Whip It: Mighty Jill Off

To be honest, I'm more switch

Andrew Smee asks us why we haven’t written anything about Mighty Jill Off. Because I hadn’t got around to playing it, Mr Smee. Like, obv. But I sorted that out this afternoon, and by doing so managed to make myself late for popping into Introversion’s office to see Multiwinia. You can take that as a recommendation, I suspect. Mighty Jill Off is the S&M themed Bomb Jack remix from the Gamer Quarter’s associate editor, general games theorist and the S-in-the-S&M, Ancil Anthropy. Or, at least, on the latter, I have to presume so.

Because it strikes me that the game is a fairly interesting examination of the master/slave relationship, with her in the domme position. Yeah, I’m reaching into art wank, which is part of the point. I’ll get around to justifications eventually.

This is a hyper pure platform game. The character’s movements are lifted entirely from Bomb Jack – high jumps plus a hammering the button to hover and thus zip around – and inserted into an upward scrolling platform game, which reminds me of Rainbow Islands, though I suspect that’s probably just because of the directional sense of play and that there’s always seemed to be a sex-based subtext to Rainbow Islands. The plot revolves around Jill Off and her mistress, with Jill trying to earn the right to lick her boots. What’s in her way is a series of regimented, artfully constructed progressive platforming puzzles which tend towards the punishing. Infinite lives, but a single mistake and you’re lobbed back to the part of the problem.

Did you want to know that? I suspect not.

The point being obvious: we often say – primarily as an insult – that to like a certain game you have to be masochistic. Mighty Jill Off notes that’s true of any of these old-skool games, and that striving to complete something for no other reason than your master has told you to do is deeply ingrained in gaming’s core genes. In other words, the characters in the games are all masochists and we are too.

But there’s more to it than the obvious gag (And, yeah, about forty cheap jokes come to mind when I mention the word “gag”). It’s not a game which is about games as pain in a simple dumb sense. There’s been dozens of “impossible” highly punishing games – they’re not very interesting. Hell, there’s many commercial games which are far more punishing than what Mighty Jill Off asks you to overcome – but the point isn’t about just that “games players are masochists”. It’s that “games designers are sadists”, in the sense of a Master/Slave relationship. In that, it’s a question of trying to punish your slave in a way which makes it a relationship. True sadism would just involve offing the little shit. The point is to make them suffer in a way which they can endure and – by tickling those desires – enjoy. And equally, because of the way you’re wired, you enjoy doing. It’s a reciprocal relationship, and totally necessary for games of this sort to work.

Assuming I'm telling the truth. ALT text would be a weird place to talk about sexual peccadilloes. OR WOULD IT?

That’s my take anyway. It’s also a slick little indie platformer, and terribly cute in a – to quote artist-friend Laurenn McCubbin – “Disney’s “The Story of O”, with like, singing birds and shit” manner. Get it from here.


  1. James Edwards says:

    I’m talking about consensual sexual intercourse with a bondage/sadism element – lifestyle submissiveness is a whole other thing, which I’d be inclined to say is way, way less healthy (with the extreme being those Gor dudes).

    If you’re not fucking for orgasms I’m not sure what you’d fuck for (unless you were a semen farmer? I dunno).


    “”triving to complete something for no other reason than your master has told you to do is deeply ingrained in gaming’s core genes”

    This, frankly, is absolute bollocks, and I’d dare you to substantiate it one tiny bit. The earliest games were sports – do you play football because your master demands it, or because you like playing football? Vidcons are extercises in masturbation, sometimes mutual, sometimes alone, but there’s an undeniable and sometimes even transferable skillset being developed, and there’s a motivation beyond pain and duty (except the time I beat Shadow The Hedgehog, Sega’s own version of mortification of the flesh). We play games because they’re fun and they provide pleasure – who hasn’t got shits and giggles out of totally epic virtual suicides, or blowing all the little dudes in Defender II: Stargate? RPG fans are the obvious exception, but their poor taste disqualifies them from anything, ever.

  2. Kieron Gillen says:

    James: Side-stepping Pong and the first sports games, the original single player games* were nothing other than game designers telling you what to do to win. Why are you doing this task? Fundamentally, because i) you enjoy it ii) they’ve, through their design, told you to do it.

    Lots of other fun things you can do in games have been built on top of that, but it’s central and its absolutely undeniable. For all the things you mention, unless you’ve never completed a single level in a videogame, it’s true of you. It was especially true of mid-eighties videogames.

    That’s relationship of the points that Mighty Jill Off makes in its cute and funny manner. Which is what I wrote in the article, and your problems seem to be based on trying to push the metaphor further than it was meant to go, as well as dragging om many of your preconceptions of what “S&M” means. You are mainly arguing with stuff inside your own head rather than stuff anyone had said.

    Which is less polite than I was last time, but you’re being increasingly foot-stompy and should chill, man.


    *I actually used to argue – I don’t any more – that videogames as a cultural form were only interesting with the development of true single player. Multiplayer games are just traditional games via new technology. Single player games, fundamentally, were something entirely new to the late 20th century. The leap in a SP game between what was possible before and after the microchip is the difference between a limmerick and a novel.

    I don’t argue that as hard anymore – I’m more interested in games as a long line stretching back and the permutations thereof, but I still think there’s a point there.

  3. James Edwards says:

    Jamie do I have to use similes for everything :) I think you’ve mistaken burning vigour for rage, so my apologies.

    [b]James: Side-stepping Pong and the first sports games, the original single player games* were nothing other than game designers telling you what to do to win. Why are you doing this task? Fundamentally, because i) you enjoy it ii) they’ve, through their design, told you to do it.[/b]

    And this, fundimentally, is quite different from slavery. Master/slave relationships tend to involve emotional abuse, removal of self-determination, etc. Videogames are absolutely a matter of choice. Someone who orders soup of the day in a cafe is not a slave to the soup chief. They chose to eat soup. Someone who watches a movie isn’t a slave to watching the movie. The movie is usually a choice.

    Slavery involves domination, and genuine slavery involves misery – it sounds very fancy to say that going through predetermined levels is akin to enslavement but honestly, it’s a consenting relationship. Remember that kid who could play Asteroids for hours by abusing the fuck out of the engine? He’s no slave (he’s a bit too in love with tedium for his own good, but that’s a side issue). The player is not being forced to work plantations. Later 80s stuff is bound by the restrictions of the hardware, but it’s usually still got room for a player to be expressive or fuck about a bit.

    With the move into sandbox games like GTA, or even micro-sandboxes like Psi-Ops, you’re starting to see games that actually let the player explore and interact with sets of rules on their own terms – self-expression. That’s extremely conter-Master/Slave (that said, GTA IV pushes the slave to tedium angle a bit too far).

    I don’t think Mighty Jill Off is setting out to make much of a point at all – it’s a bit of author-insertion self-fic retrofitted around an extant concept from the 1980s – you know, a bit like Phonogram :)

  4. Kieron Gillen says:

    James: The slave in S&M is – at a fundamental level – a voluntary slave. To be honest, even in the most self-annihilatory permanent relationship, it’s a voluntary position. They do it because they like it. And the ability of a master to tickle that “like” is what makes them a better master – or, level designer, in the case of what I said. That’s the entire point, man.

    I haven’t said anything in the comments I didn’t said in the original post. You, however, are changing yours every time you have your knowledge of S&M and whatever corrected. Last time, you said there was no way to substantiate it. This time, you fall back to noting the a strand of modern games don’t work in the axis I described in the original post. In other words, even you admit I’m right for a big chunk of gaming history. But you just don’t say it.

    The emoticon attached to the Phonogram dig doesn’t actually do anything to take it as final confirmation of my initial take on you – that you’re trolling, which I pretty much assumed when you asked me to argue back. In other words, you’re just trying to annoy.

    Well done, man. It’s worked.


  5. James Edwards says:

    I have a motherfucker of a headache right now, Kieron, and it’s kind of hard to follow some of your stuff, but I am genuinely trying to engage you in this. Of course you disagree with me, but I’m not doing it to enrage – or if I am, it’s purely a side product of my desire to express my honest and reasoned opinion.

    First off the bat, as Dracko pointed out, “offing the little shit” isn’t sadism, it’s murder. You can’t be sadistic to a corpse. So… perhaps it isn’t me that needs to reassess BDSM relationships?

    Secondly, the analogy falls down by the fact that some people are extremely adept at extremely punishing games. An Alien Soldier superplay, for example, would be the kinked equivilent of a submissive busting out of their binds and pegging the mistress senseless while calling her a dirty fucking whore. Complete role reversal. The role between chastised and chastee is simply too fluid. Admittedly, most high level games like this are either bullet hell shooters or vs fighters, which completely throws the analogy slightly out of whack. But very, very few games these days are that tough.

    The other thing to consider – what’s in it for the developers? Do they want to fuck with you, accomidate you, or just construct their own elaborate systems of things? How do they observe the player being whipped by digitals?

    Consider Gears of War: is the designer seeking to punish me, or let me roleplay my more base machinegun fantasies?

    This is neblous stuff, of course. But I’d say that the flow of game design could be better understood as the relationship between architect and inhabitant, stage director and audience – even, perhaps, between someone writing a proper banging synth build for a trance track.

    As for the last bit – it’s always struck me that Phonogram takes the base of Hellblazer, gives John Constantine your face and replaces the magic with your taste in music. Take that how you will, I just think it’s fairly similar to how MJO takes bombjack and transplants a lot of the developer’s sense of self to it (and a bit because I find self-insertion in fiction fascinating* and I’ve never seen anyone say “hang on – Dave Khol looks exactly like the author!” while discussing it)

    *from Gonterman to Grant Morrison

  6. Kieron Gillen says:

    It wasn’t the nature of the observation* – it was the timing of the observation. You spend a thread arguing that MBJ is worthless and then argue my comic is like it. That doesn’t exactly come across well.

    And get off the internet, man. You’ve got a headache!


    *There’s several interviewers that have asked me about it, at least. And a load of people in person.

  7. Jazmeister says:

    …and then nine months later, this flame war thingy entertained me for an entire morning.

  8. Bobic says:

    I always get this nostalgic feeling with these games, despite having never played them in my youth.