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HomeLatest NewsGaming ZoneThis Indie Game Captures The Oddly Beautiful Liminality Of Pools

This Indie Game Captures The Oddly Beautiful Liminality Of Pools


For lots of people, indie recreation POOLS will lean into horror territory. Whereas the strolling simulator doesn’t have any monsters chasing you down, the liminal design of its surroundings may be very able to unsettling the participant. Lengthy, interconnected rooms of tiling and oddly-shaped our bodies of water sloshing backwards and forwards lead you to imagine that one thing simply isn’t proper throughout the world of POOLS. And but, for me, it evokes a shocking nostalgia for the numerous hours of my life spent round swimming pools.

POOLS is a collection of six mazes to navigate, with little steerage and no actual risk. As a substitute, it presents an architectural uncanny valley influenced by the concept of liminal areas and backrooms. There may be additionally a whole lot of water. However the eerie vacancy of an area designed for multiple solitary individual evokes the identical feeling of early morning swim practices.

Swimming pools, not less than massive public swimming pools like those evoked by POOLS, are designed to be communal areas. They’re meant to be locations of life and sound. In actual life and the sport, being alone when exploring a pool and its surrounding services can really feel otherworldly. That isn’t essentially an unsettling factor. Whereas that’s fairly explicitly what POOLS is making an attempt to evoke, for me it manages to be nearly meditative.

Picture: Tensori

For almost all of my center and highschool years, I used to be a aggressive swimmer. Like several sport, it was a time-consuming dedication that meant early mornings and late evenings. Mornings are particularly memorable, bundled up in a heat parka sitting alone in entrance of an unlimited pool inside an enormous facility. Earlier than dawn, with the pool solely lit by a couple of fluorescent bulbs on the deck, it may possibly make you’re feeling like the one individual on the earth.

Navigating via the white-tiled structure of POOLS is about exploring one thing new. Every room is exclusive. Every has its personal curves and arduous angles, in addition to its personal utilization of the central water options. Some rooms have attractive swimming pools that really feel impressed by bathhouses, a couple of have colourful waterslides, and others are completely flooded. Many really feel utilitarian in design, easy railings and ladders surrounding rectangular receptacles of water. When touring for competitors, each pool was a brand new place to find. Usually they had been my solely window into no matter metropolis I used to be in—the pool was the entire world.

I wished to memorize every pool’s distinctive components, all the way down to the discrepancies in the way it felt to glide via the water. These reconstructions nonetheless exist in some deep a part of my thoughts. Some are clearer than others, however they’re linked collectively like a thoughts palace of types that I can stroll via. They’re at all times empty, apart from the uninteresting buzz of electrical energy from the lights and the sloshing of water.

Two pages of illustrations of different pools

Picture: Blue Rider Press / Leanne Shapton

The very best visible illustration of this has at all times been, for me, the work of Leanne Shapton. Now an artist and author, Shapton was a aggressive swimmer for almost all of her youth. In her memoir, Swimming Research, Shapton intercuts textual content with numerous items of artwork. Probably the most memorable to me are the pages of straightforward geometric renderings of various swimming pools the world over that Shapton has visited. The darkish shapes of the swimming pools are contrasted by a stark white surrounding, with nothing else.

Like Shapton’s artwork, POOLS breaks these areas all the way down to the fundamentals of darkish water and muted white environment. However the recreation triggers one thing in me a lot nearer to my reminiscences. It’s a mix of the visible rendering of the house, the audio of water dripping on tiles, and the flexibility to wander at my very own tempo. There are some rooms in POOLS that really feel nearly immediately lifted from my mind like I’m wandering into reminiscences. It’s not the unsettling expertise the sport is meant to be for many gamers, however one thing extra private and simply as enthralling.

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