Comedy In Games

Sitting here, mulling over the events of this past week, I am now so certain that I have fallen in love.

With Borderlands 2. It’s very rare that I’ll cross that mental boundary into absolute obsession for a game, but lately I’m constantly placing myself into that cel-shaded universe of cartoon chaos whenever English revision feels so dreary. I felt it last with the first Dishonored (my fingers quiver with rage as I have to skewer the proper British spelling of Dishonoured) game, as is on record, and I’d have thought it at least a year before I could become as enamoured of a game as I was back then. Give it time, that’s what people say after relationships, isn’t it? It appears my heart is larger than I’d thought, with room aplenty. And, by extension, it appears that I have a heart indeed.

As an amateur games critic/author/artist/blogger-extraordinaire, I’ve come to a kind of realisation recently when it comes to the critical analysis of merit. I’ve given up hope completely of trying to justify taste when talking of a game’s merit, the limitations and critical filters that come along with personal tastes are positions that escape your decision entirely. You can’t choose your tastes, your sense of what is ludicly or aesthetically attractive, and so any of the critical syllogisms that may follow from them are only as strong as any assertion can be. ‘This game system/this art style is good because…’ must necessarily be followed by ‘because I say so’. This is quite tangential to the post as a whole, but I’ve recently come to realise how strongly games criticism relies on pandering to intuition and the reason-vacuum of ‘taste’. It will always in a sense be ruled by assertion. One such assertion I would make about Borderlands 2 is that its cel-shaded art style is breathtaking.

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I couldn’t explain explain whyonly that it is. There’s something quirky, perhaps even Telltale-reminiscent in it. As a backwards-compatible port for the Xbox One, its relatively dated graphics quality is redeemed by the artistry behind it. This comic-book chaos aesthetic quality is what distinguishes it from other RPGs that I could be procrastinating with. Unlike Destiny, unlike The Elder Scrolls OnlineBorderlands 2 has a kind of charm in its character that can’t be found elsewhere. It’s what keeps me coming back.

That, and the thing’s addictive as shit. I didn’t think myself an ol’ loot farmer. I’m not down with the kids. I’m not playing friggin’… Overwatch. I like indie games. You morons. You plebeians of art. I’m not *belch* grinding out *inverted commas hand gesture* League of *inverted commas hand gesture* Legends. I like a nice, proportionate *pisses self* ratio of inputs and outputs, I like a good experience for my hours *sneezes* spent. These freaggin’ *defecates* kids with their MOBAs.

But, drunken rant over, the game absolutely relishes in its wea-porn levelling system. Wherever you are in terms of progression, the game trickles you incrementally jaw-dropping weapons so that you are never too far away from that ‘hell yeah’ sensation owing to that problematic, phallic power-fantasy of gun-slinging. You are constantly amazed by what’s on offer, just when you thought you couldn’t feel any more powerful the game ‘roids you up level after level.

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This is my darling. Oh, the cruelty of it. That I have to tap here at my keyboard, instead of running my hands over the curves of her. To trace my fingertips over the heat of her… The impressions of her. To squeeze her at the teenie tip of the tongue of her trigger and… oh… back and forth in my grip, back and forth, back and…

Oh… I’m writing gun erotica. But that’s the kind of affection that Borderlands 2 evokes, the love of weaponry. Gun-rections.

I could wax lyrical about the game in general (for first-time readers: a 600+ word tangential intro is customary for all posts) but there is one thing I want to talk about in particular when it comes to Borderlands 2 and games in general is (can you tell what it is yet?) comedy.

Playing Borderlands 2 has sparked a wider discussion within me as to the ‘funny’ game. It was the perfect game to start that discussion given how hit-and-miss the comedy is. Upon taking a quest for Sir Hammerlock, in which he describes a certain species of monster as ‘bonerfarts’, I had a moment of existential dread. Look, I’m not bashing the game’s comedy as a whole, but in that moment I could feel my skin crawl. The comedy in the game can be so low-brow that it narrowly skirts the descriptor of ’embarrassing’. And then I thought, when has a game really made me laugh? When has a game really given me bellows, gales, fits? Firewatch is peppered with charming moments of comedy, all of which is observational against the events of the game. The Stanley Parable is packed with satire about the artifice of games, Kevan Brighting’s luscious tones frequently tickling the funny bones throughout.

But it’s just… not Louis C.K funny. In my whole history of playing games, I can’t ever remember really laughing. Is it just me? Have I been playing the wrong games? Perhaps it owes to the fact that laughing, really really laughing, is a spectator sport. True comedy is about timing, watching, patience, the antithesis of the kind of active participation which playing games promotes.

If you’re a regular reader of mine, you’ll know that I’m the first to burst open the courthouse doors, papers in hand if some cultural reprobate rattles their mental sabre at videogames being called ‘art’. But… isn’t the difficulty of implementing comedy in games a major artistic drawback for any creator? With games we can animate perfectly horror, war, adventure, (arguably, at least) romance, tragedy and history all with titles that define these items. But… do we have a definitive comedy game?

When people talk to me about ‘funny’ games, then taste has a large part to do with the conversation. I truly… truly detest Sunset Overdrive, and while I appreciate much of the comedy in Borderlands 2, if we were to laud the title as the canonised ‘funny game’ to an outsider, they might squint, hear the neologism ‘bonerfarts’, tilt their head, and then re-read a particular Ebert article. The ‘funny game’ appears to me a unique challenge, to take the spectator sport of comedy and implement it into a art form that requires participation, one that I look forward to observing and commenting on as games become a larger part of popular culture.

Maybe I’m just a bitter old flatulent, though. Is there a game you’ve played that’s made you erupt with laughter? A particular moment? I’d like to hear!

In Pursuit Of Frivolity: What Makes ‘Importance’?

I’ve always been hesitant about making this kind of post. I guess it’s because I’ve always disliked the constant displays of self-validation that come along with being a ‘gamer’, a kind of simulated minority that’s increasingly becoming less of a quirky identity. Maybe now it’s even a non-identity. I’m talking about the kind of people who play games and take immeasurable offence when told “aren’t you going to grow out of these things?”, the kind of people who post a picture of Link from The Legend of Zelda next to Cristiano Ronaldo and caption it ‘You have your heroes, I have mine’.

I’ve always tried to balance my defence of games as a legitimate art form with a kind of humility about the seriousness of the industry as a whole. More and more as I go into studying games full time, and then hopefully developing them, I have to distinguish between what games can be and what they are perceived as. The former is what I really want to explore and push the boundaries of as I get older, and the latter is what I have to have a kind of humility about to remain sane. No game blogger, maker or player can sanely say that they’d expect games to be seen as something serious and culturally important to the average person. I’m going to have to accept that, as I get older and I’m sitting around the kitchen table of an older relative, telling them ‘I work in video games’ might spark an image of 14-year-olds calling each other motherf*ckers on Xbox Live. I have always accepted that, whilst this may negate an individual’s idea of videogames as ‘important’, I know what I am doing and why I am doing it. I’ve always thought that importance is measured by honest conviction when it comes to any profession.

But, recently I saw something online that made me question this concept: of something being important as weighed by the convictions behind it. It’s going to sound stupid, but I saw an article about Wonder Woman not having any armpit hair in the new Justice League trailer, and the apparent controversy surrounding this. I had the nerve to think to myself: this is so miserably unimportant. There is a drastic deficit of basic democratic human rights for women in some countries, and this is what online feminists are busying themselves with. Nonexistent hirsute armpits.

But then a few hours after having guffawed at the article I began to think: why is this not important? If I tell myself that my own vocation is important because I have an honest conviction behind it, then the people writing arm-ticles about Wonder Woman might also genuinely believe that this is a pressing social issue and have just as strong a conviction as my own. And that’s not an unbelievable idea. But with that in mind I still can’t make myself truly recognise any importance here.

By the same standards, though, a more pressing social issue that I can recognise as important, like the threat to womens’ democratic rights in the Democratic Republic of Congo, it just doesn’t inspire the same response in me as… videogames. If importance is weighed by the strengths of my own convictions, then it’s not as important to me. And that… sounds kind of really awful. But it’s not genuine. I have the humility to recognise that women having basic democratic rights in third world countries is more important than the thing I’m going to pursue for the rest of my life, but I don’t have as strong a conviction for it. It sounds awful when you put it in words, but everyone participates in the same kind of mindset. If you’ve ever bought an iPhone or Nike shoes, then at some point in your life, the self-gratification of owning one of these items was more important to you than children not having to work underpayed, in severely unsafe factories.

So this all just made me realise that importance can’t be measured by the strength of my convictions towards something. I’m a firm believer that language is one of the most difficult barriers to overcome when expressing what you mean when you talk about something, and that a word is powerless without its context. Raymond Carver’s What We Talk About When We Talk About Love is an example of a short story that explores this problem. I think that, when talking about things like ‘importance’, clarification is necessary in all cases. Up until reading that article about Wunder(arm) Woman, I’d always thought that ‘importance’ was simply weighed by whether I felt strongly about something, but that’s obviously not the case.

As someone who recognises the relative frivolousness of my own vocation (a necessary kind of modesty for anyone blogging about, playing, or making games), this small incident has changed my whole perception of the concept of ‘importance’. I think what I really mean when I talk about, or even think discursively about ‘importance’ is whether something justifies dedication. Issues such as threats to human rights of course justify dedication in order to establish democracy, of course they are important. Exploring narrative possibilities in videogames? Of course that justifies my dedication as something culturally and personally relevant. The same principle applies to someone who treats me well, of course they justify my dedication to them, making them important to me.

It’s an interesting experience to just, at any time, sit back and explore why something is as important to you as it is. It can tell you a lot about your own prejudices and perceptions.

I’m Glad That ‘Layers Of Fear’ Was My First Horror Game

If you’ve been rummaging through my web-trash for a while now, you might already know that when it comes to horror games I have a strict ‘no, no, no, no, NO!’ kind of policy. Even when I was playing the now released Resident Evil VII game-demo, I had to have my best friend at the wheel throughout. Although I am extremely (borderline unreasonably) masculine, as is evident in my collection of online poetry, I have never been comfortable trudging through a dark, damp, digital hallway all by my jittery self, especially past the crucial hour of 4pm. I can watch, I can give running commentary in the presence of my friends doing just that, but I have never been able to commandeer those perpetually asthmatic, flashlight-wielding horror game protagonists all alone.

UNTIL NOW! Well… almost. I had my mother by my side for a short time while playing Layers of Fear until she got a long-enduring motion sickness as a result… and I might have been listening to the Cox n’ Crendor Podcast for company when she was absent… but APART FROM THESE MITIGATING AIDES I DID IT ALL BY MY BRAVE LITTLE SELF. 

Layers of Fear was available for free on last month’s Games With Gold scheme, and after some initial hesitance I big-boy’d the download button and prepared myself for all the

BOWEL
JINGLING
HORROR

That was to ensue. As I was initially losing my horror game virginity (I’m worth waiting for, videogame developers) I began to appreciate just what goes into making a digital horror experience

UNPRECEDENTED
GOOLIE
RUMBLING

And all the developmental factors that therein lie. Audio, by far, was something that Layers of Fear mastered, a veritable catalogue of domestic heebie-jeebie noises were on display, from the creaking of a rocking chair to the inexplicable Gah! of a door shutting behind you abruptly. The domestic setting itself is key to all the

VERITABLE
RECTAL
TREMORS

That are experienced when playing Layers of Fear. Chris Franklin did an excellent video explaining the idea of domestic horror in Anatomy, and the horrific domestic setting ties in well here with Layers of Fear‘s domestic narrative themes too.  The implicit narrative style also helps in providing the player some

RAPID
NIPPLE
HARDENING.

Examinable domestic artefacts are wielders of character-exposition-nuggets, but much of the story is told visually, in the impossibly arranged hallways of our protagonist’s home, in those contorted corridors that disappear behind you as the psychosis of your character begins to betray visual and spatial logic.

Layers of Fear is fantastically eldritch, seeping with the ghoulish and the unearthly.

It gets the first ever Vahrkalla’s Video Games Seal of Approval!

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More Music

Good morning, World!

A while back I shared my song ‘Riffs’ on here, so I thought I’d share this one as well. It’s a short song played in Open C tuning with a capo on the fourth fret. I made it when fiddling around with the chords of John Butler’s song Ocean.

It’s called Water Bottle. 

Enjoy!

Feeld Report- Octobre 2187

27th Octobre 2187

Deere Officere Jackson,

Maye I begin by expressinge mye strongest approval for the Publishinge initiativ. The ONS’s recent reporte shows moral amongste the rural sectors to be at an annual lowe, and with paper ration supplies skyrocketinge this month, the initiativ seems a strok of geniuss. The boardd have decidede for a €400 prize for each winnere. It also gives in particularr the women somethinge to striv fore whilste annuall curfewe comes to an ende. We all knowe the domestication act drives them restles. Myn Angie does so wail att me! Me and the boys have done a sweepe of the Primary Sectors, and these two texts were shortlisted by the peopel for the prize.

The firste is ‘Thoughten ubut thas Werlt’ by a Brightoner Kraut callede Anthony Steiger (Sx104e#115). He’s a kraut-caste, farmer boy. Ration priority 2. You have to squinte and tilte your head a bit for us Londoners to understande it, it’s in Germinglish, but the Southerners seem to love it. My interpreterr described it as a ‘philosophical musing’. Enjoy!

*****

Thoughten ubut thas Werlt

Kame to heore lotto Sprech about buch shrieben so and so. I had a freund Mathias tell it ernst to me ubut the geld can becomen mit a wrily gut buch. Ist many shribers famous, they names hab on the posties nd thhre Mugs am tele. Wollen dat.

Nie bin in schule much. Guten marks becommen me, und matter alway sag ‘Anthony, klever boy! Goot son. Besser then oder Jung’. Matter alway lovv me so. Imma dah. When she is reading dies, hallo matter! Ih haven tald ydu I write woulden! Ah. Grohsmatters des mutters wasen Englisch lehrnerin. Es in bluud, klarly. Matter alway lesening. Hrre libe buke iss ‘Katcherin Das Rye’. I dank es is thie Name. Shie immer sag ubut et: ‘Is so wahr und so real’. Ja. Ichkan it not lesen, ahber. Shie wahnt me um Alt Englisch (odr ‘English’) to lern, bat et my slimsten subject im schul wars. Ets nikt so easyfacher. Grammatickly so. Tzu many Rulen.

Whann ydu lesen dis? Stoopid. Ydu kannikt sag! Fur Futurmannen (fur thee fahr fahr futurmannen, ist today yahr 2187), Sinz die Bombe, ‘English’ nikt so kommon ist. Es sprachen still am London, Ihthenke, aber nicht in Devon so much. Hiere, many Sausages kam nord durch Franz. Fatter ware a Sausij. Englische Mannen call Germanish mannen ‘Sausages’. Essa slur. Es is lotto tensionkeit nd ‘bad bluud’, as matter has sagd. Still today. Evenso Fatter a sausage waren, Matter lieben fatter till es geshotten waren in krieg. Ihglauben, shie lieben fatter still evenso. ‘Fur me, War is whar’ shie sagd ohnce. Dhey waren im 2127 geweden. Thann ihkam! Ichremember nikt so much ubut fatter. Fatter tzu olt tzu die Bombe rememberen.

Ichtalk tzu masch ubut kinderhoot. Many hab Spieriences, thass man Life changen kan. Ichthinke, thass Ichhad one juzt now! Ihwas down die Strass walken, nikt stressd, all kool, um mein Rations tzu becommen, und Ichhad die grossest Mann Ichhad eber sehen gesehen. Musceln fur Dayen. Beine like Bullen. Vasschular all uber. Veins achimbo. Streng like Bull. Ration priorichtee 1, Ich must thenke. Ahneway, Heware walken oder Direktion, nd a Frankie kam up and sagd ‘Excuzez-moi! Ces’t peepule-like-a-you-eh taking-ue all our-ue Rationz-eh!’, oder samthing vie dat. Big Frankie. Generazionen zwei, Ich must thenke. Gross Frankie voice. Very Nasel. Ich gess, heware ration type 4. Clyne man. Aneehoo, hewaren starten tzu thass Bull hitten! Mit his fisten. Bang bang bang, boom boom. Clyne Bomben all uber. Butt, the Bull juzt had es so. No flinchen.

Man, nie gessen wass nexte happenen. Die Bull-man pickend him nord, bei die Kollar! ‘What’s going on here?’ askden Offizier in der naher. Bull seh at er, angery Augen, sehen Rot. He sehim good and lang. Gess he fast gonna get hurten. Thann, Bull-man kry! Schrying all uber. Gesichter vee a See. Wett wett wett. Bull in dee raign. ‘Es ist nicht meine Schuld!’ erepeaten.

Das is my Roman. My Storybuch. It hab a art of Loyte, all Bull and Bombe. Dann, scratchen dee Surfas, Bull wet all uber. Hab a kind of Kind vee thass. Hab a kind of Bombe alway off gehen.

*****

The second is ‘Kutty-punch’ by ‘Fiddol’ (reele name Alex Butland, ration priority 6, NLxTUAh#006). He’s somewhatt of a socialite around the developmental areas of London. Officiallee unemployed as of last weeke but getss by well enouf. I suppose you coulde cal it a romantick tale of violence and sensitivitee bothe. 

*****

Kutty-Punch

Boys, peel yer ears and stook the fiyer, like. I always red in the Greekie plays they always had one of them choruses, I heard that I did. Not like in yer music, but in yer plays like. This is old toimes. Befor the bamb. This is me corussey part. Me blooder and chummo Jack-o say the korus ha’be ‘diedactic’. Nowe if there won thing I don’t erpreshiate in this Gord-givvon loife I have, it is a man using vokabulerry in a way that he arsumes he is abov me. Very paytronising and not at al deemocratic like. See, I donno whathefuck didactic sposed to mean. So a’much as I love me blooder Jack-o it was indede incumbent on me to punchim smack in his gobber, a’he were being a most disreespectful motherfocker. Mam always sedd reespect is the waye forwerd after the big-bamb. Reespect all we got. Becaus I no la-dee-da ration-1-er, I don’t know what diedactic focken means so as far as I concerend a korussey bit is just an intodckshion, which is reet helpfol. I were just ownlee previously pacing round me room troina figgur out how too start me little story and I had not a klew. Then I thot of Dottor Faustus, me Enlgisch teacher made me read tha backin 2182, but that year I got the rubble-sickness so I never lern or nothin, like. Tha had a Korus tho. Chorus. Those Greekies got it all figgur out. They know how to start a playe, they do. They made more’n a couple, I think they did.

For the perpos o pasing the chorus is now don, an we are in Act 1 I think. Wel, the chorussey bit wer quite lang, so acshlee we are in Act 2 I do think. Act 2 begins in pab. Pab in New Leverstock, in developments. Good chummos. Good biir. Lot o’laufter every noite. Pabkeeper name Grislock. Good old chum.

I fergat to set seen praperly, as oi were aboot to describe big chum Grislock but I fergat there is also other characters in seen. Okay, rewoind a lil bet. We in Grislock pab. Usuwolly Jack-o tharr too and usuwolly I ponch him in gobber bekas he has a way of patronoising pepal he shold not be patronising bekas they are his chummo, and require the atmost reespect. Love Jack-o very much, tho that be the case indede. Many character here my blooders. So ther jacko and Pigbank. Pigbank real name Vladdo, but Vladdo known by Pigbank and Piggo (or piggybank by is missus) bekas Vladdo keep collectin battlecaps. Loike, an battles. Sometime he shake so much widdem battlecaps he clinker like money in a piggybank. An he fat as shite too, tho that is not so democratic too say, it is not. So we have Piggo, Jack-0 n Grislock but anather krushial character mus be Flass. Flass real name Michal, but we call him Flass. Like Dennalflass, because we jest tha his cock so thin tha when he use it on a girlie they end up flassin with it. We got gales from tha one we did.

Act 3 I think now, as the storee is now establish mostly. Anyway, in pab, we drinkin lats and lats because ration day come in for all boys. It raining geld on us boys! Grislock tending to pab and we boys on the snook. I always teach my boys a think or two about the snook. Witha snooker-cue I’ma weapon. Life lot like a snook table. Some men fall in ther holes faster than others. Anyway, Grislock kam up to us n ha’the gall to ask ‘Boys, whados love mean to all yews?’.
‘Askin ferra chum?’ said I, bekas I was perplexed by his inquiree I was.
‘He ain’t got no chum’ said Jack-o, to which I replied,
‘Odious fellowe, do not patronise our deer chum, or I shall smite yew down old Chummo’
‘I forget moiself’ start Jack-o, ‘I did forget thee democratique nature of our exchanges in this here poblic forum of arr pab’
‘Yes deer Jack-o, we must be diplomatic in al things’
‘I am glad we have settled this, chummo Fiddol’

I fergat to say woi I is the Fiddol for the reeder who das nat know me as well as my deerest chummo Jack-o. In pab we all different sizes. Grislock big fellar. Ration prioritee 2 fer his size. He tha double bass. In arr own little pab cultur, we is high sosietee, I loike to think so I do. So we is fine and expensive and senseetive chums, all like the instruments of classecol music. Jack-o inch taller than me, so he the viola and Oi the Fiddle, Flass the chello.

Anyhoo, Flass come in an say
‘Lav is like a drog’
‘Loike it changes yer brane?’ askin Grislock
‘Nah, like it changes yer cock’ said Flass
‘That is so iredeemly volgar to say,’ startin Jack-o ‘and how would a man equippèd loike yerself be able to tell down tharr’
‘It is so very tru tho, Grislack,’ said Flass ‘Love is the great chummo of Sex. They are best chummos’
‘I disagree that they are best chummos’ Piggo interject, he do,
‘They are indede the best of chummos’ kontinue Flass
‘Please expand on this very here hypotheesees while I go and help moiself to another divine libation this heer eveninge’ said Piggo, and he go and do just tha
‘When yew lov a girl’ go Flass on, ‘yew lav her for what yew can look at an what yew can grab at with yer manclaws’
A nod o’consideration go around the pab, and Piggo got his gums around the biir tap and Grislock reprimand him so fierce
‘You love her for her coddlies’ sad Flass
And a toast to coddlies go around the room. Big ones, small ones, and unconventionals too, a moment were there dedicated to the coddlies of our lives
‘And her shapeleys’
And a wistful cheer go around pab for the shapeleys of the girlies of the world. Gad knows I pray for a werld o’ shapeleys when I go ap heaven-bound
‘An the way she wiggle and wolk. Lov is found in the hole and not the soul’
‘Buh tha is a sinical conclusion to’ and Piggo belch louder than the bamb ‘to draw heer this  verrey evening. Are we not then meerely feeld animals shagging arr way into the loam of death old chummo’
‘You are animal, Piggo, and you will oink yourself to death old chummo, because I believe you never get a shag, I do’ said Jack-o, patronizing as evver
‘Oh chum, Oh chum’, said Flass
‘Do you nat learn, Jack-o’, quod I, ‘This is not once’
‘Nat once’ repeating Grislock
‘Buh twice you do here betray the deemocratique nature of our here pub-forum by inspireeng animosity amongst us chummos. Piggo I trust,  I do, Is verrey hurt’
‘I am, Fiddol, I am most crest’ and he belch ‘crest fallen because of this here’
‘Chummos, please continue, perhaps it is the biire that does talk for me in absense of my here wits’ quod Jack-o, and we give a scalding look because we love chummo Jack-o an he must learn Deemocracy, he must.

‘Flass, this is much a valid position to have, it is, but is there not mare to lov than cuddlies and shapelies?’ askin Grislock again, and Piggo do a belch so fierce we think he shrink in his diamater he did
‘I, dearest Grislock, do think that Love is found in the soul, and not in the hole’ quod Piggo
An we all raise a glass to the hole, the bestest and dearest Chummo a man kan have, for it understand us best, it do
‘For there are pleasures in yer mind that love can bring, that yer member down tharr cannot, and they is different and there is indede a significant distinction, there is’
‘But yer mind don’t have feelers, like’ quod Flass
‘Yah, because yew feel em in yer brain in, like, neurological exchanges’ sad Piggo
‘Like a brain-cock?’ quod Flass
‘Yar, like a brain-cock that feels all the good brain feelings that love does inspire in the besotted individual’ quod Piggo
‘This is most interesting’ sad Grislock and he strokin his chin like ‘But can you have love of the soul without love of the hole, like?’
‘The hole is the goal, the hole makes us whole, it is undeniable’ sad Jack-o, and I had to strike him so rapturous in his goolies because this were clearly the third time he had threatened the democracy of the pab
‘Do nat be so animalistic, Jack-o’, quod I, bekas I love him so ‘we must first recognise that carnal pleasures are beneath us like, before we can begin to indulge them also like’
And a nod of agreement go around the pab and we raise a glas of biir to the recognition of carnal pleasures as beneath us like, bekas it keeps us human it does. While Jack-o incapacitated from goolie-smack, we all think about the nature of hole and soul.

Is a kind of issue to keep a chummo on his toes for his life, it is. It is a kind of absurd. Is a kutty-punch to the mind-goolies, the inquiree of lovve. We have most finished Act 5 I think now, anI think another Chorus bit comes after, but I thought Chorus was an introduction, so this much makes no sense. I am now to finish my tale, and I hope it was verily diedactic, to quod Jack-o, the bestest of chummos.

*****

Lett me know whatt you thinke, and I’ll contacte the boys.

Bestt wishes,

General Dir. Richard Havisham

‘The Collector’ And Absurd Love

In Psychoanalysis: The Impossible Profession, Janet Malcolm interprets a part of Freud’s essay Observations On Transference-Love to read “Isn’t what we mean by ‘falling in love’ a kind of sickness and craziness, an illusion, a blindness to what the loved person is really like?”. Although it’s a paraphrasing of a material I’ve never read, it sounds as if it’s the closest thing to absolute truth Freud ever said. Similarly, Plato in his dialectic Phaedrus, discusses the nature of love and desire, with Socrates at one point concluding that ‘love is a madness’.

After reading Nabokov’s Lolita I needed something less orotund and mentally cumbersome to read on the come-down from that novel. Not yet jaded by tales of creepy men, I decided I’d give The Collector a go, a book I remembered being recommended by my English teacher. I’m very glad that I did. Although the author John Fowles is explicitly on record as saying the novel is about class and intellectual divisions within society increasingly dominated by a wealthy but responsibly impotent minority, there is also a more thorough investigation within the superficial narrative: that of bad love.

The concept of ‘bad love’ might seem an oxymoron, the idea of an elevated-self and spiritual bond being described as an affliction can easily be seen as an impossible contortion of the word ‘love’ itself. The usually-depicted situation wherein two people fall in love sees the two individuals involved as respectively causative of the other’s being ‘in love’. We are used to the idea of love between two people being caused by temporal and proximal factors. While there is no absolute criteria, we see love as a series of social inputs and outputs. If I spend x amount of months with this person, if I have y amount of intimate exchanges with this individual, love will be caused.

To give even an inch of credence to this idea has so many dangerous implications. Millions of non-heterosexual individuals are either persecuted or forced into self-repression because of the refractory nature of love. To believe that love can be caused by such interactions and formulas is to say that it can therefore be eluded by omission of these interactions. This is the same precept that fuels sexual correction camps and the wider homophobic institutions existing today. Love, who you and how you love, cannot be decided solely by these factors. It is a state of being that exists outside of your own agency. Instead of two individuals being the causative agents of each others’ love, it is more likely that two people in love with each other have experienced the same change simultaneously but independently. Laterally. Because the state of being in love is not down to our individual decision, to seek a fatalist ‘love’ is a defeating task.

This is exactly the task our protagonist Frederick Clegg suffers with. He kidnaps secondary protagonist Miranda and keeps her prisoner in his house so that she can learn to love him. This is what he believes to be his ultimate fulfilment.

To seek love from an individual you do not know enough about is worse than any regular love. Love entails obsession above anything else, it entails an insatiable fascination, and if this obsession and mental fervour cannot be channelled towards someone who can reciprocate the same satisfaction in sheer discovery, then acceptable obsession becomes unhealthy obsession. Frederick knows nothing about Miranda. He can wax lyrical about the way her hair looks and the way she carries herself, but knows nothing of her mind. This is a crucial idea. The kind of love Frederick exhibits is the love of her physical surface, which is only a slice of her identity. As such, he loves completely only that which she allows him to experience. Frederick loves an incomplete person, so has incomplete empathies for her.

In philosophy, ‘the Absurd’ refers to the human instinct to find purpose in life and the human inability to do so. It is an absurd struggle due to the fact that full knowledge and understanding of the life and universe we seek to comprehend is an impossibly vast ideal. The sheer amount of knowable entities atop the infinitely unknown dominates any attempt to find meaning in the life we inhabit. If this is ‘the Absurd’, then Frederick’s love for Miranda is an absurd love. To some extent, all love is absurd. We believe that we can love another person unendingly and entirely but in reality, surely the future and reality of the person we love is too vast to fully understand, and, therefore, love?

Frederick’s unwarranted love is deplorable, it is absurd, but it is also relatable. It is an unfortunate human pitfall, perhaps an unfortunate male pitfall, to at least one point in your life surrender your emotions to an individual you know not nearly well-enough. To surrender your thoughts to someone who is an imaginative extrapolation of their actual self. To deceive yourself into allowing someone you do not or cannot know to affect you.

Damn, boi. That shit’s real.

Co-operation and Escapism

Escapism is one of the primary functions of media. We do not pursue art or media which reflects back to us the processes and structures of the life we are accustomed to. Instead, we pursue that which offers us an alternative space of reality, a fantasy experience in which discovery is its own gratification, or at least we pursue art that offers us an exaggerated slice of the familiar that elicits in us sought-after emotions.

The nature of experience when it comes to art and media is, historically, a social one. The independent nature of reading is an exception to this general rule, but even then literature hopes to incite active discussion, it hopes to sow ideas that no author would hope die within the pages they inhabit. Reading is an individual activity but it is not tailored to the individual as a product, a book exists as a position of the writer’s ideas with no knowable recipient. As such, we see the popularity of book clubs, of slam poetry clubs and of literature forums. International religious communities have been born into history because of the social spheres and wider discussion kindled by individual texts. Even with reading, the experience cannot end with the individual.

The social nature of media and art is seen in other forms. Theatre is a prime example of this, where the expression is experienced in live performance. With theatre, you are invited to observe a kind of expression in the proximity of tens or hundreds of others, this experience being exclusive to those in attendance due to the varying nature of live performance. It is private and it is social simultaneously. Beyond that, and although today the personal appliance is commonplace, television and cinema used to be very social experiences. There was a point in modern history at which the television was a luxury household appliance and with only a handful of terrestrial channels. Programmes were scheduled events around which you had to organise you and your family’s time to watch.

Expression should not be an isolating thing for either the creator or consumer. Escapism is a social activity, it has to be, creators of media cannot align their creations with the tastes or expectations of any one individual, as they cannot know who it is they are providing for. Therefore, consuming the work of creators is an exchange of perceptions from many individuals, it is a discussion, an event and most importantly a social activity.

But perhaps, with the advent of videogames, the paradigm of escapism has shifted completely. Videogames as escapism, in the modern generation of gaming, surpass the boundaries of ‘social’ and in some cases enter ‘co-operative’. Co-operation is social, but ‘social’ does not mean ‘co-operative’. With other forms of media, an audience is preferred but not required as opposed to the individual. A book can still exist as both an expression and experience if only one person ever reads it, just as a play can still exist with one audience member ever seeing it and as a film still exist if only one person ever bought a ticket. But with videogames, two individuals are sometimes required for an escapist experience to exist at all.

awww

Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime is a game I recently played with my best friend. It is also the most adorable and most lovable thing you will ever see (besides me, of course). It is the only game I have ever played with such an intrinsic emphasis on co-operation, teamwork, and ludic selflessness. The underlying escapist fantasy here, of being a darling little space captain in my own darling little spacepod, firing lasers at anti-love monsters in the hope of spreading cosmic love-beams across the galaxy, was in and of itself endearing. But with my co-pilot at my side in real life, this escapist fantasy was somehow made more immersive, the yearnings to progress were emphasised with the knowledge that this virtual world of space-love and cosmic storge was populated by truly autonomous beings. I would no longer have to play off of my own decisions, but I would have to observe and play off of his. It was made more real by the world being effected by someone other than me. Of course, the videogame as single-player experience should not be something that exists in-between worlds, and should suspend your disbelief, but somehow playing Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime with my friend at my side subconsciously immersed me deeper into the experience.

Co-operative escapism is a unique experience, and one that games such as Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime excel with.

Art Is…

A thinkypiece worth reading if you’ve ever thought about doing a music-based post

The Cinema Crunch

This post was slightly inspired by this one, if you’d like to journey on my train of thought and read a piece with a similar idea, but, you know, more of an idea.

I write a lot of reviews. I have no idea if I’m good at it, but I certainly know that I write them. They’re almost entirely of film and TV, two mediums which go hand in hand and require a skillset that’s functionally identical to criticise.

I also like music. I listen to a lot of it, and it takes up broadly the same time in my life as film and TV. But if you asked me, say, why Of Monsters and Men are my favourite band, I’d probably just tell you that they’re good, and mumble something about consistency. I certainly couldn’t articulate it in any remotely eloquent way.

And if you’re wondering what the point of…

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