[Featurama] Celebrate the Ridiculousness of Games
This week Ridiculous Fishing released on iOS capable devices, and we’ll have a review for it shortly. Word around the water cooler is that it is something else. Right now though, I want to discuss with you the ridiculousness of video games.
They are at times absolutely absurd and I don’t think we’re going to start moving away from that.
I bring up with you these oddly enchanting games because I have sort of run through quite a few of these back to back. Its my fault really. I know what I should be expecting when I place their discs into the tray. I just never truly realize how crazy these games are.
It didn’t always used to be this way. At one point, games just struggled to match gameplay with simple images. It was amazingly creative to get games like Adventure, Pitfall or even Space Invaders. Once the games market crashed, however, due to over saturation and a lack of innovation, Nintendo swooped in with their platform and showcased how to run an efficient games market.
The NES created some amazingly inventive games. I credit Shigeru Miyamoto mostly for this. Not just because his games kick-started something amazing, but because his failures led to something incredible. Shigeru Miyamoto is not a gentleman who takes failure lightly. Say what you will about how wrung out Mario has become, when ever he didn’t live up to expectations, Miyamoto didn’t just fix his issue. He twisted it into something fantastic.
See originally, Miyamoto stuck to his comfort zone. Donkey Kong is King Kong. I don’t care what the US justice system has to say about it. The followup Mario Bros. was a decent enough game, but nothing compared to Donkey Kong’s success. So that took him back to the drawing board and he crafted his next masterpiece about a plumber who has to fight a dragon king to save a princess in the mushroom kingdom. He, along with Takashi Tezuka, went outside of the comfort zone and crafted something genre defining.
Then he followed it up with the dud that was Super Mario Bros. 2 (AKA the Lost Levels). This forced him to again go back to the drawing board, get a bit of extra help and craft what is the greatest platformer of all time. A story about a man who dresses up in a frog suit to battle airships and save the kingdom. He went into his satchel and pulled out something crazier than what he had before.
I bring all this up because there seems to be some daft madness this industry relishes in. We sit down and argue back and forth on whether the entertainment we consume is art or mass produced schlock. I use that Andy Warhol quote (which I think he stole from Marshall McLuhan) because ideally art is anything man-made. You can argue the merit of that art and its quality, but at the end of the day art is anything you can get away with. If you can bring Journey into a discussion about video games as art, you can certainly bring up Duke Nukem. One might be better than the other, but they are most certainly art.
What we get away with in our art form is so wonderfully bizarre. Films and literature for the most part stick to a traditional sense. You won’t find many mainstream films where people carrying dildo bats run around blowing things up. You won’t find that much in the comics market, either. Where those two mediums have constantly looked to balance their message even in the most bizarre of cases, we embrace the imaginative.
We like to have our dildo bats.
Once again, you could make the argument that this isn’t art, but it is. It’s what we have made interactivity into. Certainly, it is bizarre at face value sometimes. That, however, is the beauty of what we’ve crafted. Not only is it unlike any other medium in what it can do, it is daring to present something unimaginable in a way that can be played with.
We’ve grown up as an entertainment medium from a children’s toy. Our roots are built upon approaching our art form with the imagination a child would. We can do anything with this medium and we do. Sure you could look for ways to fancy up these games, but sophistication is largely a suppression of instinct. Video games are inherently built upon manipulating instinctual actions. You can always add layers of philosophy on top of the fun later. Lest we forget, Bioshock is a game about shooting fireballs, wasps and lightning from your hand. Don’t let the Ayn Rand quotes fool you into thinking it isn’t absurd.
This is the rationale the game industry has turned to. I sit here after playing something like Serious Sam Double D XXL and ponder how something presented so bizarrely feels absolutely natural. As you can see above, that is a flapjack monster with forks for feet attacking with vuvuzelas. What other industry approaches entertainment like this? It is a crazy sort of fashion where we create critical darlings based on a boy with no skin fighting it out with a roboticized fetus.
This industry is absolutely ridiculous and honestly, would you have it any other way?