Kinaesthetic Time Capsules – game design masterclass in India

Pro Helvetia Johannesburg, Pro Helvetia New Delhi, Design
A chair and a table with papers arranged for a game, and a paper saying "New Name. New Game".
Participants in the game design workshop came up with various games to do with culture and identity. Here is a game by Gaurav Singh called New Name. New Game. © UnBox

In our interview with Chris Solarski we learn more about his masterclass on game design entitled “Kinaesthetic Time Capsules,” where he also evoked cultural identity.

“When we play a game, we are engaging in a highly curated physical experience, which can be used for artistic effect—not just entertainment,” says Chris Solarski, game designer and cultural heritage expert. Solarski hosted a 3-day masterclass produced by UnBox Cultural Futures at Sanskriti Kendra in New Delhi, India in February 2024 using his game design method titled “Kinaesthetic Time Capsules.”

Charlie and Chris Solarski at the EyeMyth Festival © UnBox

“Kinaesthetic Time Capsules, is a combination of two important concepts,” says Solarski. “What makes video games unique as an artistic medium is interactivity — the key ingredient that activates players to move and interact. Without movement and the ability to input something into the game and have it react, we can longer call something a game.” Hence the term kinaesthetics, which combines kinetics (motion) with aesthetics (the study of our emotional responses to art). The second concept, time capsules, refers to gaming’s ability to archive sensory experiences — to be re-experienced later by multiple players around the world.

The masterclass culminated in demos of the games created by the cohort © UnBox

The masterclass paired game design with cultural identity and brought together a cohort of emerging game designers and artists from across India to explore a rich variety of cultural diversity.

“The majority of games currently tend to be entertainment oriented, setting players challenges and testing various skills. Cultural identity is what I’m promoting with my method, by highlighting how designers might want to rethink the purpose of their games, and offer new scope to embed personal sensory experiences within a game’s structure as kinaesthetic time capsules. While games with this intent contain echoes of a person’s or people’s sensory experience, they also give players opportunity to reflect on their own identity, aesthetics and way of interacting with the world.”

Of the 50 applications received, a cohort of nine participants were chosen, with influences from diverse creative fields such as acting, architecture, modern art and psychology.

After a participatory introduction to the artistic principles of shape, language, structural composition and the historic context in which games emerged, participants learned a method that celebrates cultural heritage and identity. Participants used sensory objects—personal or culturally meaningful artefacts—as starting points to generate ideas and imagine new interactive possibilities. “Each object (or technology, as I like to think of it) comes with its unique physical and aesthetic properties,” says Chris , “which inform the way that they are used, or could be used—thus inspiring interesting creative directions for game design.”

The masterclass also took part in the EyeMyth Media Arts Festival’s 2024 edition, where Chris Solarski delivered a special keynote address on his original game design methodology. A panel discussion on new horizons in game design and development followed, featuring Walid Kilonzi, and Swiss game designers Charlotte Broccard, Yilmaz Paul Spyczak and Macéo Bonnet.

L to R: Charlie and Chris Solarski, Walid Kilonzi, Charlotte Broccard, Yilmaz Paul Spyczak and Macéo Bonnet at the EyeMyth Festival © UnBox

About the panel

WALID KILONZI is an innovative Extended Reality Producer at Fallohide, boasting a rich background in Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, and Mixed Reality solutions for a diverse clientele including multinational corporations, SMEs, African governments, and NGOs across the African continent.

CHARLOTTE BROCCARD is a Swiss-Vietnamese artist and game designer based in Geneva. Her multi-disciplinary practice includes illustration, animation, video game creation and painting.

YILMAZ PAUL SPYCZAK and MACEO BONNET are co-founders of Monkey Factory, an independent game studio based in Vevey, Switzerland. They are seasoned developers, designers, artists, programmers, and most importantly gaming enthusiasts with a strong connection to independent game design ethos.

The cohort took part in two other hands-on workshops which took place on the second-day of the festival. Walid hosted a workshop related to his XR work on the Afro-Gothic game “The Ground Screams to Whisper”, delving into themes of land, lineage, and the pivotal involvement of women in the emancipatory battles against colonialism and imperialism.

Walid Kilonzi at the workshop © UnBox

Charlotte Broccard’s workshop entitled “Delicious Memories” delved into food and recipes from one’s childhood – objects that evoked the sense of taste and smell, as well as one’s past and identity.”

A variety of games by the cohort were showcased at the EyeMyth Media Arts Festival © UnBox

Through their playful investigation of personal and sensory artefacts, the cohort of nine participants created a variety of games that were showcased at EyeMyth. Adrija Mukherjee from Bengal created a game using rice and drawings that invited players to enjoy the tactile value of the grain. Gaurav Singh created a game inspired by his experience in creating zines (magazines) and improv acting that invited players to invent a new name and new identity for themselves.

As for Chris Solarski, he had his own experience to take away from the event. “I had the privilege of bringing my 7-year-old son Charlie along to the workshop and the subsequent EyeMyth conference in Delhi. I’m even more excited for the impressions that Charlie received on our trip, which I hope will leave a lasting impression on him for years to come.”

Chris Solarski and Charlie Solarski © UnBox

Bio

Chris Solarski (Solarski Studio) started work in video games at Sony Computer Entertainment’s London Studio as a character and environment artist before making a career-defining detour into figurative oil painting. The unusual mix of game art and classical art eventually resulted in Chris authoring a sensory game design methodology that adapts traditional craft to interactive media with the aim of heightening the player’s sense of physical empathy with the virtual world.

Chris has authored two books on game art and storytelling in games that are endorsed by the likes of Assassin’s Creed founding member Stéphane Assadourian, and Cyberpunk 2077 level designer Max Pears. Chris’ work has been described as gaming’s equivalent to Robert McKee’s screenwriting classic, Story, and Joseph Campbell’s universal storytelling structure. Chris lectures at SAE and has additionally had the pleasure of presenting at the Smithsonian Museum’s landmark The Art of Video Games exhibition, Disney Research, SXSW and Google, to name a few.