The intricate geometric patterns of Islamic art are not only visually stunning, they’re also some of the earliest examples of algorithmic art. Artisans would generate patterns through a step-by-step sequence of formal equations–meaning they needed to be skilled in analytical geometry in addition to their handicraft.
In the new video game Engare, Iranian game maker Mahdi Bahrami turns the mathematics of Islamic art into a puzzle. The game was inspired by a question posed by Bahrami’s high-school geometry teacher, who asked the class to visualize attaching a central node to a ball with a string and then rolling the ball around the table. What shape would it trace? Bahrami employs a similar experiment in the game: Each level gives you a pattern to complete given the tools at hand. To try to mimic the shape of the pattern, the user must attach a point to one of the objects available for that specific level and press play. Once you see what the point traces, you adjust the point on the object until it makes the pattern you’re after.
Here’s a video of an early prototype:
As the levels progress, the patterns get more and more intricate, and begin to resemble the beautiful tessellated tile patterns that adorn Middle Eastern mosques. Though they teach mathematical concepts, the rich patterns are much more visually engaging than dry mathematical formulas. As Bahrami told Kill Screen, this is why he designed the game–so that players can freely explore the art of drawing shapes with the game’s tools without a set of instructions.
While the game is still in prototyping stages, Bahrami is currently working on finalizing the iOS version and hopes to release it for PC and mobile this summer.