Live Free Play Hard: TINKER TAILOR CYBORG GODDESS

By Porpentine on March 30th, 2014 at 6:00 pm.

Shower simulator. Spaceship technician. OH LOOK YOU’RE PREGNANT WITH THE EARTH.

Fright House by Jake Clover

Fright House is a compilation of games by Jake Clover, following his previous comp Some Games.

Sanctuary is my favorite. You play as an alien critter. Sanctuary is incredibly lonely.

[SPOILERS]

Sanctuary is a series of scenes about helplessness set in the vast void of space. Watch a friend get eaten, get ripped from your ecosystem, trapped in a metal chamber hurtling through space, dropped in a desolate glass dome full of plants just as displaced as you are.

Some parts happen in real time. It’s worth waiting through the spaceship ride and later on at the sanctuary. You can do something else and leave it in the background.

That part where the spaceship comes and you wait and wonder if you’re getting a new friend, a companion in this stark dome, but it’s only a plant :(–then the spaceship TAKES OFF WITH A HORRIFYING LOUD ENGINE SOUND–a key element of Jake Clover’s brilliance is his genuinely threatening sound effects. It actually evokes cruelty to animals, because the spaceship doesn’t care how sensitive the creature’s hearing is, whether the creature is scared, it’s just this insensate metal thing collecting pets without understanding their physiology or emotions.

Or take Platformer 3, the platformer that’s like, maybe death is pretty bad, yeah? I’m a rat running through a parking lot and shit is crashing from the sky. I walk into a burning UFO and SCREAM as I catch on fire. I stagger around for a few seconds before I die, horribly conscious the whole time.

Most platformers treat death like punctuation. Any horror at dying is mainly related to the frustration of lost time and effort. Platformer 3 subverts the format by making death scary.

Jake’s games are trash-worlds bigger than the player, feral versions of existing genres distorted through an ugly, resolutions mismatched, my first game aesthetic. They’re menacing and inhospitable, you need an oxygen mask to play then. They’re really good.

Not My Hello World by Shayla Goller

Coming of age ceremony involving gems, and the girls affected by it. CW for child abuse.

[SPOILERS]

Each girl has a different way of reacting: apathetic, shell-shocked, justifying their own abuse, etc. After talking to every girl, I’ve seen (and remembered) a whole slew of coping mechanisms people use when they feel helpless.

I appreciate that the ceremony involves lovely gems, it feels more nuanced than straight up violence. Beautiful things integrated in totally toxic ways. Coercion ruins everything, even good things. The gems make us acceptable to others, but is the pain worth it?

Contrast the woman who wears her gems proudly vs. the traumatized girls. She’s justified her painful augmentations. Just another adult whose forgotten what it’s like to be a scared, helpless kid.

Sleep by Matilda

Sleep is about coercion in a psych ward. Matilda focuses on the details, clinically observing her own clinical observation. This is especially important given how media is full of stereotypes about mental health, asylums often used as the setting for horror movies and games.

It makes sense to be scared, but it’s the institution that’s scary, not the inmates. People struggling with mental illness are often the most vulnerable people in the room, and not all the people in those settings even belong in a mental health setting, considering the historic and ongoing use of psychiatric incarceration as a punishment for political or marginalized individuals.

The nature of an institution is to share dehumanizing properties with other institutions. Schools are prisons are mental hospitals, both metaphorically, relationally (school to prison pipeline), and architecturally (soothe and corral). All assume human beings as quantities to be controlled, units in an industry that demands efficiency. Sleep is from the perspective of someone who was meant to have none.

Shower Sim by chrisamaphone

Shower simulator with all the important options. Change temperature! Piss! Masturbate! Keep that annoying shower curtain from clinging to your body!

On Twitter, chrisamaphone said “i was surprised how many different actions/interactions such a tiny system gave rise to”. I love hyper-specific sims like this, so much more interesting than attempting to craft universal systems. Trying to get clean while dealing with angry roommate, fiddling with hot water, and deciding whether to cum (REALISM).

TECHNICIANPC by beefstrong

TECHNICIANPC. Technician NPC. Like most NPCs, you can’t really affect the world around you. You’re there to observe, rooted to your given zone. In this case, it’s a brick spaceship. It has an arcade machine, an oxygen garden, moss pumps, and a storage zone for mysterious creatures.

I really hope beefstrong does more games. He’s been making cool art for a while, hyper-saturated plasticine environments oozing goo.

Cyborg Goddess by Kara Stone, Kayte McKnight

Cyborg. Goddess. Two female archetypes. Which will you choose?

Cyborg Goddess has this shimmering spacey across-the-ages veneer especially with the cosmic-sounding music but it’s really funny. Collage graphics are ideal for mocking archetypal imagery.

In a related essay, Jasbir Puar writes:

“…would I really rather be a cyborg than a goddess? The former hails the future in a telelogical technological determinism–culture– that seems not only overdetermined but exceptionalizes our current technologies. The latter–nature—is embedded in the racialized matriarchal mythos of feminist reclamation narratives. Certainly it sounds sexier, these days, to lay claim to being a cyborg than a goddess. But why disaggregate the two when there surely must be cyborgian-goddesses in our midst?”

Feminine archetypes, the words I wear like armor. Identities go through cycles: reactions to dominant archetypes, reclaiming, manifesting the invisible, etc. Many archetypes are about uplifting that which is despised. When you’re a monster harpy trash garbage babe, being hairy and dirty and messy and loud isn’t a negative.

I think a lot of it comes down to flexibility. Female teachers who get fired because someone found out about their past career in sex work. Be a Sex Goddess or be a Mother but don’t cross over from one or the other. Archetypes aren’t evil, but trapped people inside them and not allowing for contradiction is. A fortress without an exit is a prison.

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26 Comments »

  1. Philopoemen says:

    I swear every time i try to read a Live Free Play hard, it feels like I’m on acid

    • SixTwoCee says:

      I feel like I’m in a freshman creative writing class.

      • altum videtur says:

        Ohyeah. People try to be, like, you know, like, you know, something more, yeah? more than they really are but there is no really are, yeah? because, um, like, identity is just a profusion of conflicting ideas and stuff, y’know man? shit its too difficult for me.

        deep, bruv

    • Dances to Podcasts says:

      I hate the idea that everything fun, random, colourful, creative or otherwise unusual is automatically associated with drugs.

      Bloody hippies.

      • Premium User Badge Lambchops says:

        Whenever the “like [x] on acid” comparison is made I can’t help think of the bit where Bill Bailey mocks it in Part Troll.

        “Forms an N, forms an N, forms an N, forms an N . . .”

  2. gayreth says:

    Sleep reminds me a lot of my stay at a mental hospital – it really showcases how much control and stripping of personal agency come before any psychiatric or psychological objective. How much of an open, productive, and cathartic dialogue can you have with an institution that has the freedom to restrain you, further incarcerate you, and medicate you if they don’t like what you’re saying? Can you really speak the truth to someone with a metaphorical gun to your head?

    • DatonKallandor says:

      For all it’s faults in every other area The Darkness 2 had a fantastic look at mental illness. Those parts of the game were clearly written by someone who’s either been on that kind of medication with that kind of mental problem or read a lot about it. It doesn’t portray the institution as scary, but it shows how hard it is for someone with a certain mental problem to accept help when it’s offered.

      If they had had the freedom to end the game at the “fake” ending (which they didn’t, since they were supposed to make a sequel-FPS to a comic license), they’d have had an incredibly potent statement (wrapped in a almost justifiable wrapper of sexism, but that’s another story).

      When you literally can’t distinguish between dream and reality (ie, they are both equally valid in your mind because of your brain chemistry), why wouldn’t you choose the scenario where you’re powerful over the one where you’re not? The parts of the day when you’re lucid enough to distinguish are sometimes worse than the parts of the day when you’re not.

    • Geebs says:

      I don’t want to take away from what sounds like a pretty bad experience, but I honestly don’t believe in this idea that psych wards are there to suppress people’s thought or expression, at least not where I come from. The staff there are far too busy making sure all the red tape gets sorted and dealing with an infinite number of smoke breaks to be repressive. There may well be people there who shouldn’t be, but you’d be amazed at the lengths some will go to in order to get in.

      I suspect it’s another case of the media representation of something becoming the actual thing in people’s minds.

      • valrus says:

        I think there’s two ways to interpret “speak the truth” there; it’s not necessarily indicative of a sort of Foucault-ian view of mental health institutions suppressing expression.

        It could also be that the necessary part of the healing relationship — honesty — is difficult to maintain in the face of an institution that has that much power over the patient. Not necessarily because the institution is ill-intentioned, or has any intentions whatsoever, but because it can be made up of some very overworked staff in a chaotic and underfunded environment, who have some potentially extraordinary powers over patients, who themselves may be in a legally more precarious position than most hospital patients. Even if you like the staff personally and sympathize with their position, you might well come to the conclusion that staying safe in the chaos means keeping your mouth shut and waiting out your time.

      • GunnerMcCaffrey says:

        Just because that’s not what they’re there for doesn’t mean that isn’t what sometimes happens.

        I mean, if the staff are all so caught up in the bureaucracy as you say, then that sounds like exactly what would happen, more often than not. People getting reduced to resources to simply be managed happens in every other large institution, regardless of whether that was the plan; why not the mental health system too?

        This is what makes oppressive structures so hard to deal with. Most of the people involved are being totally honest when they say they’re just trying to help/do their job/whatever, even when the end result is the opposite.

        I know people who’ve been helped by the institutional mental health system, but that doesn’t mean they couldn’t have been more helped (or less fucked around) by another model.

  3. Premium User Badge Aerothorn says:

    With Technician PC, my OS’ mouse cursor is appearing in the game, even though it should be invisible like other first person game s, I think? Is this a bug?

    • PopeRatzo says:

      Did you try ALT-TAB to put the game in a box and then return to full screen? I’ve seen this behavior in several games recently, including one AAA one. Usually, the ALT-TAB trick has worked for me. Also, make sure you’re really playing full screen and not in a window the same size as your monitor.

  4. Wulfram says:

    “Certainly it sounds sexier, these days, to lay claim to being a cyborg than a goddess”

    Really?

    • Premium User Badge DrScuttles says:

      Now I may not have met enough cyborgs and goddesses to fully process this, but yeah, why not.
      Make it a Cronenberg Cyborg however and I start to feel all funny in my chest.

    • Sir Buildbot Winslave says:

      I believe so. A goddess is certainly awe-inspiring and can literally command your attention. But a well-built cyborg can really push your buttons.

      • pepperfez says:

        I’m afraid I can’t really take your experience as representative, Sir Buildbot.

        • Sir Buildbot Winslave says:

          I’ll admit that this is a subject where my BIOS bias sometimes gets the better of me :p

    • Cooper says:

      That’s a quote from a text that has Donna Haraway’s work as a significant reference. Hence the preference for the cyborg ideal.

  5. Kitsunin says:

    I really liked Not My Hello World. A lot. I’d put it in my top tier of short stories.

    That feeling of something nice being turned into something wretched, and mostly, of helplessness, is really awful. I thought I’d have a lot to say about it but I really don’t. It hit harder than I expected, and that’s definitely a good thing.

    I’m sure it helped that I thought the characters were all beautiful (I’m something of a furry, so I guess that has to do with it…)

    • dethtoll says:

      Not My Hello World was twisted and disturbing. Chloe’s disappearance especially was deeply unsettling, made more so by the fact that she actually seemed the most excited about the whole thing.

      The whole thing felt like a commentary on beauty standards and the fucked up way we impose gender roles on our kids. I didn’t see any boys getting gems shoved in their foreheads. These girls were all pretty in their own right, and yet they’re not “real women” until someone attaches costume jewelry to them with the aid of a soup spoon and a hot glue gun? Who came up with THAT idea? And when you start thinking about that, you start thinking about the way advertising is so built around telling women what to look like, and the whole abuse-as-ceremony bit strikes me as an allegory for ritualized female circumcision.

      • Porpentine says:

        Agreed to both comments. It’s totally a hybrid of female mutilation with harmful beauty standards.

  6. dskzero says:

    I really tried to play Cyborg Goddess, but I couldn’t find a point, fun, or even serious gameplay beyond being some sort of IF. So I tried coming here to see if there was an explanation. Now I’m even more confused.

    • Unknown says:

      It’s an irreverent response to Donna Haraway’s famous essay, A Cyborg Manifesto. It’s an interesting read, but be warned, it’s written in academia-speak.

  7. pleaseletmecomment says:

    Oh, so you’re still pretending these Twine things are games? When i first saw them posted here every week, i assumed they weren’t games. Then last week I played the one you posted. I clicked a word in a paragraph to be taken to another paragraph. That was it. I thought maybe I just picked a very un-gamey one. Well, nope – i chose one you put here…. it was the same fucking thing.

    Hey, you know what else is a fun interactive experience where you click words, and sometimes other exciting buttons, to reveal more words until you reach the end? PDF files. Are they games too?

    But in all honestly I think they’re just included in these lists and freeindiegam.es (a good website mind you) to either bulk out the content or, in this author’s case, write some pretentious “omg so deep” shite under it. The guy up there said it best when it feels like “a freshman creative writing class.” Spot on.

  8. The Random One says:

    Cyborg Goddess was super clever, super funny, and super buggy.

    And Shower Sim should be ostracized for suggesting one waits until the water is running to masturbate. Have you any idea of how much water that wastes? (Also, if it takes you one minute to either pee or masturbate, consult an urologist.