Escaping Escapism

Escaping Escapism

Flashy distractions entertain those who play Static Lagoon, a conceptual videogame by Prashast Thapan 14 GD.

In the conceptually driven videogame Static Lagoon—the brainchild of Prashast Thapan 14 GD—a world of flashy amusements invites players to explore overstocked fast food eateries, a mall that houses six-armed shoppers and booming nightclubs stocked with unlimited amounts of booze. These commercial distractions are featured in six looping chapters, where “windows of opportunity” unveil new possibilities and enticements that change the course of the game. Users act on these chance encounters by standing up from the game’s “Restbox”—a cushioned cube that acts like a controller.

Thapan, a native of New Delhi, India, now lives in New York, where he works as a digital media content designer at MTV. He also does freelance work for PIN-UP, a hip biannual magazine focused on the latest in global architecture, art and design. Since developing Static Lagoon last year as his senior degree project in Graphic Design, Thapan has been working to show it at galleries and special venues including the annual Different Games conference at MAGNET and IndieCade East at the Museum of Moving Image.

In the game, players can eventually find their way out of the existential trap of endless distractions and “win” by opting to go for a ride on a bicycle—which, in the world he has created, is inconspicuously parked next to a row of Lamborghinis. Once a player selects the bike, a wall of black invades the screen, followed by a line of text that prompts him/her to turn off the blasted machine and go to sleep.

“It’s not a coincidence that the bicycle is the only self-powered machine in the game,” notes Thapan. “It’s a metaphor for how easy it is to fall prey to commercialism, escapism and distraction. But I want to show that everyone has the power to break out of routine monotony through self-motivation.”

Last December Static Lagoon made its New York debut at Babycastles, a Manhattan-based interactive digital media gallery where Thapan now volunteers. Soon after, critics from VICE and Kill Screen posted rave reviews praising the designer’s fresh approach to gaming. They were also thoroughly impressed with his graphics: quirky neon pools, motels—even flying whales—designed in Blender and Unity 3D to look especially cool in Oculus Rift, a popular virtual reality headset.

“I want people to ask themselves, ‘Why am I playing this? What's the point?’” says Thapan. “Hopefully they’ll start thinking about their personal choices and what they want to achieve in real life. I don’t want people to waste away in front of their computers.”

—Abigail Crocker

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