Rromok is a simulation game, viewed through the lens of an artificial intelligence, that was developed by the design collective Rites Network and commissioned by the V&A. The collective includes Jelena Viskovic, an artist and game designer who has recently joined ReMAP and the IOE Media team, and will be leading the games and interactive design pathway on the new BA Media.
In an interview with the V&A, Jelena explains the ideas behind Rromok. Rromok is an abstraction of the Hungarian word for ‘ruins’. The title describes a world which is not easy to access. It isn’t necessarily there for the player, but players can contribute to it, and indirectly shape it with their input. The game was originally about creating a sandbox city-state that exists independent of human factors. We were looking for ways to model branching in game narratives and mechanics that influence the governance of a sandbox world and it’s regions. We were inspired by the myth of Osiris, god of the underworld, whose body parts were scattered across the Nile and put together by the goddess Isis, to symbolically reunite the region and its god, converting chaos into order. This inspired us to create an assembly game where the player has to find parts of a mechanism in order to make the simulation work and regulate itself. The question we also pose is what does this self-regulated world get out of the players? Players can help this world and its algorithmic infrastructure process data scraped from social media platforms, which helps Rromok predict its own future. The players in exchange get something like a satellite view of themselves. We live in a world where we constantly see ourselves from an abstract view in navigation apps, maps, quantified self movements and we are obsessed with surveillance. We seem to be engaged in a birds-eye view of ourselves and the algorithmic mechanisms we indirectly influence and are influenced by. We have so many ideas about how to control the future and what it holds for us and so many platforms to talk about them, but we might just be dabbling in the unknown. Through this game we are testing the role of the players agency in the artificial world of Rromok and how willing they are to contribute to a world that exists for its own purpose and not the players, regardless of all the feedback that it gives to the player.
To read more of the interview and to play the game for yourself, visit the V&A display of the project.