Literary games Puzzling Poetry and Winter are subsidized by Gamefonds and the Dutch Foundation for Literature (Letterenfonds). Game developers collaborate with writers to make these games.
Flemish writer Joost Vandecasteele is working with indie game studio Happy Volcano on the game Winter, in which the story’s dark narrative is determined by gameplay. In Studio Louter and poet Lucas Hirsch’s game Puzzling Poetry players recreate poetry.
The two developer-and-writer collaborations took part in an open call done by the Gamefonds (an initiative of Creative Industries Fund NL and Mediafonds) and the Dutch Foundation for Literate. The three funds want to stimulate the collaboration between the literary world and the games industry.
Puzzling Poetry and Winter were chosen out of almost 50 submissions. Last summer, five projects were selected by the Dutch Foundation for Literature to be further developed. A joint advisory committee selected two games that would receive subsidies for their development. The committee was especially enthused about the manner in which the literary quality and the game design merge into one cohesive whole. Which games were the best and most appropriate to present during the Frankfurter Buchmesse 2016 was also a discussed topic.
Suzanne Meeuwissen, senior policy officer at the Foundation for Literature, stated that the collaboration between games and literature is ‘relevant and exciting,’ especially given the technological developments. “The literature takes place outside of the book through technology, and focuses on a new and younger (reading) audience. It also enriches the process for game developers, as the literary scenarios and storylines add a new and often times surprising layer to a game.”
Puzzling Poetry is a game in which the player is presented with deconstructed poems by Lucas Hirsch and other poets, with as end-goal the recreation of these poems. Next to the meaning of the words, the challenge is to pick up on rhythm and graphical relativity. “Playing with words leads to an unexpected, concentrated way of reading,” according to the selection committee.
The game Winter (by Flemish collective Happy Volcano) is a mobile game in which the player navigates step by step through a world of tiles. With each step, a story unfolds – an inner dialogue written by Joost Vandecasteele, which the player can use to determine the course of said story. The fresh, sleek design by Happy Volcano is combined with a dark, literary story by Vandecasteele.
In October of 2016, Puzzling Poetry and Winter will be presented at Buchmesse in Frankfurt; a presentation for which the games will also be translated into English and German. The Creative Industries Fund NL, the Mediafonds, and the Dutch Foundation for Literature will bring these two selected games to the international book fair, where there will be an increased focus on new forms of literature. This year, the Netherlands and Flanders are guest countries at the fair that is the largest book fair worldwide.