Game Jam Winner Spotlight: Dreaming The Cave

from the gaming-like-it's-1926 dept

So far, in our series of posts about the winners of the fourth annual public domain game jam, Gaming Like It’s 1926, we’ve looked at Best Adaptation The Wall Across The River and Best Deep Cut The Obstruction Method. Today, it’s time for the winner of the Best Remix category: Dreaming The Cave by David Harris.

David is our one and only returning winner this year, with his third win in a streak after taking Best Analog Game for Fish Magic in 2021 and for The 24th Kandinsky in 2020. Now, with Dreaming The Cave, he has cemented his fascinating niche: games that teach the player about art. And just like the earlier entries, this isn’t some dry educational tool or an unoriginal game with facts and imagery slapped on — rather, it’s a beautifully conceived experience where the gameplay itself is suffused with the meaning and message of the game.

But unlike the earlier entries, Dreaming The Cave isn’t based on a single painting or series by a single artist. This time, the attention has been turned on the artistic partnership between Czech artists who worked and exhibited together in the early 20th century: Toyen (a genderqueer painter who explored gender issues and sexual politics in their work) and Jindřich Štyrský (a surrealist painter and poet who died of pneumonia in 1942, leaving Toyen to continue their artistic career alone). The game uses the latter’s 1926 painting Jeskyně (The Cave) as a board — and when you look at it, you’ll see why this was such a natural piece of inspiration:

Two players take on roles, not of the artists themselves, but of their dreams, which are explored as a means of collaboration that could continue beyond Štyrský’s death. Throughout play, they will place small cards featuring other works by the duo onto the board, creating a path that represents the dreamworld connection of these two creative minds. As they do so, they will describe “dream scenes” using dream logic, augmenting and building off each others’ imagination.

And this is where Dreaming The Cave distinguishes itself from David’s previous games. Where those each put focus on the individual elements that make up a painting, this game zooms out to look at the larger body of both artists’ work and how the paintings reflect on each other — because ultimately this is a game about the artists and their deep relationship, with the works themselves serving as a conduit to that exploration. The simple rules of play enable the dream narrative to move in different directions, even leaving open the possibility of the game (and thus the artistic collaboration) ending early because the dream connection isn’t made. Dreams are fickle, and unpredictable.

For continuing an amazing tradition of games that explore art, and once again showing that there are many unique ways to do this depending on the art in question, Dreaming The Cave was an obvious contender for a win. And for turning its attention to a pair of artists and a larger combined body of work, and making players physically mix these works together to tell a surreal story that harmonizes so well with them, it rises to the top of the Best Remix category.

Congratulations to David Harris for the win! You can get everything you need to play Dreaming The Cave from its page on Itch, plus don’t forget to check out the other winners as well as the many great entries that didn’t quite make the cut! We’ll be back next week with another winner spotlight.

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Comments on “Game Jam Winner Spotlight: Dreaming The Cave”

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CharlieBrown (forgotten my login!) says:

Copyright Terms

This has nothing to do with the game. But I’ve just had a funny thought: What if the copyright holders have started to realise that copyright terms are too long because they’re sick of having to look after and restore all the old stuff? If it’s in the public domain, they don’t have to worry about cleaning up old prints or looking after yellowing pages or decaying microfilm. Just a theory, but what do you think?

PaulT (profile) says:


I’m afraid you’re not looking very closely at what these people actually do. They don’t give 2 craps about anything that’s not currently commercially viable or successful. They will only bother to “look after” the stuff they think they can sell, and will only do that if they believe that the profit they get from doing so is greater than the costs of the restoration.

If not, then what they also won’t do is move them to the public domain. If they’re in the public domain then other people get to profit, and they won’t want that either. It’s either lost sales (people buy the PD version instead of whatever they’re currently marketing) or just extra money to a competitor.

It’s a very sad state of affairs, but corporations would rather have older works rot if they don’t have a profit motive.

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