Hello, World! This is the first entry on the LabLike blog, but instead of the usual presentation I’ll get straight to the point and tell you about the game we’re making right now – Magic Flute, an iOS puzzle title retelling the story of Mozart’s classic opera. Naturally, I’ll start by answering the obvious question here – “what on Earth gave you that idea?!”.
Back in 2013 the renown Japanese stage director – Amon Miyamoto – was preparing a staging of Mozart’s “Die ZauberflÃ¶te” (“The Magic Flute”) at The Landestheater Linz in Austria. In his vision, the fantastic story told in the libretto (basically – an opera word for screenplay) was to become a video game. Two of my LabLike colleagues are on the Yes Eye Do visual arts crew, that was tasked with creating the visual design. Side by side with some of the world’s greatest scenographers and costume designers, they worked their magic.
Everything from Masatomo Ota’s “low-poly” costumes, through Boris Kudlichka’s dark cubic set, to their AR-style projections of virtual scenography was designed to make the whole show feel like an actual game. The hero became a player, experiencing a magic-filled digital realm on the other side of the TV screen, after crawling through it in the opening scene.
As we were watching the results of our co-operation with Miyamoto it all just clicked. The video game look was working well for the opera. Nothing felt out of place. The play became a game. It was a game we would like to play. Made-up as it was, it rubbed the gamers inside of us just the right way, so we decided to bring this make-belief game into our reality. We were going to make it all into an actual game!
I’m going to take a wild guess here, but something tells me that the opera – considered high art – does not share that much of an audience with video games – rarely considered art at all. But let’s take a step back and think about what opera was to Mozart’s audience at the time of The Magic Flute’s first staging. It was a way to experience a story – a simple one, for that matter – about a journey, misunderstandings, and (of course) love with a bit of magic and mystery at the side. Entertainment in its purest, unpretentious form, not that far from what we seek in video games. Should games have existed in the 18th century I bet many burghers would be gamers and Mozart himself wouldn’t be a stranger to a round of Piano Hero or Menuet Central. The differences between high and popular culture are often just a matter of tradition and 200-something years of time.
So, if you ask: “why the hell are you trying to put opera in my game / a game in my opera?” my answer is: “why the hell wouldn’t we?”
There’s a reason we decided to put the “Lab” part in our studio’s name. We like experimentation. We love to mix various bits of culture, art, and tech in giant steaming retorts and wait for them to explode in an entertaining, colorful, and sometimes thought-provoking way. I believe that always seeking out new ways to have fun with things is a great way to look at our mundane reality, and that is exactly what we do here, at LabLike. We make the world into games, one experiment at the time.