FLUID is a ecosystem as play;
a system designed for meaningful interaction. Housed in a blue plastic
industrial waste container, FLUID is a playful and multi-leveled touchscreen
installation. The touchscreen is parallel to the floor, and players interact with the system by touching, stroking, and poking at the screen.
Inside the screen lives an abstract, miniature ecosystem made up of
a handful of different species of organisms. When the player first touches the screen, the organisms respond smoothly and
immediately. To interact with FLUID, the player touches, strokes,
and pokes at the horizontal screen. This core activity is the sensual substratum with which the user explores relationships between the elements of the system.
Within the ecosystem of the screen live a number of simple organisms,
each species relating to the user and to each other in unique ways.
Some of the organisms need to be guided by the user in order to move
about the environment. Others have their own means of locomotion.
Some of the elements can be combined with others to form new organisms.
And some of the organisms have the ability to transform elements of
The elements of the ecosystem include:
ALGAE, the grid of dots that form the substratum of the system FLUID is a system, abstracted to a simple, stylized language. The
visual graphics resemble geometric design patterns of the 50s and
the rich audio mixes natural sounds with procedurally generated electronic
static. Playing with FLUID means exploring the relationships between
the organisms. In a sense, the structure of the ecosystem, the interactions
between the organisms, is itself the content. The immediate sensuality
of the experience, combined with the dynamic quality of the evolving
ecosystem provides a curiously structural set of pleasures. The toylike
interaction rewards deeper and deeper exploration, as players continue
to uncover the relationships between the organisms.
FEEDERS, organisms that have to be assembled by players and that in
adult form turn algae into edible food
FORAGERS, hungry creatures that move towards and eat up edible algae
MUCK, the gray substance that first appears when a player touches
a forager and spreads slowly about the screen
For example, to rid the ecosystem of muck, the player has to lead
the foragers around the screen by strategically moving the feeders
over algae, creating a trail of bread crumbs that indirectly
maneuver the foragers towards the muck. In order to accomplish this
goal, the player has to understand the properties of all of the elements
in the system: the algae, feeders, foragers, and muck.
There is also within FLUID a kind of moral fable. Interacting with
one of the organisms in the ecosystem results in an unpleasant gray
muck to be released. This muck will slowly spread across
the entire screen if the player does not discover a way to stop it.
If FLUID is a game, then the goal of the game is to eliminate the
muck from the screen. Yet paradoxically, the muck is only present
because of the user's own seduction to interact with the system.
Fluid was commissioned from gameLab by the Swiss Re Center for Global