: are video games art? But over recent years, thanks largely to the explosion of low-budget independent game production, a number of traditional artists have discovered vast possibilities of creative expression afforded by the interactive, multimedia nature of games.
Simon Meek of interactive design studio The Secret Experiment is a V&A design champion and the first ever designer in residence at the newly opened V&A Dundee. His most recent game, Beckett, is on permanent display in the museum, helping cement gaming's place in the world of visual art. Meek describes Beckett as a surreal noir which examines the nature of reality, influenced by the works of William S Burroughs, JG Ballard and Samuel Beckett. It's an extraordinarily beautiful game and you could take a screenshot at any point, print it off and hang it in on a wall.
'I'm very multidisciplinary,' Meek explains. 'I cut my teeth in journalism and moved into television development, writing and directing.' He's worked in games for some time now, with notable projects including PlayStation 3's interactive storytelling device Wonderbook and an ambitious adaptation of John Buchan's novel The 39 Steps. 'I got quite obsessed with the potential of games and interactive media for telling stories. I'm trying to explore and mine the potential of video games as a new and potentially limitless storytelling medium.'
Although Meek created much of Beckett himself, his company, The Secret Experiment, received funding from Scottish Enterprise which enabled him to hire a small team to assist him on the game, working with a six-figure budget. It sounds like a lot of money but Meek claims it was a low enough amount to help him focus his creativity. 'I'm a big believer that design comes out of constraint,' he reckons. 'One of the constraints of Beckett, right from the start, was: this cannot be a big-budget game because I'm self-funding this, so a lot of the choices which are now presented as ingenious design choices are because I had no animation budget and I didn't want to rely on 3D modelling. So what can I do?'