Joy Exhibition is a freeform art game in which the player must communicate with a mute alien race by painting. They are given a blank canvas, a massive arsenal of procedurally-generated paint guns, and free rein to create whatever art they can think of.
Created by game developer Strangethink, Joy Exhibition is a celebration of art and colour. Strangethink specialises in games that use procedurally-generated elements to create glitchy landscapes and shifting worlds of neon colours. Joy Exhibition allows players to create their own.
Painting in Joy Exhibition requires the use of dozens of spray paint guns. These guns have random colours and spray patterns that change depending on how near or close you get to the canvas. Each new gun holds the promise of a bright new colour that could breathe life into your painting.
I appreciate how the game’s painting process helps the player learn about themselves. While some guns hold exactly the colour you want or a wild new pattern that creates new textures, some can ruin your painting. It’s possible to pick up a new gun and blast dark brown all over your bright polka-dotted masterpiece-in-the-making. The player has to decide if they will improvise around the new colour or simply pick up a new gun and start over by blasting a new layer on the canvas. How the player adapts to new colours and random patterns starts to feel like a genuine process of artistic creation.
Each piece you complete gets added to a larger gallery where stone-faced aliens walk around and pause to gaze at your creations. They don’t ever really judge or critique your work, but there’s a sense that they see a little bit of their brightly-coloured selves within your paintings. Outside of the gallery, distant alien landscapes offer inspiration for what to paint.
Joy Exhibition is one of the few games that really captures the feeling of meditation. Painting requires focus and it’s easy to lose yourself in the process of splashing new colours around. As time goes on, pictures begin to form in the painting. A smattering of purple starts to look like flowers, layered greens spread out like rolling fields, and fading blues billow out into a sky. In other cases, technicolor warzones of dots and streaks spread out like a Jackson Pollock painting. Each new painting takes on a meaning unique to the player. It’s a relaxing process that only takes about 10 to 20 minutes. By the end of it, you’ll have a complete art exhibition of paintings to show off to your friends.
You can play Joy Exhibition on PC, Mac OSX and Linux.