Spring has sprung. That’s what they say, isn’t it? The air is full of sick-sweet over-bloomed flowers, and there’s a thin sheen of pollen on car windscreens. It is around this time of year that I am always reminded of floral genre paintings of the Northern Renaissance and Dutch Golden Age, you know? Casual. Still lifes and vanitas make for pretty compelling stuff — molting flowers bending outward, rotten fruit all mottled-brown, memento mori in all those transient spring things. And so, I am thinking about that which rots when it perseveres.
Whether it’s too beautiful, too realistic, overdone or overripe, here are a handful of games which lend that creeping vernal feeling of imminent death.
Call of the Void is a two-person development team, made up of Luc Wolthers and Evan Greenwood (of Broforce and Genital Jousting). Wolthers and Greenwood made Eat the Rich for Pirate Jam, and there’s a palpable sense of piratic glee in playing it. I am amazed that any game development gets done during Pirate Jam — a friend of mine went on Pirate Jam this year, and all of her pictures were of white sand beaches and distractingly blue water. But I digress! Games did get made, and Eat the Rich is one of them, thank god.
The game opens with a quote from 18th-century Romantic philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau: “When the people shall have nothing more to eat, they will eat the rich.” (Did he ever say it? Who knows. It’s a real zinger.) Play then descends into a mob of physics and critique of consumption, at once hilarious and disturbing. It’s Black Friday, and you’ve got to get those deals. Run as fast as you can, pick up as much as you can, and run away with it. There’s even a leveling-up money-management system, both beautiful and absurd, which I especially appreciate. As horrible fleshy body after equally horrible fleshy body flung themselves over turnstiles to achieve their top savings goals like some sort of danse macabre, I couldn’t help but think: “Rousseau would be proud.”
Missed Messages from Angela He
Angela He’s work is mind-bogglingly beautiful. When I last wrote about her for Halloween, I marveled that she was only nineteen. Now she is twenty, and I still can’t believe it. Missed Messages was her entry for the most recent Ludum Dare and it deftly carries the jam theme, “Your life is currency.” The game is a slice-of-life piece about being a college student, trading pics of dogs with strangers, and responding to mental health crises. Please note the game’s warning for suicide and images of self-harm.
He’s portfolio covers a wide range of topics — from suicidality to abusive relationships — and they’re all gorgeous. I have hesitated to play a handful of her games in the past because of how frankly they consider difficult topics. I am not here to say that games couldn’t, or shouldn’t, depict subjects like these. Rather, it is somehow always jarring to see discussed when juxtaposed with the pastels, sparkly-eyed girls, and Lo-Fi Hip Hop Beats to Study/Relax To which fill He’s games. I have seen my fair share of Edgy Computer Games from the Underside of the Internet which play on tropes and cowardly stereotypes of mental illness — enough to last me a lifetime. He, however, manages to delicately counter each one with maturity and dog memes. I don’t have the answer to whether or not there are implications for making such beautiful games about suicide, self-harm, romance, and abuse, but it makes for generative thinking. I’m gonna keep playing ’em. If you want to think more about it, you can read what Jay thought of the game here.
In case you didn’t get your face-chomping urges sated by Utsvulten, here’s your second chance. Take a minute to eat someone else’s face with disturbing anatomical accuracy and sound effects! Oh, and this time? It’s multiplayer. Gross. Death comes for us all, my dudes!