When I first started writing this blog, I didn’t give much thought to the styles of games I would encounter. Sure, I knew they were all under the umbrella of ‘indie’, but that title is meaningless and void and doesn’t encapsulate any form of genre. Games being labelled as ‘indie’ is about as descriptive as labelling all vegetables as just plants: its vague and doesn’t explain how the game blooms at all.
I bring this up because I still don’t know what to say about Oikospiel, or even what it is.
Properly known as ‘Oikospiel: Book 1, the “d o g” opera’ is a 3D game, and that’s the closest I can describe it without confusing myself. Behind this madness is the equally mad/genius mind of David Kanaga, attributed with creating works such as Proteus and Panoramical. Unfortunately for me, I had heard of neither of these titles before starting Oikospiel, and this may have assisted in my sheer lack of understanding. I went into Oikospiel with only my wits, and came out uncertain if I retained those. I didn’t want to write this overview on just Oikospiel alone, but the longer I played it the more I realized this was going to take a lot to unpack. So, let’s try to explain.
The premise of Oikospiel is that it is a game made by dogs. Sort of. Oikospiel is an opera made by dogs of a game made by dogs. I think. I try not to research a game while I’m playing it to see how much I can understand without prompting. I think this is the only solid statement I can say: Oikospiel is made with the idea that it was made by dogs. Everything is disconnected, yet flows from one scene to the next to follow the operatic format, complete with chapters and acts separating the key parts of the story. The story is told in excited and jumbled English, with imagery hard to follow until you look at it through the eyes of a dog. It is intentionally hard to follow because it wasn’t made with humans in mind — it was made for animals.
Oikospiel is also about unions, labour laws, and universal basic income, and I never expected it to be as such. Below are two articles that would do it much more justice to explain this premise, as Kanaga even comments on how the dogs creating the game love their boss too much to unionize with the operatic workers. I wish I could say I caught this while playing, but I was a little sidetracked by the… well, everything else going on. Normally I’d say that you shouldn’t read these articles if you plan on playing Oikospiel, but in all honesty I don’t think they’ll take away from the experience. Nothing can really prepare you, honestly.
Oikospiel Is A Surreal Game About Work And Play From The Composer Of Proteus
If you've ever played Dyad, Proteus, or Panoramical, you've heard David Kanaga's work before. He's one of the smartest…
A Video Game Immerses You in an Opera Composed by Dogs
In David Kanaga's latest game, Oiκοςpiel, an immortal Donkey Koch (of the Koch brothers) commissions a group of dogs to…
There is also the matter at hand that, upon first glance the game’s aesthetics look… unfinished. This is all explained in the intro, but again in such a way that isn’t clear unless you dive deeper into Kanaga’s first solo development attempt. All of the assets in Oikospiel are purchased, all of them assets created beforehand and bought via the Unity Store. All of them credited at the opening credits of the game. Yet every asset has also been repurposed and reconstructed into Oikospiel in bizarre and surreal ways, such as the broken ‘My Heart Will Go On’ that occurs near the end of Act I. Nothing appears in the way that it seems it should, for better or for worse.
Let’s briefly mention the audio of this game, as Kanaga is first a musician before all else, and to be quite blunt it is a masterpiece of confusion. There are motifs of the assets layered within the track, covered up by the dissonance that he weaves. Motifs that instantly remind the listener of the Legend of Zelda while they explore the torn and molded forest from the game as a bear and a dog. There’s a section where you collect rupees while running across piano sheet music, and every note is played upon running across it. None of the notes matched the music, but it added to the disconnect the game was making me feel. That isn’t to say that there weren’t issues: speaker tick on the tracks looping drove me to insanity.
If this sounds and feels like a bizarre mess of an overview, that’s because I honestly don’t know how to describe Oikospiel. There are layers to this game that escape me, such as the title being a pun in multiple languages, or the police speaking backwards. It invokes a feeling of disconnection and unease in me that I didn’t even get from Art Sqool, like there is something that I cannot see or understand that is plain as day.
I didn’t have fun playing Oikospiel: Book I, but at the same time I’m not sure I was intended to. The experience itself was surreal to say the least, one that I don’t know how to stop talking about, yet know not what to exactly say. It will definitely make me look at operas differently from now on.
If you have the time and the patience, I’d suggest trying out Oikospiel. If only just to sate your curiousity.