Video Games as Art: Fez
Fez is a recently released videogame by Montreal-based Polytron Corporation, infamous for it’s five-year, drama-filled development cycle and outspoken designer Phil Fish. Polytron is a small indie outfit made up of artist/designer Phil Fish and programmer Renaud Bedard. Fez’s chiptune inspired soundtrack was composed by Rich Vreeland, with sound design by Brandon McCartin and additional animation by Adam Atomic. In March, it was awarded the Seamus McNally grand prize at the 14th annual Independent Games Festival.
Fez has been described as “Phil Fish’s attempt to walk around inside a cubist painting.” You play as Gomez, a 2D creature inside a seemingly 2D world, until one day, with the power of the titular fez, he discovers that there is a third dimension waiting to be explored.
Unlike most 3D games, which use perspective projection (the way the human eye sees, with further objects appearing smaller), Fez uses orthographic projection to create the illusion of flatness while looking at the world from one of four distinct perspectives. The way this is done is incredibly striking - only while rotating the camera can you glimpse a full view of the world in front of you.
As you explore deeper inside the world of Fez, you witness the environment become increasingly unstable with visual glitches, computer crashes, and black holes. Fish has retrospectively described this motif as a reflection of his life during the development of the game. In Indie Game: The Movie, he elaborates on the legal divorce with original Polytron cofounder Jason DeGroot, his father falling ill with leukemia, to the team’s funding grant being rescinded halfway through development.
If you’re interested in Fez, you can read more about the game on it’s website, or pick it up on the Xbox Live Marketplace. For information about Polytron, visit their website here. You can also listen to Rich Vreeland’s masterful soundtrack on his website, here.
- Gabriel Verdon