Abzû: Swim into a Painting

Abzû was released by game developers Giant Squid on August 2. The publishers 505 Games categorize the game as a simulation, an adventure and, most importantly, an art video game. As Abigail Tucker writes in Smithsonian Magazine, “indeed, video games may be the most immersive medium of all.” Although it had yet to be released, Tucker may as well have used Abzû as a prime example.


Stunning detail in Abzu/abzugame.com

You begin in the game as a simply constructed, scuba diver-like character, floating in the midst of an immaculately rendered, bright turquoise blue sea. The game gives you almost no written or spoken direction, save for a couple of cues on how to ride alongside sea creatures in the vast expanse of an aquatic environment that you have found yourself in. The only truly obvious step to take is simple: explore.

This game is the definition of an art game. It has a subtle but eloquent plot, masterfully rendered animation, and visual art, and a soundtrack composed by Austin Wintory. The game is literally your character moving through a world of paintings in motion, all while listening to a symphonic score that could make your elitist grandfather weep.

Abzû is an important journey that everyone should take, especially those who hold any ill-will about video games being discussed as an art form. The game is short, reasonably priced, and you can get it through Steam (free to install) on either Windows or Play Station. The only drawback is that it is not compatible with more systems; this being said, even if you must use someone else’s laptop to play the game, I fully recommend playing it with a friend. The experience of the game, if anything, might be enhanced if you have somebody to explore with by your side.

Not only do I recommend playing this game, but if the experience proves valuable I also suggest taking a closer look at some other games in the art genre, such as Journey. Video games that focus on visual art are not only fun, but often inspire creativity through the playing of them. Abzû will not take very long to play, but it may leave a lasting impression on those who do.

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