The Endless Forest by Tale of Tales (2005)

Download the Endless Forest 'social screensaver'

The Endless Forest by Tale of Tales is a game about beauty, wonder, calm and peace. There are no stealth missions, no guns to swap, no armour or enemies. Taking on the role of a somewhat dreamy deer who wanders through an endless forest imbued with magical powers that seem as unpredictable as mesmerising, players of The Endless Forest are invited to hang out and roam amidst beautiful trees,old mysterious ruins, an idyllic pond and happy flower beds. Without a goal of any sorts, they soon find that there’s more to the forest than just mere eye candy. There are other players in this forest, all of them male deer with different, human-like Hayao Miyazaki styled faces, majestic antlers and their own distinctive fur patterns, and that’s where the fun starts.

Giving the game a try at a recent festival, we didn’t know what to expect from The Endless Forest. We knew that the game had to feature a forest, given its title, and had heard something about deer. We took a seat behind two different computers. We started walking around the forest, asking each other where are you? After some running around we found each other and some other deer too. Icons at the bottom of the screen told us we could interact with each other. For example, we could dance. Music would start and your stag would bend down one leg after the other, shaking his head left and right. When other deer joined us, the music changed because they all brought in their own tune. There was the feeling that this is what we liked to do, all of us. On top of that we exchanged antlers and fur patterns and some of us rolled over the forest floor on our backs. After a while the group of deer dissolved again and disappeared into the forest. Running around some more we found we could change into frogs when drinking from the water in the pond (and change back to a stag just as easily), that we could become invisible if we wanted to, that we could moo like a real stag, which is just plain nice, and pay our respects to the Forest Gods – turning us white for some reason. At certain moments, at specific places, new actions became available. Crossing a flower bed, a new icon showing a bowed deer’s head would appear. And indeed, when selecting it the deer bowed its head, raising its antlers only to show them covered in little purple flowers.

So the game brings back dancing into play. And running. And looking good. And socialising with other deer. Playing this game, you cannot help but notice that something has changed in what you considered was playing. In The Endless Forest, playing is no longer goal-oriented, about finding and bending rules or working towards an end, but about hanging out and spending time in a place without end.

By Maaike Lauwaert & Martijn Hendriks