Video games have been primarily about fast, frenetic action, ever since Nintendo released the original NES in the U.S., filling kids’ brains with games like Mega Man and Contra. But why shouldn’t video games be slow?
Slow Games is a triptych of handmade video-game consoles designed by Ishac Bertran that encourage a more languorous approach to gaming. Instead of calling upon players to make split-second decisions in fast succession, Slow Games require players to deliberate each move for a long time, like playing chess by mail.
Although inspired by the gameplay of classic titles like Pong and Mario, Slow Games is designed so that a player only needs to interact with them once a day. Each game is played on a very simple device made out of wood, with an 8×8 pixel LED grid for the display.
But just because each bespoke console is simple doesn’t mean it’s simple to play. Bertran’s games are designed to be played with a single button or switch press. The longer you press that button or switch, the further your move. But there’s a delay. If you’re playing Pong, for example, you won’t know whether or not you moved your paddle far enough to bounce it back at your opponent for an entire day.
Bertrand says that he’s trying to experiment with slow-paced, long-lasting gameplay. He wants to explore game mechanics that could potentially keep players engaged, not for minutes, but for weeks. That might sound maddening, but there are a lot of games that depend upon delay to create a pleasurable sort of tension. If you’ve ever spent a week waiting to see if an opponent was going to take your knight in a play-by-mail chess match, imagine when you’re stretching that anticipation over a Tetris game instead.