Master Of Animation, Games & Interactivity
Master Of Animation, Games & Interactivity

All through this semester I've had Don Walker's beautiful lyrics running through my head. With apologies to Cold Chisel, these are my rules for the Nostalgia game:

  1. Find someone to say "You're doing well, after all this time you still look just the same"
  2. Head to happy hour at the Empire or the Orient Hotel and settle in to play "Do you remember so-and-so"
  3. It doesn't take much more than a memory to make us cry, the first person to make someone else cry doesn't need to pay for any more rounds.

These rules are designed to evoke an evaluative meaning of the emotional and psychological feeling of nostalgia (Salen & Zimmerman, 2013).

Covid-19 has meant the loss of so much this year. In the stillness of sitting outside in the spring sunshine I am remembering past times of 90s Brisbane, of going out to the Orient Hotel to see Powderfinger, sweaty shoulder to sweaty shoulder in that tiny space, or cooling down sitting on the pavement outside passing around a joint between strangers. In my memory's eye, these moments are etched vignettes, still moments inbetween the hurly-blurry rush of time before and after.

There are more of these that come to mind in a chaotic reordering of time and space. As I explored  Timothy Welsh's notes on contemplative gaming, I pulled on a loose thread connected to a memory of many January weekend hours spent hiding from the bleak Dublin winter, enjoying the centrally-heated space, standing in front of Turner's paintings in the National Gallery of Ireland. The memory is a moment of stillness. The paintings were a refuge, a delight and a playground for the imagination. And yet I wonder, how much of this contemplative experience was built by the low light of the gallery in which it's staged, the established norms of quiet, the blank walls that give the eye rest through the explorations in the seasonal showing of Turner watercolours. Is it the power of Turner's genius that 'engages us as we alternate between immersion and reflection' (Riley & Nash, 2015), or is it just the reflection that makes this memory so powerful?

My work this week has culminated in the black screen and unity error message 'Exception: Compute Shader compilation error on platform GLES3x in file Packages/com.unity.render-pipelines.high-definition/Runtime/ShaderLibrary/ShaderVariablesFunctions.hlsl:103: #error "SAMPLE_TEXTURECUBE_ARRAY" is not supported on GLES 3.0 at kernel LightVolumeColors
HDRP will not run until the error is fixed.' So annoying. So ugly. So machine-like.

It started with the context of Welsh's identification of 'stylized and stylish art design' as a defining characteristic of contemplative games (Welsh, 2012). I wanted to reimagine my view of an abstract landscape from a train carriage or car from last week, with the colours and shapes of an Austrlalian landscape. I’ve always loved train journeys, travelling through legendary lands. The Ave train in Spain, taking me past orange groves and washing lines. Gliding from Shinjuku to Kamakura under the watchful eye of Mt Fuji. It’s a contemplative mode of transport designed for comfort, for sitting back and leaning forward (Bogost, 2007).

I wanted to begin to build some design skills inspired by the beautiful skies of my fellow student, Kay's work. I also wanted to take inspiration from the evocative paintings of Ivy Pareroultja, daughter of the Hermannsburg watercolour movement:

Don Walker, JMW Turner and Ivy Pareroultja knew the power of representations of the natural environment to imprint on our emotional memory store. Each year, the cherry blossoms outside my Melbourne bedroom window remind me of previous springs spent sitting on the balcony after long winters inside. Each November visit to my Brisbane hometown, the purple glories of the jacaranda trees remind me of student days and purple panics, of returning from many years living in Ireland to that long forgotten feeling of home in spring.

With this goal of creating quiet stillness in a low-lit moving carriage with blank walls contrasting with a stylised moving landscape outside, I recreated my work from last week in a Unity project with the high definition rendering pipeline, in the hope this could help me take my design cues from these paintings that resonated with my memories of travelling past the eucalyptus oil tinged Glasshouse mountains and straggly scrub that punctuated the foregrounded quilt of agricultured fields. Armed with Johannes Itten's treatise on colour, I hoped to find the 'deep blue of ... distant mountains' that enchant us and staying true to the 'marvels of form and color found in nature' (Ittens, 1961). 

On reflection, my dissatisfaction with the black screen of my Unity render with it's bright red error message is a rational if overly emotional response. It needed a step away from the computer, a leaning back, to be able to take those last faltering steps to a rendered landscape. I am very grateful for the timely feedback from my peers on ways to address the aesthetics of last week's iteration of the view from inside the zoetrope. My aspiration is to use the signs of the season of nature to communicate the memory of travelling through a familiar landscape (Salen & Zimmerman, 2003). It's still a path I want to keep travelling, my lofty dreams could not be achieved with my current skill level in the alloted timeframe of a week. But without an ideal that has the magnetic pull of a covid constrained nostalgia trip I would never have worked through the challenges of creating a virtual experience in a sometimes heated conversation with unity's high definition rendering pipeline. 


Bogost, I 2007, Videogame Zen, blog, viewed 9 October 2020, <>

Ittens, J 1970, The Elements of color: a treatise on the color system of Johannes Itten. Van Nostrand Reinhod Co., Wiley, New York.

Riley, M & Nash, A 2015. Contemplative interaction in mixed reality artworks. ISEA International Foundation Board, pp. 260–266.

Salen, Katie, & Zimmerman, Eric. (2003). Rules of play : game design fundamentals. MIT Press, Cambridge.

Walker, D 1984, The Flame Trees, sound recording, Warner Music Group, New York.

About This Work

By Amanda Belton
Email Amanda Belton
Published On: 14/10/2020