Wednesday, February 10, 2010

A Memento

The word memento comes from the Latin phrase memento mori which translates as 'remember you must die'.

Vanitas, like the image above, carry reminders of our mortality, and were common in the 16th and 17th centuries. Time pieces, rotting fruit and delicate, easily broken objects were some of many reminders of the fragility of life, the notion of time passing, decay and of course, death. You'll notice the skull in the back right of the picture, which was one of the most common images found in Vanitas, for obvious reason!

Vanitas were intended to remind you of your religion, that your time on earth was fleeting and that there were higher obligations to consider. Another common interpretation is that vanitas were there to lift you up when you felt low, and bring you down when you were were too euphoric. A steadying influence if you like. They were also used to inspire reflection, and to remind an audience to enjoy what time they had remaining.

Morbid stuff huh?

Which leads me to a recent discovery, a new Vanitas app recently released for the iphone.

I have to say I was intrigued when I saw it, and have enjoyed opening and closing my Vanitas box over the past few days. What particularly drew my attention however, was the other work Tale of Tales are doing with video games and story.

Games that lack a linear narrative to tug you through to the end, or a constant stream of weapon improvements to feed your addiction to upgrade. These games are instead for exploration and reflection. They are intended to challenge our perceptions of what games should or can be.

Personally, I love the work they are doing. It's powerful, thought provoking, and games like The Graveyard seem to suggest a drifting story that is just waiting for you to fill in the blanks.

These games inspire imagination, in a way that 99% of what's on the market today is unable to achieve.

Take a wander through their site and see what you think. I'm going to watch for future developments closely.

The image at the top of the page is titled Vanitas Still Life by Pieter Claesz 1628