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2000 Edgy Game of the Year Awards
2001-01-15 Staff Page 1 Page 2 Page 3 Page 4 Page 5

Game of the Year

If Old Man Murray is your only source of news from the outside world, you may have missed last year's announcement that a federal judge in Indianapolis made some sort of royal proclamation that essentially upheld a law which forces local arcades to hide their games from kids - presumably because those games have become much too edgy.  It took about five minutes for gaming websites to hastily construct a jungle rope bridge between Indianapolis deciding to regulate arcades and Indianapolis becoming Nazi Germany.  

I'm against book burning as much as anyone - unless we're talking about burning books of plays - but I think we should have let the Indianapolis Nazis have this one without any argument.  Fighting these restrictions can only lead to more heated rhetoric, which might then inspire someone really smart to prove - using science - that video games don't train kids to become snipers.  And I don't want to know that.  Like you, I roll my eyes when Lt. Grossman describes his hysterical theory of video games as killing simulators.  But in my insides, I'm secretly thrilled.  A part of me honestly believes that the one hundred thousand hours I've spent motionless in front of a monitor would, in a pinch, turn out to have trained me to pilot a helicopter, be a jetboat superchamp, raise hamsters, and do karate.  The day someone proves that Silent Scope prepares you for murder about as well as Clue prepares you to lead the resulting homicide investigation is the day I have to face the fact that I've wasted my entire fucking life.  If it means protecting my most treasured delusions, Indiana can start burning kids at the stake.

I only mention this because it's indicitive of what a doggone year it's been for the edgification of gaming.  When your evil ass sedentary pastime becomes so evil in the ass that legislators scramble the jets they use for launching laws at us, you know you've finally arrived, edgy-wise.

On the other hand, the games themselves have sort of failed to live up to their fearsome reputations.  This trend reached its murky nadir at the end of last year with the release of American McGee's Alice.  Just as nothing says "class" like buying a product or service from a business called "Touch of Class", nothing says "crazy" like asymmetrical doorframes.  In spite of this, McGee's attempts to shock and outrage your grandparents were superficial at best.   Let's face it, in at least one of our three or four wars against Orientals, your grandpa stood astride the body of a yellow soldier he'd just killed, ripped the woman's heart out for a trophy, and then stared directly into the sun while screaming.  So he's going to be pretty unmoved by a lopsided door, even one with a little blood smeared on it.  In fact, this was the year that the phrase "American McGee's" entered the lexicon as a pejorative term for edginess presented so conventionally that even the Pope sighs and rolls his eyes.  For instance, if a friend tells you that David Fincher has announced he's going to make a movie with Bruce Willis, you can sneer at him, "oh great, American McGee's Die Hard" and he'll know just where you stand on that whole thing.

So where will the true gaming crazy, the crazy worthy of some hand wringing and law making, come from?  I know what you're thinking - but Japan is too easy an answer.  I've become desensitized to their necrophile cannibal rape cartoons and professional wrestling leagues for retards and cripples.  What I'm talking about is some home grown craziness.   Some kind of unique vision for the future of edginess. 

Chet and I have been watching ChiselBrain Software for a while now.  Their first game, The Tickle People, showed a lot of promise.  Instead of resorting to images that focus group polling shows a majority of people think characters they've seen on Television find disturbing, ChiselBrain CEO and possible ChiselBrain sole employee, Lonnie Flickinger, trusted his feelings.  His gut instinct - that a race of sheet-white, rat faced goons who like to tickle you would be pretty upsetting - paid off.  At least in the game's title.   He didn't really follow through on this observation in the game itself, which featured no actual tickling.  Still, the concept was legitimately creepy enough to at least warrant an honorable mention for edgy game of the year.

The Residents: Land of 1000 dancesHowever, towards the end of the year, ChiselBrain released what may become its Doom - a game called Pencil Whipped - and in the process turned Lonnie Flickinger into gaming's Daniel Johnston.  Through general relativity, Einstein forged a link between the physics of gravity and the geometry of spacetime.  Through Pencil Whipped, Lonnie Flickinger has forged a link between genius and complete incompetence - the true hallmark of the outsider artist.  With its eerie hand drawn visuals, its crazy instant deaths, its baroque keyboard layout, and its sound effects mostly composed of what appears to be Lonnie Flickinger attempting to make gun and door opening sounds with his mouth, Pencil Whipped is more honestly nightmarish than any game released last year.  And the demo's only 4 meg, which is pretty sweet too.  It's not the world's greatest game.  It's not even in the top 5000.   But that's not what this award's about.  In 2000, game of the year goes to the only American title to show some actual edgy vision: Lonnie Flickinger's Pencil Whipped.   Congratulations. 

*This award is neither sponsored by, endorsed by, nor, hopefully, seen by Pizza Hut or the people at Pizza Hut.  The edgy font was supplied by Marvin and not Pizza Hut, and should not be considered representative of the actual edginess of your Pizza Hut the Edge pizza pie.  

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