Thursday, January 22, 2009


I've always loved Loom and had this feeling that even though The Secret of Monkey Island is the classic graphic adventure game, Loom is more... special. It has got a unique interface, in which you play melodies at things instead of using objects on objects - thus eliminating the inventory. It has a very deep and mysterious, however sparsely sketched, story. And it also attracted me by being a black sheep of the Lucasfilm's oeuvre.
Inspired by detailed analyses of games my Gambit colleagues Doris Rusch, Matt Weise and Clara Fernandéz-Vara wrote for the forthcoming Well Played book, I revisited Loom again to try to find out what's so special about it. I also read some online reviews that called Loom "the buddhist of videogames", for example, and tried to capture the elusive magic of the game in words. The recurring theme of fan reviews is the notion of lightness and intangibility.
I totally agree with them. But what intrigued me is how these feelings are brought about by the game's narrative and interface (especially given that adventure games are by many considered clumsy and not gamey enough). So I decided to write an "academic review" of the game.

I submitted the whole paper to the game studies journal Eludamos, so I cannot repeat the whole thing here. But in principle, Loom is a damn smart game. Instead of sucking the player in by the standard immersion techniques, it rather takes Bobbin, the main protagonist, out of the game world. He is a weaver, a member of a tribe that can alter the fabric universe with their magic of music, just like the player can control the game. He cannot bring any objects with himself on his journey, just as the player cannot bring any real-world objects into games. These parallels run very deep on all possible levels. Moreover, the identification of the player with Bobbin is made easier by him not having a face.
I spent so much time dissecting Loom that it bordered on obsession. Hopefully the paper will be published - and maybe it will even inspire people to look for smartness in games or to make smart games. If it is, I will instantly link it from here. Of course, there will be no screenshots, for reasons explained in the previous post.

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