How State of Play brings a brand new sort of craft to video games

The studio's founders discuss how screen printing inspired the latest version of South of the Circle and why games should go beyond glossy photorealistic graphics

"We make stories that happen to be games," says State of Play's Katherine Bidwell, who co-founded the studio in 2008 with Luke Whittaker. Over the course of six releases, the couple introduced a uniquely tactile style of gaming to gaming. In the award-winning adventure game Lumino City, players travel through a game world made by hand from paper, wood and motors as Kami challenges users to solve colored paper puzzles.

"Visually, I think games have their own aesthetic … and we don't find the overly-produced, glossy look of many games particularly appealing," Whittaker said of the couple's handcrafted approach. "You cannot see the Creator there or anything of your heart and soul. We have always tried to put as much inside of us as possible."

For State of Play's latest release, South of the Circle, which tells the story of Peter, an academic struggle for survival in Antarctica, the studio turned to the ancient tradition of screen printing. Whittaker not only screen-printed much of his life, but grew up surrounded by the work of his grandfather, Ray Whittaker, who was also an avid screen printer. The process of printmaking and the distinctive look of his grandfather's artwork were a major influence on the game.

"I've always believed that the smallest design is the best and that you want just enough to say it – because it keeps people focused on what's important," explains Whittaker. "You will find in this game that a lot of it is almost like a theater set that is very dimly lit. So you focus on the characters and the irrelevant stuff is gone.