If you live near downtown New York City or can get to downtown New York City some time in the next month, then all you need to know from me is that there's a video game in these parts that you need to play.
You shouldn't watch the video I'm posting here. You shouldn't subject yourself to any spoilers. You should just make a plan to go to ninth floor of the New York University building at 721 Broadway, make sure someone else is around, and play a video game called At A Distance. It will take you and your partner a half hour or so to complete.
At A Distance is a befuddling game. It made its worldwide debut yesterday at the No Quarter exhibition held by NYU's Game Center program. It was the headliner of a strong handful of indie games. It also was the most confusing one, a two-screened, mostly-crimson spectacle with no instructions, a swarm of people gathered around it and, standing among them, its creator, Terry Cavanagh, correctly refusing to tell me anything about it.
The magic of At A Distance is figuring it out as you play, Cavanagh claimed. I thought he was being difficult. He seems like a pleasant man—burly, bearded and
British Irish—but his work has shown a mean streak. His last game, beloved here at Kotaku, was the viciously challenging VVVVV. He refused to tell me how his game worked and just let me and another clueless rube tumble into it. Cavanagh was right, I learned, and that's why, even in the video here, which I shot shortly after playing the game, I only hesitantly spoil some of the how-the-game-is-played.
The magic of At A Distance is figuring it out as you play, Cavanagh claimed. I thought he was being difficult.
I will explain this much: At A Distance is a two-player co-op game. Each player uses an Xbox 360 controller and has a monitor that shows what they're doing. The game has a lot of red in it and, well... get yourself to NYU and play it. I asked Cavanagh where else he'll take the game and if it will be released more widely. He doesn't know. It was commissioned for the No Quarter exhibition. And it'll remain there, on the ninth floor, for a month. (The organizers tell me that the hours will, at the very least, be M-F, 10AM-5PM.) What happens with the game after that is undecided.
I haven't given you much to go on, but trust me. Get to the place. Learn for yourself why the game attracted a crowd. This one's special.
Caveat: I must note that I can't guarantee you will have quite as good a time as I did, but that's only because the "clueless rube" with whom I played the game is game designer Matt LoPresti, a man who actually says "badda-bing!" to his co-op partner when successful gameplay discoveries are made. Aside from that, I think you'll enjoy yourself.