Carl Burton's new game is an atmospheric experience that turns familiar scenes into strange landscapes.
GIF by artist
You're presented with a typical everyday scene: Egg-like creatures disembark from a bus, a water fountain hides a cavernous space with a system of subterranean pipes and plant life, palm trees ride escalators, the contents of a drinks machine float out, glow, and swirl around. Normal stuff. Poking and clicking around reveals strange and curious secrets inside artist Carl Burton's new game, Islands, and now that it's available on Mac, PC, and iOS, it's your job to investigate.
"The inspiration came from mundane places like parking lots, baggage claims at airports, hotel lobbies, strangely neutral corporate areas," Burtons tells The Creators Project. "The kinds of places you move through on your way to somewhere else. The game presents those types of settings as architectural vignettes that you transform into oddly functional, surreal versions of themselves. It was partly inspired by Marc Augé's book Non-Places: An Introduction to Supermodernity where he describes someone traveling through these kinds of liminal places."
GIF by artist
You might be familiar with Burton's work through his atmospheric GIFs. Or maybe you've seen his episode artwork for season two of the Serial podcast. Burton's style makes the mundane eerie, highlighting its otherness, the idea that lurking beneath the humdrum lies something unfamiliar. These junkspaces do seem creepy in a sanitized way or offer a kind of disconnect which is what makes them so suited to be turned upside down, like in Islands. As you navigate each scene, the game holds you transfixed as you watch these humming, chirping, prosaic zones transform into uncanny spaces and forms.
"One thing that's interesting about these kinds of locations is the way they resist particular examples," explains Burton. "It's hard for me to recall a particular escalator or waiting room. It's more the way they all blur together in memory that's so inspiring." It's no wonder Burton says the game's neon lit hazy dream aesthetic comes in a style influenced by James Turrell, one Burton says "blurs the edges of things."
Image courtesy of artist