Paloma Dawkins: “Games are the future of storytelling”

With their non-linear narratives, trippy hand-drawn imagery and ambient electronic soundtracks, Paloma Dawkins’ experimental art pieces offer an alternative to mainstream gaming. We talk to her as part of our week-long special on gaming

There’s no question that Paloma Dawkins’ games go against the grain – they are set in supremely weird worlds populated by floating shapes, waving plants and quirky cartoon characters. Her creations are often invitations to explore, letting players immerse themselves in environments without the pressure of specific goals or levels to complete.

Palmystery is “a surreal horror cartoon video game” that leads people through a series of bizarre digital worlds filled with disembodied hands, before concluding with a guided meditation. Dawkins says it was designed in the aftermath of Trump’s election, as an attempt to harness some of the potent emotions people felt at the time. “It seemed a waste to let that go,” she says.

Other games are similarly meditative, such as Alea – a psychedelic “forest simulator” designed to calm players down – or Fast Machine – a screen of computer-generated visuals that pulse and change in response to keyboard strokes. Dawkins’ most recent project is Museum of Symmetry – a VR adventure game, made in partnership with the National Film Board of Canada, that lets players experience the elements of earth, fire, wind and water. Whatever it is you think a typical video game is, Dawkins’ work isn’t.