The Marriage

By: Brandon McCartin (BMcC)

On: March 20th, 2007

The end guy is hard.The Marriage is a game by Rod Humble that “is intended to be art.” As such, I think it fails on most levels. But it did get me (and others) thinking, so perhaps for that it ultimately succeeds…

The game is meant to stand on its own, but if you just don’t “get” it, you can read the creator’s interpretation on his website.

Feel free to post your thoughts here. And if you’re interested in some meatier discussion, visit the forums.

(Source: Tim’s Blog)

  • Xander

    I don’t really get it, but then I guess I’ve never been married. Maybe it’s that there’s no ultimate goal, that there are no winners in ‘The Marriage’, only people that try to understand it enough to keep ‘The Marriage’ together.

    As with most art, I think I’m going to avoid reading the ultimate description of what it’s about, because to me that kind of ruins art for me. My interpretation is my interpretation, and reading the creators intentions I feel would greatly affect that. Instead I’m just living with what I felt about it.

    Or maybe I’m just bitter that he made a game I suck at.

  • !CE-9

    it’s damn interesting, and more than that– there’s something utterly poignant about it.

    I wouldn’t say it fails on most levels, and I too would dare call it art. but then it’s down to how you interpret all that’s going on in the game…

    just dunno. it’s poignant, it’s interesting, and it’s definitely worth a try, for the feeling of it.

  • Lurk

    It reminds me of the time when I was studying art in college, we were asked to draw/paint/create something, and then explain our process. I always found that the people with the long theories presented art that lacked power, that was unpleasant to look at or was just some random stuff thrown together held only by the explanation. The truth is it’s not a very good game, there is an element of challenge, but it’s too random, no sense of real progress, of building something(unlike a marriage). In my opinion, art needs to please at least on a base level, by thoughtful composition, contrasts and colors, forms and figures. A teacher once said ” It does’nt matter if you have the best idea in the world, if you lack the techniques to express it.”
    But as a debate piece I’m sure it will be a great success.

  • Aubrey

    I was expecting a real “Fear of the New” in these comments. It’s sort of life affirming to know that people are willing to engage with this piece on its intended level.

    Interestingly, you can take this idea of “reading a system” and apply it to any other games you’ve played, even though the messages you infer may not be so intentional. A lot of them can therefore teach fairly cynical things – in penalizing use of the Rocket Jump in Quake 3, (by damaging you for using it) you’re told that efficiency is far more important than unnecessary style.

    One game that probably IS intended to have a deep message stemming from its mechanics is the Sims. One message I interpreted from that was “The thing you own, end up owning you”.

    I hope that more people will start reading games in this way, as it widens what games can be. And I don’t think it should be feared as a threat to games which are “just fun”. They’ll never go away.

  • !CE-9

    Aubrey: I absoultely agree.

    Interesting findings on the Sims, you might be the first one. I’ve never played it – ’cause I’ve never felt like playing it. (however I get the impression that the message you derived from it might have not been intended; it’s too well hidden for that. it’s one of life’s Great Truths anyway.)

    It is definitely very rewarding to play games in this attentive way. Five minutes with The Marriage left me with more in emotional means than hours of Unreal Tournament.

  • rod humble

    Thanks for taking the time to give the game a fair shot everyone, and thanks for linking to it.

    I really appreciate the discussion which is very insightful and will help me next time.



  • John B

    Aah. I posted this on Joystiq and received much less positive feedback. TIGS FTW!

    I really thought the game was poignant, too. Not in a pretentious “oh look at me I’m making art” kind of way, but it’s simple, and simplicity forces you to fill in the gaps with your own experience. It’s the same reason Miyamoto doesn’t Mario to look realistic. If he were real, we couldn’t identify him.

  • ptoing

    Interesting idea, but ultimately boring as a game imo.

  • rod humble

    Hey John! I will thank you here in case you didnt get it on Joystiq, but I appreciate your kind comments. It was good of you to post something so “out there” on a major site.



  • John B

    Thanks, Rod! I caught your comment on Joystiq. Had to temper the post a bit to make it fit a mainstream news source, but non-normal gaming info is why they brought me on. Great work, I really enjoy the “game”. :-)

  • Moschops

    It just goes to show that any collection of dots and squares can be art if you tell someone it means something. To me it’s just abstraction, not art. If it hadn’t been called the marriage and hadn’t been explained would anyone have come to the same understanding? Would anyone have cared?

    Games aren’t art, they’re games. You can use games to express ideas and tell a story as you can with music, film and traditional art, but they are still games and should be accepted as that. You’ll get more out of them then.

  • DanDanger

    I would suggest that if you want to “do some art” that you load up photoshop and draw something.

    Or if you are looking to create more contemporary art I suggest that you go the Edinburgh festival, hire a venue and then shit on the stage.

    What you have created is a pretentious piece of nonsense that is akin to the kind of program I used to have for my zx81.

    Game designers have struggled for years to create their games, pushing the technology we have from the spectrum all the way to the ps3, to enable them to create the games that we play.

    And YOU think it is art when you backtrack about 20 years ignoring all the advances in game design and experience s that the games industry has struggled to amass over its life.

    It is not art, it is pish, I hate you and all of your “games are art” kind …ahem… I don’t actually hate you, but you get the idea.

  • nenad

    I somewhat agree with previous post. If intention was to keep the gameplay as abstract as possible why the need to elaborate so much on the meaning? It remind me of a common practice with aaa titles where story/setting/whatever is needed to propel otherwise mediocre gameplay. Only difference is that here the descriptive part, instead being communicated through assets, is written in a separate readme file.

    Imo making the representation geometrical does not make the gameplay abstract nor it makes game a work of art.

    However it’s a nice effort and I’d love to see author carries it a little further, discarding the “meaning” completely. If abstract gameplay can be made captivating enough noone would really bother to ask “what’s the meaning” (it’s pretty much the same with good abstract art).

    Hopefully upcoming experiments will be tagged in a true abstract fashion. Somehing like: 6Xg9-a ;)

  • Anthony Flack

    “If it hadn’t been called the marriage and hadn’t been explained would anyone have come to the same understanding?” – but it IS called The Marriage. The title is not just a label, or a description – it’s part of the thing itself and it was obviously chosen quite deliberately.

    “Games aren’t art, they’re games. You can use games to express ideas and tell a story as you can with music, film and traditional art, but they are still games and should be accepted as that. You’ll get more out of them then.” – I’m sorry but this argument really doesn’t make sense at all. There are no rules for what you should be allowed to make a computer do. There’s no reason why something on a computer screen that responds to input has to be restricted by the definition of “videogame”. It can be something else; videogames can quite happily co-exist with other programs, with entirely different sets of agendas.

  • Nullificator

    Why all the fuss over this particular label? Calling something “art” doesn’t change what it is.

    Words have value as a means of communicating ideas. Since nobody can agree on what “art” means, why not dispense with this utterly useless word?

    “Art,” today, can mean a pile of shit in a jar, displayed in a museum. Or it can mean a masterfully crafted, lifelike sculpture depicting a scene from Greek mythology, the product of years of training and study in the fields of modeling, anatomy, history and aesthetics.

    Even the far more useful label of “video games” encompasses a pretty broad range of things. It can mean something abstract like tetris or something that tries to simulate recognizable reality to some extent (Metal Gear Solid, or flight simulators). And so on.

    I think it makes more sense, if one’s desire is to communicate with others, to aim for greater precision in terminology instead of less.

    Would you rather your surgeon get instructions to remove your “whatever” or something more specific than that, like your appendix that is about to rupture? Should the bomb squad technician pull the “thing” or the green wire next to the red one?

    No label or set of labels is perfect but some are certainly better than others. “Art” is a pretty useless label. Such ambiguous words are only valued in politics or similar endeavors where a higher premium is placed on obfuscation than on truth and clarity.

  • konjak

    To me, when a game is called art, it always lacks something essential.

    It has always been true in my experience.

  • Rz.

    all troofz aside, DanDanger is just a wee bit silly.

  • Derek

    It may be lacking, but it’s also different! And that’s worth something.

  • BigBossSNK

    Art is not just a 1:1 depiction of reality. After the Renaissance, artists realized little more could be done with the straight forward rendition of reality, so they turned to challenge the conventions before their time, both in expression mediums and subject. That’s why though strikingly different in styles, both Botticelli and Picaso or Warhol are artists, simply working under different disciplines and convention choices.

  • Aubrey

    I want to thank Rob for making this game, despite knowing he would be the target of all this kind of forum bollucks. I think that despite how you feel about it in the context of other games (i.e. it’s “not fun” because there’s “no chunkey pixel lasers”), it’s still got the same effort in its thought processes that I think any indie game should strive for. I hope people will take from this the idea that game mechanics themselves can have meaning, and that the message doesn’t have to be implanted exclusively in art, sound, cutscenes etc. Keep up the good work, I say.

    Incedentally, after I figured it out a bit, I definitely was having “fun” – the fun came from trying to read the message in the machine, and coming up with different interpretations, trying to find the most cohesive whole… I wrote it up on the forum linked from this post, if you’re interested, Rob (I’m Bezzy). So I got “fun” from the exploration of the possibility space, not so much a kinaesthetic kind of fun (which, admittedly, does need work).

  • mushu

    Geez, it was an experiment right? I love how some people get all offended by a small experimental game.

    Personally, I think the concept is really cool, but I have a hard time connecting with the actual game play in its current form.

    Now is the time to experiment with ideas like this and see where it takes the art form.

  • gustav

    MMF’s ball movement is the shit.

  • rod humble

    Thanks guys for the support!

    Bezy, yes that was a deliberate feature of the larger square “stifling” the others ability to get out from under it. And yes you had some great insights into my feelings at the time. Scary you managed to pick all that up :)

    Thanks again!