Architecture in GRIS – Geometry, Structures, Archetypes, Light
On various occasions we have already written about video games in this blog, but on few occasions has the connection been as evident as it is in GRIS. Published in December 2017 by Nomada Studio, GRIS is a small production Spanish game which has generated great expectancy. On February 2, 2019 it won the Annie prize for the best animated characters, surpassing premium productions such as God of War or Shadow of the Tomb Raider. According to Eurogamer GRIS “talks about all things beauty; that beauty is enough in and of itself.” So it’s worth asking: Is there architecture in this beauty? What elements regulate it?
The similarities with our discipline originate from the creative process. GRIS was created by Conrad Roset, an artist and illustrator who is also a video game enthusiast. He didn’t have previous experience with video game design, but thanks to the connection with programmers Adrián Cuevas and Roger Mendoza, both seasoned in Ubisoft, Conrad’s idea came to life over the course of three years, converting itself into the product that we are able to enjoy today. Three years of work, the intertwining of multiple technical disciplines and artists, a complex product, and a seed planted in notebooks of Canson paper. Does that sound familiar to anyone?
GRIS offers composite analysis based on a minimum of three elements: geometry, structures, and chromatism. Since their beginnings they have emphasized the use of simple geometry as the elements that make up scenes, frames, characters, and spaces. Circles are dominant: grand suns, moons, mills or auras that articulate specific moments. Squares often rotate about their axis, as mechanisms waiting to be activated. Triangles are small and mobile; fish that move horizontally; birds that fly around in flocks or Primula flowers that rock back and forth when a player walks by.
On the other hand GRIS structures are regulated by logical consistency. Heavy materials are found in stereotomic structures: solid, dug out, and mysterious. Metal and vegetation is manifested through more or less thick lines that define tectonic joints, light and dynamic. Stereotomy is constant and it encourages exploration, enveloping those spaces where tectonic structures appear so that we are able to play with them1.
Geometric shapes and different structures make up archetypes, joint points with which players can establish emotional connections. The repertoire includes caves as protective uteri, labyrinths with an entrance and a way out, landmarks to guide yourself by, and inviting horizons that allow you to loose yourself in them. They are elements originated in well known myths, making it all seem so familiar to us. The developers take advantage of this familiarity to structure the narration and direct the player in a very subtle way. In GRIS there are no arrows, no directions, no cardinal points: only spaces and well established landscapes that speak for themselves.
Lastly, color is the element that moderates the narration and separates the phases of the game. In GRIS, light is color. It is the director of the orchestra. The player departs from a desaturated scene, but little by little he or she discovers color and adds them to the scene. Geometric figures become increasingly more complex as new color grades present themselves. In this sense light is the definitive master architect, that which matches the breath of the player who always risks losing it at the turn of every corner.