Playing Poetry

Co-Commission Update: Wood Wide Web

Happy New Year! We’re coming into the final fortnight of the Poetry Games exhibition, and with it the launch event for the new work by Mariana Marangoni and Rianna Suen! Their poetic forest sim has grown into something so exciting, and we are delighted to share it with you on January 11th at the National Poetry Library. Click through to book your free ticket to the event where you’ll be able to try the game for the first time. And now, for an update on the process from the artists themselves (written just before we all took a well earned break)!

The year has reached its cold and final month, while and the project’s development continues at a steady pace. As the main idea was kept since our last prototype, the focus in the last weeks was to add more functionalities and personality to our game.

In its last iteration, all elements but the main character were made with emojis, which could potentially be a characteristic of its final visual identity. However, Mariana was keen on the opportunity to use her rather dormant pixel art skills in combination with a retro gaming aesthetics, so we opted for switching all the visual elements to bespoke pixel art made with Petmate, a free and cross-platform C64 PETSCII image editor. This visual choice is reminiscent of times when technological constraints were a big obstacle on the creative freedom of artists and programmers alike, a situation that brought forth a distinctive visual signature that was simply the result of doing the best with the tools of the time.

As our project advocates for a gentler handmade web dedicated to foster co-existence and collaboration beyond the elusive cyber-gates erected by tech giants, it felt like a fitting choice.  We have also written a short epistolary fiction as the underlying (and totally optional!) narrative of our game, following the – sometimes tender, sometimes disconcerting – postcards written by Allie, a mysterious and lonely figure that is in a process of recovery and self-knowledge. These pieces of fiction can be found in the mailboxes scattered across the map, and each will feature a unique postcard design.

Another important aspect for us is the exhibition setup for our launch event coming January 11th. As our game combines both digital and analogue, machinic and organic, we’ve had many discussions on how to present it as an interactive artistic installation. It is always a challenge to conceptualize ways of inserting plants and other living organisms in an indoor exhibition space, but it’s one that we are really excited to think about.

Without spoiling the surprise, we’ve decided to create a pixel art concept of the main exhibition idea, which will feature a retro PC set partially covered by herbs and shrubs alongside different planters. The pots will be connected to the Arduino soil moisture sensors and a raspberry pi server that connects the real-time data gathered from the plants to the game’s website.

The last and most exciting news about our project, however, was the addition of another talented person to join us as a sound designer! We are thrilled to welcome Mikey Parsons, a video game composer from Brighton, UK.

He is currently composing an interactive music system with tone.js, a Web Audio framework for creating interactive music in the browser. The idea is to have a looping ambient soundscape that runs off the number of trees in the environment, giving each player multisensorial feedback and sense of achievement for ‘planting’ more trees in the game.

If you have enjoyed following the progress of this commission, please do join us for the launch of Wood Wide Web at the National Poetry Library (Southbank Centre) at 8pm on January 11th. There will be an opportunity to try the game for the first time, hear from the artists about the process of making, and give feedback as the game continues to develop. After the launch at the National Poetry Library, Wood Wide Web will be exhibited at Phoenix Cinema and Art Centre. A huge thanks to Phoenix for their support and partnership in this co-commission.

Stay tuned for more poetry games at as well as upcoming commissions news and opportunities.