Watched over by machines of loving paleness. The childhood pastime of making your toys fuck.
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Pale Machine by Ben Esposito and bo en
This is a music video that you play. It has gorgeous art and I’m in love with it.
The song takes you through the world and you embody many objects, from flowerpots to tongues to cars to eyeballs. I feel like I’m inhabiting the soul of the world, in the way games permit, if you let them–the amorphous hyperlink of Twine, for example–a fluidity permitted by the surreal imagery.
I’ve been following bo en on Soundcloud for awhile, so I was happily surprised to see Pale Machine suddenly pop up in the game-o-sphere–his jazzy poppy Shibuya-kei-inspired songs have so much going on, rich sugary concoctions for the ‘ol ear lips.
how do you Do It by Emmett Butler, Nina Freeman, Jonathan Kittaka, Deckman Coss
Your mom is away and you’re playing with some naked dolls trying to figure out sex stuff.
The art is really sweet and the word bubbles are full of curiosity like you might have as a child trying to figure out this body thing (my personal hypothesis was that a man and a woman got in proximity then God Almighty activated radio-like signals that traveled from the man’s body to the woman’s body and triggered the creation of a Baby).
It’s hard to express how much it means to play games like these. Childhood sexuality is important, and so is depicting girls as human beings. During the growing up process our experience of being a kid can get replaced with fake ideas and we run the risk of treating youth like they’re brainless instead of brilliant. Nina said: “Never gonna stop using games to remind people that young girls are not just an advertising demographic–they have real feelings & real lives”
She adds, “it’s really based on memories I have of trying to understand sex as a child…hiding under my bed or in little makeshift forts…I really do want people to know that, despite the humor, we were trying to show something real”. By preserving this connection from our adult self to our child self, we create better art, not saccharine placebos more about reinforcing stereotypes than engaging with children honestly.
The open-ended design is really great. In a way, the spinning mashing poly-anatomical gyrations of the player are closer to queer sexuality than the heteronormative coupling suggested by the Barbie appearance of the dolls. It makes me think of the way sexuality starts out polymorphous, then gets molded into genital fetishism (the popular penis-in-vagina fetish), and then hopefully at a certain point you realize sex is unique to every human being on this planet, a personal response to our need for pleasure and healing and catharsis, not prescribed plastic shapes (unless that’s what you’re into ;)).
AFTER THOUGHT by Bill Kiley, Aimless J. Lackluster
This is smart. A posh British woman narrates your “calibration”, which is you staring at the screen as the colorful pink outline of the level is burnt into your eyes. Then the level turns invisible and you navigate through it, guided by the afterimage seared into your retinas.
They could have just made a clever puzzle using this optical effect, but framing it as a politely ominous exercise with a searing noise in the background adds just the right extra touch.
TRASH WIZARD DANGER ROOM by MOUNT ENNUI
Completely random surreal trash wizard RPG that emphasizes the texture of the genres it melds (D&D, garbage, weird twitter) rather than their system. Will you fight the “OUTRAGEOUS SEX WOLF” with “VAGUE PUS STORM” or “PLUMP STENCH FONDLE”? Does it matter? Not really. YOU CAST SHIT AXE
The Quiet Man by thecatamites
You take on the role of the Quiet Man as an audience watches in a movie theater. I like how the art is made of hand-drawn lines so minimal they look like symbols, and how everything ripples to the drumbeat.
The player is a Western hero who can only move around aimlessly, yet everything you do is full of great portent and breathlessly analyzed by the audience. The taciturn efficiency of the cinematic cowboy has more than a little overlap with the avatar of many games, and both are there for the satisfaction of the audience to live out certain fantasies that we could never achieve in real life, like wandering around the desert shooting bad guys or wandering around a dungeon shooting bad guys.
Here the audience is literalized, so the people taking it too seriously are already in the room, so what else can I do but laugh? The tendency to analyze is displaced by the presence of an audience already engaged in that act of analysis, redirecting my gaze back at myself. And maybe we start to think of our own role as an audience, the way a piece of art can be analyzed way deeper than the creator ever intended, and the way in which we consume our own images.
Puts me in mind of Mike Thomsen’s interview with David Levine on the Milli Vanilli opera: “We go to venues and pay money because we want the act, but the band was really just a veil. And on one side of it is the means of musical production, and on the other side are the consumers; and actually, we’re kissing each other through the veil.”
For instance, these masculine stoic heroes are important not because they’re good but because they say we are good, that our dedication to hegemonic culture is not a waste of time. In fact, these qualities are so good and so natural that billions of dollars a year are spent reinforcing them through every form of media and desperately pointing huge neon signs at their rotting carcasses as armies of animatronic technicians stiffly move the rugged, cotton-packed jaws of another gritty male lead.
Getting back to the part about analyzing stuff way deeper than the creator ever intended, here’s thecatamite’s notes for the game: “Based on a poster for the famous John Ford movie that I saw in a DVD store. Once I saw the title I thought to myself “BOY, he’s quiet!!” and the rest of the game came from that. The music was sort of aiming for the same rhythm and feeling of Pere Ubu’s song “Perfume”; not because it was especially relevant, more because I was listening to it a lot at the time.”