Abzu, A Meditation on Gaming

Abzu is a new game from Giant Squid, a studio founded by Flower and Journey art director, Matt Nava. He formed the studio after leaving thatgamecompany in 2013. The game is the studio’s debut release and is a non-violent, exploration-focused game which aims to effectively convey the emotions and feeling of being a diver underwater. Abzu’s journey is conveyed through stylised graphics highlighted by a vibrant colour palette, but the emotivemusical score by Journey composer Austin Wintory sitting alongside the stunning visuals kept me in thrall for the duration of the game.

Progression through the game is linear but the environments are designed to be explored; the different acts of the game are set in different areas of the sea including caverns, deep oceanic areas, coral reefs and flooded ruins. The game does not have goals or levels but primarily involves you just swimming around freely and this is intrinsically rewarding. There are a few cut-scenes but the story is told primarily through environmental storytelling; it is up to the player to dwell on what they believe happened to the ancient ruined civilization.

Abzu is a beautiful stylised game with a vibrant colour palette.

Playing the game I felt a lot of different emotions in the game but the primary ones were relaxed, intrigued and awed. The game was obviously designed to be immersive but simplistic to keep players in the state of zen or flow and it achieved this in the couple of hours it took me to finish the game.

Having played the game I believe that it could be used in a similar way that I have used Endless Ocean to help in the teaching of a sequence of Literacy work. The open ended exploration of the game world allows a lot more freedom than Endless Ocean offered and the upgrade in graphics and sound would definitely be more inspirational for the pupils. I hope to be using this sometime this coming academic year and will, of course, share my work here.