ENDLING II: MNEMOSYNE UNIT-01

Mnemosyne Unit-01 is a hyper-creature that contains the DNA of all known eukaryotic species as they navigate a deserted Earth. The premise of Dimitris Gkikas’ walking simulator, an emerging gaming genre, takes the player to an eclectic universe which, despite its grim post-apocalypticism, maintains a light spirit and insightful view of technology.

Endling II

Can you tell us a little bit about the story and setting of Endling’s second part?

The second part of Endling is a walking simulator that explores the aftermath of a mass extinction. Taking place two decades after a virus eradicated all living creatures, the player takes the role of Mnemosyne Unit-01, a hyper-creature that contains the DNA of all known eukaryotic species, as they navigate a deserted, post-apocalyptic Earth.

LINK: https://folder-one.eu/Endling/Mnemosyne/

How did you come up with this concept, and what inspired you to create such a unique protagonist?

As a child, I had an illustrated book of the Bible, and I was fascinated by the story of Noah’s Ark. I was really intrigued by how the animals were removed from their natural environment and forced to live together. I wondered how an environment could handle such a huge number of species and such a contrast of diversity in such a limited space. These thoughts lingered in my mind as I began to work on Mnemosyne, which, similar to the Ark, serves as a shelter that preserves and protects but can also feel like a prison that triggers tensions. Sometimes I think that Mnemosyne is like a family – a source both of protection and conflict.

Other sources of influence come from anime such as Neon Genesis Evangelion, where you have these huge mechanical robots that are partly human and can host life. Additionally, Louise Bourgeois’ spiders also served as an inspiration. I saw them in Athens a year ago and was mindblown by their aura of strength and vulnerability. I wanted Mnemosyne to be like these spiders: to act as a symbol of protection and motherhood. I also longed to connect this creature with Greek mythology, hence the name Mnemosyne, who was the daughter of Gaia. Through this character, I wanted to show a new version of the Earth that operates in something like a state of war, constantly battling to process and manage all this overwhelming number of DNA data, as life itself is reduced to data.

Can you describe the game mechanics of Endling’s walking simulator gameplay?

The game mechanics are very simple and involve only the use of arrow keys to move the character. In contrast to some other walking simulators, there are no interactions with the environment. 

On one hand, there is a deserted and alienated environment where silence and loneliness prevail. On the other hand, there is the posthuman creature, brimming with chaos, anger, and movement. I wanted to illustrate this difference between the two. If Earth no longer hosts life, does it become nothing more than an empty shell? And if all living organisms are part of this creature rather than the environment, does that make the creature a host? A new environment? A new Earth?

How does the game address the theme of mass extinction, and what emotions do you hope to evoke in players as they explore the deserted, post-apocalyptic Earth?

When I think about mass extinction, I think about extreme loneliness and isolation. What happens to the survivors, if there are any, and how do they experience the absence? How do valleys continue to exist with no one to step on them again? How would the Earth sound without the songs of the birds? Loneliness is a prevalent theme in all of my works, and I realized that this post-apocalyptic setting after the mass extinction is merely a vehicle to explore extreme loneliness and loss. Although the creature is composed of thousands of entities, the reality is that it is still lonely. 

Additionally, I was not trying to evoke specific emotions from the player as I worked on this game. I was solely focused on my emotions and how to present my ideas as accurately as possible. As for the audience, perhaps only those with the same experience as me will be drawn to it, and that’s okay.

What challenges can players expect to face as they navigate the post-apocalyptic world, and how do these challenges tie into the game’s overall narrative?

The challenges come from within the creature itself. During the game, the DNA strands struggle to coexist harmoniously, leading to beatbox battles between them. During these battles, the player temporarily loses control of the creature, which starts behaving like a non-playable character (NPC). 

What was the thought process behind this design decision, and how does it add to the gameplay experience?

It started as an add-on, an unexpected twist meant to be a playful humorous experience. I was thinking it would be funny if the user temporarily lost control of the character. This idea came from an anime where the main character loses control of himself and goes berserk after someone close to him gets hurt, or just something happens that triggers it. 

But then I started to wonder: what does it mean to lose control of oneself? In the context of a video game, losing control of your character may cause it to behave like a non-playable character (NPC). This led me to question the relationship between identity and control. If our actions define who we are, and we are not aware of our actions, are we still the same person? That’s something I only touch on in this work and I really hope to explore more on future projects.

Endling I

Can you tell us about the music and sound design in the game, and how they contribute to the immersive experience of the interconnected world?

I wanted to use a classical piece that has a timeless quality. I selected the piece Vltava from Má Vlast (The Moldau River) by Czech composer Bedřich Smetana. The virus happens so quickly and destroys everything in its path. It all happens in a glimpse, and I wanted to juxtapose this temporariness with a piece of music that feels eternal.

The game is set in a dystopian world where a virus penetrates the minds of the people, leading to the end of all species. How does the game address the theme of the consequences of technological advancements and the impact it has on society?

In Endling, humanity is so over-connected through a brain-machine interface that a virus causes widespread destruction. I think what I had in mind was how centralized apps like WeChat can become powerful weapons in tightening censorship and state control.

According to Leo Marx, technology becomes hazardous when it becomes the driving force of society due to people’s complete dependence on machines. It’s also pretty clear that the more powerful the technology, the greater the potential harm from accidents. When tech companies compete for financial gain in the development of technology, there is a risk of sacrificing safety and ethics for profit or prestige, leading to a ”race to the bottom”.

LINK: https://folder-one.eu/Endling/Utopia/index.html

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Bio

Dimitris Gkikas (b. Athens, Greece) is a Berlin-based new media artist and designer. Through various mediums including video, net art, video games, performances, and installations, Gkikas explores themes of isolation, dead-ends, climate change, religion, and memories. His work is characterized by black humour, nonsense, and repetition. Gkikas has exhibited his work internationally at institutions such as UZWEI in Dortmunder U (DE), Akademie Schloss Solitude (online/shortlisted), 19th Media Art Biennale WRO (PL), Ars Electronica X.ART Global Gallery (online), Kunstverein Tiergarten (DE), ADAF (GR), Vector Festival (CA), FILE Festival (BR), Transmediale Vorspiel (DE), and The Wrong New Digital Art Biennale (online).

Credits

Artist/ Dimitris Gkikas

https://folder-one.eu/

Interview / Markéta Kosinová

Photography / Benedict Schwarzer

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