Emotional Pixel Art Game

Likely one of, if not the most powerful and touching 600x96 resolution game you'll encounter this year, Jason Rohrer brings us Passage, a brief little adventure chronicling a person's lifetime from start to finish.

Posted by HMC @ 12/2/2007 15:25  |    42


If you would like to comment you will need to be logged in. Register now. It only takes a moment and it's free.

ncfriel (Level 1 Rookie) @ 11/28/2010 10:33

 I think that the game was so emotional because of the low resolution. Low resolution allows the mind to relate to characters better than high resolution

RevoltOfAges (Level 1 Depressed) @ 12/22/2007 18:19

That was... intensely trippy. I'd call it modern art rather than a game. The only exciting part was around when he died, because a lot of the effects there actually made sense. A lot of the changing from room to room lacked luster and sense for the most part.

And how did the main character live to be about 550?

Demon (Level 3 Stalker) @ 12/15/2007 11:48
Its hard for me to call this a game... its more of a slideshow or interactive movie.  There are only 2 game features: move forward and move back.  I, personally, can't call this a game.  Though this is an interesting piece of work, that much ill give it credit for.

fishmeester (Level 2 Dealer) @ 12/11/2007 04:04
I managed to crash and freeze life. I hope that's not a bad omen!
No, what happened is, I walked into my soul mate, and kept on walking, and then she came to stand to my right but there was a wall there! So she ran into the wall causing us both to get stuck.

God I hope that's not a bad omen :P

Carnivac (Level 8 Shodan) @ 12/10/2007 09:28
Ok... I've 'played' through it a few times and I still don't see what the point is.  Also I found the music and the graphical effect annoying.  Not sure what I'm supposed to be feeling after going through that... I feel confused... that's about it.  Sorry.

MoonPanzer (Level 1 Private) @ 12/10/2007 08:55
I didn't get ANYTHING in your second paragraph, so ill come look at it again in 5-10 years. For the third one, that's good to know, and for the fourth one that makes so much sense!

joethered (Level 1 Rookie) @ 12/9/2007 20:31
Well, I guess this actually is really for every who doesn't understand everyone who loved this game.

Here's why I liked it so much:
In a nutshell, every (or at least most) element in this game supports the dramatic purpose of the piece.  This is something I have rarely seen in a game to begin with, but in this game, the actual gameplay supports the dramatic purpose of the piece as well, and I have almost never seen that happen in a game.  In the rare cases I have seen the gameplay support the dramatic purpose, the gameplay is usually too abstract and/or frustrating for me to connect with gameworld, or the dramatic purpose is so bland and cliche that the gameplay is really more of a gimmick rather than a artistic device.  I have long hoped to see a game just like this one.  That is why I was so amazed by this piece. 

So for me at least, my opinion was not influenced by any hype or the fact that it was a news article here.  I was bored, so I played it, and was surprised to find that it was something I had been wishing for in games.

As an additional side note, many of you probably have heard, Hideo Kojima once mentioned that he didn't think of video games as art but rather like museums that contained art in them.  I have come to agree with his point of view, because I have rarely seen a game in which all aspect of it's gameplay supported the dramatic purpose of the game.  Ironically, Metal Gear Solid 2 is probably the only mainstream game that I felt came closest to achieving this.

MoonPanzer (Level 1 Private) @ 12/9/2007 16:01

Hey! It was sad!   Oh and I just read your first post, and all the hype for this piece is (probebly) actually mostly because it was posted for the news on Pixel Joint. I don't know why, but that may be motavatign some people to think differently about it...makes no sense I know, but think about it....also the music might have had something to do with it (thats obvious, I know, but it may have had a bigger impact than usual?) I still think it was sad, but Ill contact you when im bitchy and in college and tell you if I cry. 

Peace  (<<there is no peace sign smiley) 

Adarias (Level 11 Special Agent) @ 12/7/2007 07:07
yeah, that's why i said i shouldn't compare it to things like that and that it is very interesting, just not profound.  I played it at least half a dozen times :P

I'm also in that bitchy college-age period where I've experienced enough of life to really expect something more than "my wife died and it was really sad," but i haven't experienced enough of life to know what it is I'm actually looking for.  Commence dissatisfaction and angst! :P

skamocore (Level 11 CEO) @ 12/6/2007 21:01
Hey, wait a minute...you shouldn't completely dismiss this game altogether...this was purposely a small game made for a competition, it lasts for about 5 mins. For a short game like this...it's pretty good and well thought out

you're making comparisions to some classics here...saying that the game should be as 'powerful' as any of these is missing the point...This game is great for what it is...clearly it's not 'the old man and the sea'...but at the same time...it's not trying to be.

MoonPanzer (Level 1 Private) @ 12/6/2007 16:50

NOES!!! You all make this sound so, extremly, superly, duperly, uberly, awsomely, awsome! But it don't work on my comp.     Ivee spent about 20min trying to get it work now, and ima spend 20 more now that ive read this. (if anyone has any tips message me pl0x, and im on Vista btw)

EDIT: I just got it worrking...i moved a file after installing accidently. Wow, its preyy emeotional (for meanyways), I mean, im a 14 year old guy, and i dont usually get emotional about anything. But when ***spoiler alert....seriously dont read this if u havnt playeed that game*** my wife died i almost cried.... T_T

cure (Level 11 Godfather) @ 12/6/2007 16:03
The true beauty of art is relative.
I myself didn't see the whole "touching/emotional" aspect, but I found it very interesting nonetheless.

Adarias (Level 11 Special Agent) @ 12/6/2007 12:22
not to be totally off topic, but you can run into trouble if you place too much importance on storyline.  the story should not be too important to the concepts engaged with.

writers for you!!
Erich Maria Remarque
Franz Kafka
Italo Calvino
Ray Bradbury

If you want to make a good story, make a good story.  That's what im trying to do for Partisan.  If you want to make anything artistic or philosophical, don't think about he story.  They will fight each other too much if you TRY to integrate them.  Instead, pick what is important and let them come together as they need to.

spartan_117 (Level 4 Lieutenant) @ 12/6/2007 12:09
thats what im trying to achieve with my own game project. Good game play ,good sprites, great story with a large chunk of philosophical views yet retaining an original story that none or very little have ever written about.

Adarias (Level 11 Special Agent) @ 12/6/2007 12:05
i need to stop comparing games to literature, film, or real artwork.

IMO, saying this is powerful is like saying FF7 had emotional depth (yeah, i said it, commence flaming...). 

It's not mario, but it's also not what I consider a particularly powerful piece in, well, any sense.

works i'd consider fairly powerful:
the old man and the sea
the chrysanthemums
death of a salesman
waiting for godot

this game is more like......watership down or hamlet*~.  interesting? yes.  philosophical? at face value.  profound?  not really.

* the reason for the hype about this piece still eludes me.  it has the same flaws as many things: cookie cutter characters.  the true beauty of art is making the specific universal or the universal specific, not the universal universal (like this game does) or the specific specific...

~ i will give the speech about Yorick credit for being a very powerful process.  the motif of what "seams" is good but overused within the work and in art in general.  polonius is a great commentary on society but he is underutilized.

Cheshire (Level 1 Intern) @ 12/6/2007 11:20
To make pixel philosophical - THIS is the art.

new-age-reject (Level 1 Depressed) @ 12/6/2007 10:23
Such a great and touching game!

zAk (Level 3 Stalker) @ 12/6/2007 06:49
btw = the style kinda reminds me of: http://www.pixeljam.com/gammabros/ Of course not the subject - just the music and pixelart

Equilibrix (Level 5 Captain) @ 12/6/2007 04:54
Well, everything I wanted to say was said already.. Quite impressive piece, I must admit! It really invoked some emotions.. And best of all, it runs under GNU/Linux :-D I had to run through the game several times and every time found something new. Great job!

Haze01 (Level 1 Intern) @ 12/5/2007 17:20
I'm glad I came back here to see what people are saying about this.  I get it now.  I think I'll go and download it again.  I didn't clue into the music thing, and I didn't really make the metaphorical connections that others made.  The things that have been said here have made a lot of sense.

On another note, it's somewhat bad form for HMC to say that Passage is "likely one of, if not the most powerful and touching 600x96 resolution game[s] you'll encounter this year".  I mean... if it was a basic version of pong with a 600x96 resolution, that would qualify.  Hell, if someone made that pong game, I'd have to rate it right up there with Passage.  Anyway... I'm just being picky.

skamocore (Level 11 CEO) @ 12/5/2007 15:44
Admit it...you love it

...it's your soulmate

skeddles (Level 11 Psychopath) @ 12/5/2007 15:28
Ok, ok. After realizing how to play, its not all bad.

cure (Level 11 Godfather) @ 12/5/2007 12:08
Shit.  There's a soulmate?
Well, this seems to fit.  Art imitating life.

skamocore (Level 11 CEO) @ 12/5/2007 07:22
:P well said

exactly what I would've said if I could be bothered writing it

Also another thing I would add is that your 'soul mate' is right in front of you...but you can easily miss her entirely by going down and looking for treasure...

Larwick (Level 8 Regional Boss) @ 12/5/2007 07:14
Great review joe.

joethered (Level 1 Rookie) @ 12/5/2007 06:09
That was the most amazing thing I have seen in a long time.

Hello, I'm Joe, I've been looking at this site for probably over a year now, but never joined because I've been to busy to take up pixel art again.  But I had to say something about this, so here I am.

I played  ...errr.. "played" through this 7 or 8 times because I was so impressed with it.  The first time through, I thought you could only move left or right.  So i went on my way as far as I could to the right.  Honestly, if that really was all that you could do with the game, I would still have been quite impressed.  I especially like how in the beginning you can see far off to the right as if to see the potential future, but it's all distorted because it hasn't happened yet.  Then as time goes on, the past also gets distorted, and you see less of the future.  It really gave me a sense that the end was coming, but you could look back at the long life you had.  i too felt sad when your soul mate dies first.  The first time through I thought the game was about how you must keep moving forward in life.

The next few times I played, I did it to see what would happen (if anything) if you didn't get your soul mate or just met her later in life.  It was at that point that I really stared to wonder what the counter was for.  I still didn't know that you could move up and down, so I thought the only way to make the counter to go up was by moving to the right.  I interpreted the counter to represent your accomplishments in life.  And because I didn't know you could walk around your soul mate, I died with only about 6 or 7 accomplishments, and I gotta say that it really struck a chord with me.

Then I found out you could move up and down and find treasure chests.  I interpreted them to mean that sometimes you risk not continuing on forward in life for the chance to find something big, but often times, you don't find anything.  And I especially loved how if you choose to take your soul mate with you, the places you can go are limited, but at least you have companionship.

And finally, I loved the extra touch of how you don't move as fast after your soul mate dies.  I felt as though I wasn't complete anymore.

Most "art" games that I have played have failed to invoke anything but frustration in me.  Their concepts tend to be too abstract for me to truly accept that they are utilizing the interactive medium to add artistic value.  This is the first piece that I have seen that I felt accomplished what it was meant to do.  It was an amazing experience.

Hapiel (Level 11 Admiral) @ 12/5/2007 00:08
more interactive art indeed.
not my favourite, but I understand it can be for others.

sensation (Level 1 Intern) @ 12/4/2007 23:57
i just realized, this is very much like something that could be used for psychological analysis purposes. to see how people interpret the events. i personally just went through it without a care, relating it to my life and the choices i've made, it's very much like my care free, reactive, unplanned lifestyle. deep, very deep indeed.

cure (Level 11 Godfather) @ 12/4/2007 21:30
I can see where skeddles might be coming from.  Visually, it's hardly advanced, hardly stunning, but I sort of like the simplicity.  It's the ideas and symbolism that makes it.  The chests with stars and flies represent positive and negative events in one's life, as I interpreted it.  There are obstacles everywhere, and you can't win.  There's no beating life, death is inevitable.  The widescreen format is hot, too.  Some of it sounds  cliche in writing, but this is something I've never seen done before.  Calling it a game seems off, maybe misleading, it's more like "interactive art".

skamocore (Level 11 CEO) @ 12/4/2007 21:08

I like it.

skeddles (Level 11 Psychopath) @ 12/4/2007 20:43

cure (Level 11 Godfather) @ 12/4/2007 19:15
skeddles: If your opinion is shit, keep it to yourself.

Larwick (Level 8 Regional Boss) @ 12/4/2007 17:43
Quite interesting thing to make. Definetely not what i expected, but great nevertheless, i thought the super-low-res worked quite well. I think the amount of time it gives you to just think is what makes it so 'touching'. Nice work jcr13.

cerealkiller54 (Level 6 Made) @ 12/4/2007 17:13
Almost cried when she died.
Anyway, this is pretty good, confusing at first and didn't know how to exit, but is pretty good.

skeddles (Level 11 Psychopath) @ 12/4/2007 16:09

Thats not a very funny joke. You shouldn't make people download crap.

cure (Level 11 Godfather) @ 12/4/2007 13:53
That was trippy.  Brilliant stuff really, I can sorta see it in a modern art gallery setting.  The progression of the character's position in reference to the starting point was a nice touch.

cure (Level 11 Godfather) @ 12/4/2007 13:43
No, I'm Sparticus.

jcr13 (Level 1 Rookie) @ 12/4/2007 10:39
I'm the guy who made Passage.

You folks especially seem to be getting a kick out of the "pixel art music," so I thought I'd chime in here.  I was using mtPaint (awesome, awesome app) for the graphics.  Then I was stuck with the problem of making the music.... I thought about deving a custom music editing app, but that seemed like a lot of work.  Instead, I just used mtPaint and interpreted each unbroken line of pixels as a note.  The tones for each line of the music are hard-coded in the game software.

It works great (except that if you are editing the tail end of the song, you need to listen to the whole song from the start in the game engine to preview how your changes sound).  Mapping from images to sounds works really well, and everything makes sense (red=right speaker, green=left speaker, so yellow=dead center, and blue you can use for comments, bar marks, or whatever annotations that you don't want to make sound with).

Actually, this kind of mapping isn't my original idea.  There's an awesome music composition tool from about 10 years ago called MetaSynth...  sort of an "inverse spectrogram" tool that lets you draw on a spectrogram and hear how it sounds...  What happens when your blur a spectrogram?  What happens when you apply a twist or pinch filter?  How does it sound?

Alas, MetaSynth is for Mac only:

Here's a link

inkspot (Level 4 Button Man) @ 12/4/2007 07:42
Even music is pixeled, wow. Quite artistic and original game yes, I somehow imagine it in some art gallery or something.

zAk (Level 3 Stalker) @ 12/4/2007 05:55
This really is neat! i never saw a game that would 'capture' the viewer in this way

drZool (Level 6 Serial Killer) @ 12/4/2007 03:25
There is a music.tga file in it. You can view the music! It looks like a scoreboard. Awesome!

Larwick (Level 8 Regional Boss) @ 12/4/2007 01:31
This sounds quite interesting, i'll check it out when i get home. :)

This Week's Pixel Art

D'oh!! icon/pixelartTreasure Cave Background icon/pixelartLink icon/pixelartEclairs Au Chocolat icon/pixelart
Play party games with QuizBash app
Play party games with QuizBash app

Recent News


Want to give some dough back to all those amazing pixel artists? Donations provide prize money for contests, help cover hosting costs and support new initiatives.