Taking Niedenthal’s three core meanings of game aesthetics in application to Limbo (2010) a clear intention of authored aesthetic design is present. Considering the first point, the game’s sensory phenomena visual, aural, haptic and embodied emphasise a sparseness, emptiness, and feeling of isolation. The game features no dialogue, almost no music, physics are brutal and deadly (providing haptic vibrations on death animation when a controller is used) and the player’s avatar is embodied within a fragile state of continual opposition to his environment.
The second core meaning establishes digital games as sharing aspects of other art forms. Limbo itself has often been compared to many cinematic genres within animation and film but it also draws on a history of the platformer within games. As I explore and navigate its environment I never question the diegetic fidelity of the platformer level design or experience. Overall the game appears to be highly pursuing immersion, with no fourth wall breaking non-diegetic interfaces, which creates a sense that this game is of greater artistic quality and deserving of attention and engagement.
The third core aspect is the idea that game aesthetics express emotions as experienced. Limbo can certainly frequently be punitive in its design toward escaping a section’s puzzles, traps or enemies. This can create a sense of frustration but also of elation at progressing to the next scene. To find out more about the minimal story and world and to progress as a player surviving in this environment I must go through a process of narrative and gameplay growth. As I progress through the forest I am able to apply a language of platformers and ingame physics that lets me feel engaged with the experience of the game’s challenge of survival. As I progress further I am learning to defeat traps, and as I am conquering the massive spider I feel a sense of mastery over this world that will continue to be challenged as I progress further along its path. Limbo then as an experience uses audial-visual design, transmediality and experiential gameplay design to create its unique and holistic sense of a game aesthetic as Niedenthal’s useful model applies.