It's not uncommon these days to hear video games compared to punk rock. Some indie games are compared to it, and Suda 51 is always comparing his games to it. But what is really gaming's equivalent to punk rock? Is there an objective measure to compare a game to?
Yes, actually. Here is a quote from Johnny Rotten in the documentary "The Filth and the Fury." It explains the thought process behind what became known as the "punk" style:
"I walked up and down the king's road with complete anger and resentment. People were extremely absurd and still stuck into flairs and platform shoes and neatly coiffed longish hair and pretending the world wasn't really happening. It was an escapism that I resented.
There was also a garbage strike going on for years and years and years, and there was trash piled ten foot high. They seemed to have missed that. WEAR THE GARBAGE BAG for God's sake. And then you're dealing with it. And that's what i'd be doing. I would wrap myself, basically in trash."
In a nutshell, punk is supposed to grab reality, shove it into your face and go "look at this shit! Look at it! This is what you really are!"
I thought for some time about this concept, and I came up with one game series that fits this description perfectly: the Oddworld series.
For those unfamiliar with Oddworld, the games are about a race of tribal aliens that live on Oddworld called Mudokons. They lived peacefully, coexisting with Oddworld's natural ecosystem, until a greedy race of capitalist aliens called Glukkons decided to enslave them
Eventually a factory farming company called Rupture Farms wasn't satisfied with the profits they were getting from Oddworld's animals (they had even hunted some into extiction), so their solution? Start grinding up the slaves, of course!
All of this lays an interesting, horrifying, and often darkly comical groundwork for a fantastic series of puzzle platformers on PlayStation and Xbox (now steam as well).
Why are they "punk" though? Because the different alien races all show different sides of the human race. Between the greedy Glukkons, the violent Sligs, and the peaceful and loving Mudokons, they say "This is what humanity can be, depending on our choices. What are you going to do about it?" The games shine a mirror on the worst and best sides of humanity, and it's what makes them more than just great games.
Oddworld isn't the only game that I think fits with the above description of punk. My "Game of the Generation" embodies it as well, although in a much different way. It's the antithesis of modern gaming. It subverts everything we have come to expect from games and shows us that we can like something that we never imagined we could like before.
What is it? Stay tuned until this weekend to find out!