After graduating university with a chemistry degree, Ajit Singh went to work as a graphic designer for a soccer company, designing uniforms for clubs across the United Kingdom. He dreamed of making a game, though, and he found his inspiration in The Cove, a 2009 documentary about dolphin hunting in Japan.
“I’m not an activist,” Singh says, “but I thought I might be able to help with the illegal fishing.”
The result, three years later, is Singh’s game Guardian: Tego’s Fate, a so-called “endless swimmer” in which the player protects Tego, a dolphin, from a hail of harpoons by moving around bright blue barriers. Singh actually consulted with filmmakers to see if it made sense to brand his game under their banner; both parties decided it would be better to keep them spiritual cousins, particularly because Guardian’s themes never rise above the level of metaphor. The game doesn’t hit you over the head with its cause; instead, by making the player responsible for the dolphin’s life, it naturally fosters a sort of protective instinct.
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The game itself, presented in a lovely black and white with bursts of color, looks like Ecco the Dolphin set in the Limbo universe, an aesthetic Singh singles out as an inspiration.
“We want the same impact, in terms of looking different from what is on the market,” he says.
Tego, the game’s hero, is one of the only gaming dolphins, along with Sega’s whistling Ecco. So why are these fast, agile, smart mammals rarely playable in games? Singh has a theory.
“Dolphins are kind of seen as a ‘girly’ animal,” he says. “Ecco was made when Sega were under pressure due to the amount of violence in their games. Sega needed to stir things up, and I guess we wanted to have the same effect by re-introducing the dolphin into the gaming world.”