It’s more of a non-game, but a game all the same. Vanitas is now available for $.99 on the Android Marketplace and Apple App Store.

From the press release:

    Tale of Tales’ first iPhone application is now available for iPad and Android for a low introductory price of 99 cents.

    On a smartphone, Vanitas is presented as a small wooden box. Every time the lid of the box is opened, three objects appear. The selection is random. If by chance the three objects are identical, a golden star appears on the lid of the box. On tablets, the box is surrounded by a decorative frame that includes a ticking clock.

    “We felt it was important that the objects in the box appear in actual size,” say designers Auriea Harvey and Michaël Samyn. “Handheld devices are by nature very tactile. It makes more sense to us to think of them as objects than as screens. We wanted to retain that sense of tactility in the tablet version. So we kept the size and added a frame.”

    Vanitas is inspired by 17th century still life paintings of the same name. They were depictions of objects meant to remind the viewer of the fleetingness of life. Thanks to Tale of Tales’ app you can now contemplate mortality on one of your most precious devices.

    Vanitas was originally commissioned for the Art History of Games symposium in Atlanta in February 2010. At that same symposium, Auriea Harvey and Michaël Samyn gave their infamous “Over Games” presentation that marks the start of the Notgames initiative. Notgames is a platform for developers interested in exploring the potential of interactive art and entertainment beyond the constraints imposed by a rigid game format.

    The initiative loosely groups developers such as Frictional Games (Amnesia), Thechineseroom (Dear Esther), Stout Games (Dinner Date), Erik Svedäng (Kometen), Opertoon (Strange Rain), Krystian Majewski (Trauma), and so on. During the last Game Developers Conference in Cologne, some their work was presented at the Notgames Fest organized by Cologne Game Lab.

    “The idea of notgames came as a true revelation to us,” elucidates founder Michaël Samyn. “We had always been skeptical about the limitations of the conventions of games for creating expressive software. But the explicit decision to consciously avoid any such conventions, has been a great help. Suddenly we felt free to actually use the potential of this medium for expression, without worrying about challenges or rewards or competition.”

    Vanitas is the first -and so far only- game that Tale of Tales has released since the start of the Notgames initiative. The music in the game was created by avant cellist Zoë Keating.

    Tale of Tales is a small independent studio run by Auriea Harvey and Michaël Samyn from their home in Ghent, Belgium. They run the multiplayer online game The Endless Forest, have created the Red Ridinghood inspired horror game The Path and a three-dimensional still life based on the legend of Salome, called Fatale. Only last week, they released an Android version of their controversial art game The Graveyard, in which an old woman visits a cemetery and dies, maybe. The couple is currently producing multiple new titles for multiple platforms.