May’s ’09 Round Table Entry – The Great Wave off Kanigawa

A Game Is Worth a Thousand Words: What would one of your favorite pieces of non-interactive art look like if it had been created as a game first? May’s topic challenges you to imagine that the artist had been a game designer and supersede the source artwork-whether it be a painting, a sculpture, an installation, or any other piece that can be appreciated in a primarily visual way-to imagine a game that might have tried to communicate the same themes, the same message, to its audience.

Notice that the topic doesn’t specify video game. Feel free to imagine a board game, card game, RPG, or sport. Be as vague, or as detailed, about the design particulars as you like. It would probably make sense to include an image of the art piece you use as inspiration and link to a large resolution version of it if possible.

For this month’s entry I decided to go with Hokusai Katsushika’s woodprint block “The Great Wave off Kanagawa.”


Knowing little about inner layers to static visual art, the term used so as to encompass not only paintings, but also woodprint blocks, sculpture, photography, etc. I instead decided to look at its visual implications, more its form than its ideas. To see how a game could encompass the same visual aesthetic and even incorporate it into gameplay.

In the background we see Mt Fuji and in the foreground we have a wave with three fishing boats being tossed about. This wave is not a tsunami as commonly thought; it is just a normal wave, whose size is so immense because the perspective of the picture puts the onlooker right into the ocean.

The viewer being in the ocean I imagine a game placing an avatar in the middle of the waves to ride up and down as it comes form one side to the other. The avatar will be a more abstract shape or basic form instead of a realistic or traditional Japanese stylization of a person. It will be all black against the blue and white waves.

In the distance you see Mt Fuji as a small pyramid. Riding the waves from side to side you can eventually by creatively maneuvering your avatar into the distance get closer. The foreground scenery will remain static for the most part. Boats will ride into and out of the scene and waters will change their patterns, but in the background Mt. Fuji will get larger as you move further away. The avatar will stay the same size with the world moving around it.

By riding the waves in a certain manner you can move onto different 2D planes further and further bringing Mt Fuji closer. The game will end with the waves shrinking in size and Mt. Fuji looming over you as you have reached the shore.


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