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
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.
However, 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.
|*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.