The Da Vinci Coders

NI game developers announce plans to render the Renaissance in new interactive Mona Lisa adventure

It has long been argued as to whether or not video games constitute as art.

Some are viewed as creative masterpieces, as visually stunning as any traditional canvas work or installation. Others contend that the medium's mass consumption dilutes any of the kind of artistic value conventional forms would hold.

Northern Irish video game firm Italic Pig look to be tackling the debate head on in their newest project, which will allow players to take control of the subject of arguably the most recognisable painting in history.

Mona Lisa re-imagines the famous woman portrayed in Da Vinci's 16th century masterpiece as a Renaissance cyborg – the product of all of the artist's individual talents – who doubles as the cultural revolution's greatest art thief.

'I’m aiming for an over-the-top mashup of Dan Brown, Terry Pratchett and pre-steampunk,' explains writer/creator and Italic Pig director Kevin Beimers. 'Mona Lisa is one of the most identifiable faces in the world, and yet there’s so much mystery surrounding who she is.

'Out of all of Leonardo Da Vinci’s talents – painting, sculpting, engineering, inventing – what is it about Mona Lisa that makes her Da Vinci’s greatest work?' he continues. 'And then I thought: what if the painting isn’t his greatest creation, but the girl herself?'

The titular character is described as 'far from a clunk bundle of ropes and flywheels' in the game, but instead a 'a marvel of engineering perfection' who must break into 16th century strongholds to heist paintings from the other great masters.

The project is a result of a €122,500 award from Creative Europe’s MEDIA sub-programme, making Italic Pig Northern Ireland's first video game company to receive funding. Previous projects such as last year's Schrödinger’s Cat and the Raiders of the Lost Quark, a quantum physics-themed action-adventure published by the creators of Worms, put the studio in good standing.

'We were delighted to give Italic Pig advice and support with their application, and are very pleased that their application was successful' says Creative Europe Desk UK director Agnieszka Moody.

Additional funding toward the project has also been approved by Northern Ireland Screen, which has long been supportive of native entertainment studios and their creative endeavours.

'Italic Pig is a prominent member of an emerging group of interactive content creator developers based in Northern Ireland,' says Chief Executive Richard Williams. 'Expectations for this project to succeed in the market place are extremely high and we are keen to support Kevin and his team at Italic Pig throughout the development process.'

With the funds promised from Creative Europe and Northern Ireland Screen, Italic Pig aims to spend all of next year in development on Mona Lisa with a release in early 2017, using as much local talent as possible.

Follow the development of Mona Lisa at www.monalisagame.com.