Fireproof Studios

When games deal in the fantastic, and then prove to be real: the odd story of the mechanical cabinet

When games deal in the fantastic, and then prove to be real: the odd story of the mechanical cabinet

The Room is a puzzle game that was released for the iPad, and now the iPhone and iPod Touch. You are presented with a small box in an empty room, and the game asks you to open it and see what’s inside. The box changes, shifts, and even expands to reveal puzzle after puzzle. There are hidden areas and mechanical switches. Soon you begin to realize that something… dark, is happening as you unravel the secrets of the box. It’s a great game, but one is very aware of the impossible objects you’re presented with during the course of the experience.

At least, that’s what I had assumed, until a video began to make its way around the Internet. A cabinet very much like the constructions found in The Room, complete with the sort of secret compartments and mechanical engineer players find in that game. It’s rather stunning when a game shows you something you assume to be impossible, only to see a real example of that very thing in a different context.

“One of the finest achievements of European furniture making, this cabinet is the most important product from Abraham (1711—1793) and David Roentgen’s (1743—1807) workshop. A writing cabinet crowned with a chiming clock, it features finely designed marquetry panels and elaborate mechanisms that allow for doors and drawers to be opened automatically at the touch of a button,” the video’s description reads. “Owned by King Frederick William II, the Berlin cabinet is uniquely remarkable for its ornate decoration, mechanical complexity, and sheer size.”

I reached out to Fireproof Studios to see if this sort of furniture had influenced the design of the puzzles, as the game shares many ideas and even aesthetics as this piece of furniture. “We had no idea furniture like this even existed, at least not in this gorgeous form,” commercial director Barry Meade told the Penny Arcade Report. “It was more puzzle boxes that inspired us - classic old boxes from Japan, Europe, Russia etc. Plus general machinery and puzzles.” The team watched the video for the first time a week ago, and claimed they may take some of the ideas they saw and incorporate them into a sequel.

There is no big news here, and no major insight into the world of video games. Just a reminder that The Room is amazing, and it’s surreal to see something that so closely resembles an impossible object in a game actually working. Never underestimate human ingenuity.