Quicksand formalised a
laboratory for play experiences with the christening of the Quicksand GamesLab in early 2013. Initiated as a seed funded project supported by the Arts & Humanities Research Council, UK (AHRC), and the British Council at the UnBox Festival 2013, Quicksand GamesLab is now working to publish its first indie video game in collaboration with creative powerhouses BLOT! - a popular electronic arts collective in India.
First and foremost, Quicksand GamesLab represents an opportunity for Quicksand to expand its engagement and contribution to the progression of experimental research approaches. GamesLab is positioned as an exploratory research group within Quicksand, that collaborates with external teams, partners and patrons to create playful experiences in media and technology. With one of Quicksand's founders having been a toy and children's product designer, GamesLab fulfils an early agenda of the studio to facilitate better play experiences through design. It also represents a natural extension to Quicksand's present interests in exploring new knowledge formats.
Finally, GamesLab is an opportunity for us to actively investigate the mysteries of play and its impact on people. There is something pure in any engagement involving play; as a creator, it pushes you to understand yourself and others in a more primal, deeper manner, and as a player, it pulls you back to the native state of your childhood. These are critical and valuable experiences to propagate within these two groups, and GamesLab is an opportunity to do so for the Quicksand studio.
There are 3 events that led to the genesis of Quicksand GamesLab's debut video game project.
The first is the classical dance ballet Antariksha Sanchar - conceived and choreographed by Bharatanatyam exponent Jayalakshmi Eshwar - which is the fountainhead from which the story and name of the game evolved. The dance ballet explores the evolution of flight and aircrafts in Indian mythology, posing philosophical and practical questions on man's abilities to explore the Universe. BLOT! and Romit Raj, both collaborators on the game project, were also involved in an electronic arts interpretation of this production in collaboration with a fashion design and architectural studio at the UnBox Festival in 2012.
The second incident was the AHRC-UnBox Festival fellowship and fund grant in early 2013, that pushed Quicksand to formalize its interests around game design. Quicksand GamesLab was borne as a response to a research question that pondered on alternative storytelling frameworks, cultural translations and the future of literature. With the project name 'Meghdoot' - a framework of a kinect-based game was created as a proof of concept for a pitch at the festival. On being successfully granted a small seed fund, GamesLab began a more concerted effort to take this framework ahead through the creation of a new video game that explored new formats for storytelling.
The third event that shaped the project to where it stands today was the inception of a 'graphic album' project by audiovisual collective BLOT! in late 2012. Pitching a new concept for a graphic novel accompanied by an electronic music album, merchandise and performances, BLOT! wrote out the first version of an Indian speculative science fiction story on the theme of 'Future Botanical', that was to later become the core narrative of the video game. The intention at that time was to explore independent transmedia publishing with a focus on electronic arts, and the possibility of a video game adaptation of the story seemed to be an exciting proposition. It also made economic and creative sense to join forces given the highly constrained resources within which an independent project such as this is.