By Joseph Leray
“The Golem” is a fascinating project in the midst of a Kickstarter campaign by Moonbot Studios, a Shreveport, Louisiana-based collective noted for their multimedia storytelling -- these are the guys that won an Oscar last year for their animated short, “The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore,” which was later turned into an iOS App.
In the latest Kickstarter update, writer William Joyce digs into “The Golem”’s raison d’être: “We’ve chosen to tell “The Golem” first as a game … so that we can keep telling stories the way we want in the ways that people seem to be embracing,” he says. Figuring out why a particular story is best suited for a game -- as opposed to a movie or short story, for example -- is a crucial question for any developer, and listening to Joyce suss out the driving force behind “The Golem” is interesting.
I would also add that Renaissance Prague isn’t exactly a common setting for games, and that trying to bring that world to life falls in line with Moonbot’s stated goals of trying new things and pushing boundaries.
Here’s what strikes me about “The Golem,” though: it gets directly at the heart of every game any of us have ever played. “The Golem” is about a monster, created by a guild of woodworkers, metallurgists, potters, glassblowers, and machinists, out of clay. The titular Golem has one purpose -- to defend Prague -- but yearns for independence and, as Joyce points out, wants a soul. In the video, Joyce explains that he wants players to connect, on an emotional level, with the Golem: “You always sort of project who you want to be in a story, and who that central characters is.”
But even in the most basic sense, videogame players can’t help but confront the fact that their digital avatars are always constrained by the boundaries of some designer or programmer somewhere. If the Golem feels trapped by his creators, so are players trapped by the limits of the mechanics and three-pronged dialogue wheels of even the best-designed videogames.
In other words, “The Golem” is “BioShock”’s “Would you kindly?” scene stretched out into an entire game. That’s reason enough for me to want to play it -- but the novel premise and gorgeous concept work don’t hurt, either.
If funded, Moonbot is shooting for a Spring 2015 release for “The Golem.” You can contribute to the formidable task of raising $750,000 in the next 40 days here.