'Where Earth And Sky Meet Universe Beyond' (above), documented inside Camille Flammarion‘s L‘atmosphère: météorologie populaire (1888).
Axolotl and Gozilla Fall off the edge of their world (below)

Cosmology has been a classic visual theme since cave paintings and ancient egyptian art, and is in AFTERLIFE thematically explored by following and breaking the inherent rules of the game engine itself, here seen as a its own functioning microcosmos.

Many ancient pieces of art, such as 'The Garden of Earthly Delights' discussed above, play with and question the models of the world established in their times, and exploit the illusion that the fictional universe extends infinitely beyond what is shown. Just like a studio set in a movie, computer games, no matter how restricted in terms of player movement and freedom of choice, attempt to convince their audience that the world of the story extends infinitely beyond that which is exposed. AFTERLIFE makes use of this element in similar ways to baroque and romantic landscape painting styles, which try to convince their audience of the abundance and vividness of the world beyond that which is framed.

Romantic Landscape with Sheep at a Spring, ca. 1783, by Thomas Gainsborough (1727 - 1788). The use of light in the horizon and the washed-out landscape in the background excites the idea of a world extending infinitely beyond the scene portrayed.

AFTERLIFE eventually exposes the inherent confinements of its game world at the end of the Oracle scene, when the two main characters fall off the edge off the map. This is a playfully hint at flat earth theory, which like many other conspiracy theories has gained in following post 9/11, and out-of-bounds bugs in computer games, which accidently make players glitch to the 'outside' of the game world they are supposed to play in. Here, the out-of-bounds bug is often giving the player an accidental meta-perspective of the game world, exposing the constructedness of the game that has engaged them up to that point, simultaneously rendering the player unable to progress in the game, as they now find their character glitched outside of it.

This meta-perspective, inherently afforded by bugged game design, is made use of in AFTERLIFE's storytelling, to artistically depict the relationship between the characters and their world (their inner understanding of it and their physical relationship with it). Metaphorically, they die the moment they break with the rules of their world and defy its confined space, making a new sort of spiritual growth or a new pathway beyond that which was predefined possible.

"Flat Earth' as modelled by Claus Lunau/Science Photo Library

Out-of-bounds bugs in the classic computer game 'Resident Evil 4'


AFTERLIFE was originally intended to be far more violent, bloody, sexual, and nudity-exposing than it finally turned out to be. As the main point of the story formed - namely the spiritual journey of the two main characters - we opted for a much more discreet style which was more reminiscent of Studio Gibli movies and fantasy books like The Chronicles of Narnia, The Neverending Story and The Brothers Lionheart. As one of the goals of the piece became to talk about the world through a perspective of magic and wonder, it became less meaningful to include elements of shock and provocation in the piece. This also brought about the benefit that the piece can be watched and enjoyed by a younger audience - and has layers of meaning and depth suited for several age groups.  There are two bloody scenes in AFTERLIFE - when the main characters die, and when they are brought back into the world by a collective sacrifice by the Oracle's pilgrims. Here, the blood is not used for shock value, but more as a signifier for a transition of the main characters into or from a bodily form.

Princess Mononoke / Studio Ghibli. Violence in Ghibli movies is rarely depicted realistically, the blood and gore is mostly used symbolically, to imply sacrifice or a change of physical state. Similarly, romantic relationships are never portrayed sexually, sexuality is present as an underlying element but rarely ever overtly exposed.