The last time I showed any interest in playing computer games was circa 1990, when my best friend and I used to hook-up our Game Boys and outwit each other on Tetris. If I even get a whiff of the Tetris music now, I start to see those annoying L-shape blocks dropping in front of my eyes like a bad dream I can’t escape – those were the buggers that always caught me out.
Say what you will about gaming but it can often steer towards a male-dominated, testosterone-fuelled sport in which I happily blindly ignored, that is until I happened upon something as wonderful as the State of Play creations.
State of Play is the brainchild of Katherine Bidwell and Luke Whittaker. Their games are a whole other spectrum of cool compared to anything I’ve seen before. Each game is painstakingly and amazingly created solely by hand, using pencils, laser cutting and clever papercrafting techniques to create unique game art. I’ve snooped at the the game scenery in their studio and they are a work of real talent.
When I first met Kath and Luke, it was in a freezing cold church hall as we embarked on our adventures into parenthood at our new NCT class. Little did I know, whilst Kath and I hung out on our maternity leave drinking hot chocolates, jingling tambourines whilst singing “Zoom zoom zoom”, pram-pushing for miles in the sunshine and submersed in every Mumsnet topic imaginable, her ‘other’ job was co-founder of this awesome company. She’s modest like that, they both are - down-to-earth lovelies on one hand, ninja games geniuses on the other.
Lume was their first breakthrough game in 2011, a puzzle adventure about a little girl called Lumi who discovers that all the power has vanished in her Grandad’s house along with him too – the mystery unravels as you steer Lumi on her quest to locate him via a series of perplexing paper puzzles. The animation is so beautifully executed that you could almost be watching a film.
The sequel to Lume, Lumino City was released last year after three years of hard work to bring it life using the power of paper, miniature lights and motors. Wow, this game is truly magical and you don’t have to take my word for it, listen to BAFTA. Yup, BAFTA awarded the State of Play team with that famous trophy on 12 March for Artistic Achievement, a well-deserved amazing reward for such a clever, talented bunch (Kath, Luke and their team including Game Developer, Director of Photography, Architect and Model Maker).
What’s key to these games aside from their visual appeal is that they are playable, even for novices like me – no fancy gadgetry (I’m sure a gaming chair is optional for those who so desire) or complicated hand judo required, just old-fashioned clever thinking and excitement. I really admire their naivity too - I'm turned off by all-out action gaming where the main thrill is kill-count or just how ruddy loud they are. A story told with paper to spur all imaginations- I'm betting this won't be the last BAFTA the State of Play gang bring home.