Games by Austrian developers are a rare and delicate breed and yet there is some movement beneath that thick eggshell. I am from Austria (wisecrack) and I usually don't care. But when it comes to games the corneal on my thumbs flashes red-white-red (in a sickly unsettling fashion...ew, gross). Data Dealer, a browser game by a very very very small developer indeed is such an Austrian game and might prove to be an (if not the) Age of Wushu-killer.
I usually don't play browser-games (it's not that I hate them, they just don't interest me) and I know that Data Dealer won't be a game that I will invest 50+ hours in but I can't deny that I like the project.
Data Dealer is mimicking smash hits like Farmville (never played it, I swear) or other Zynga-abominations. At its core it plays similar to those games (which I never played) - a constant struggle for the optimization of ressources and time - with a twist though: you deal with data. You are the anonymous behemoth who collects all of this precious bits of information floating around and you sell it to the corporate ringleaders. You do this by bribing your sources and organizing the usual internet-shenanigans like psycho-tests and sweepstakes.
I tried the demo-version and it's mostly moving things from A to B, which feels satisfying enough. Some meters to observe (like bribe-money, stolen profiles and such) and a lot to read and to compare. Actually I enjoyed the reading the most. It's evident that the developers really want to communicate their ideas about privacy and data safety to their audience. When I think about all those insane juveniles on facebook I wished for games like this one to be integral part of informatics-classes at schools.
It's an entertaining read as well, satire-heavy and a little silly from time to time. The fact that Data Dealer makes fun of quite a few public figures of Austrian society/politics might not translate too well if the developers release the English version eventually - beefcake-governers and stratosphere-suicide-commandos aside. Allusions to a former finance minister are going to be overlooked but I think an opportunistic puke is a staple which is intelligible globally. The Southparkesque art direction helps of course.
I believe I would have completely overlooked this one, if it wasn't for its socio-political aspiration. Data Dealer is a game that wants something. It wants you to be aware of your actions. It doesn't resort to pedagogical banalities but lets you switch sides and be an accomplice of evil deeds. I think that deserves a hug.
Ah ja, and it's all free and open source and fluffy and whatnot.
I like "Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate". It's the first Monster Hunter I have ever tried and I like it. It appeals to my obsessive predisposition in many aspects. It is a complex and at the same time condensed gaming experience. I struggle a bit with the online gaming but so far I experienced no extremely sociopathic behaviour.
Last night the strangest thing happened.
I entered a novice-lobby in Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate and chose a room.
It said something like "love to use the chat-function" in the description.
This should have been a flaming red warning sign.
A young woman and a guy and yet another guy were still on a quest when I arrived, I heard them talking. All the time. Talking.
At least two of them were talking, the third remained silent.
When they returned to the hub, this Third Man immediately left. Another warning sign. Then they started to comment on armors, making a little fashion show out of it, changing their gear constantly, commenting constantly. Since I had already wasted a good amount of time waiting for them I did not want to leave yet. When a fourth player arrived we finally set off.
We made a low-rank quest, the one with the magical spinning goat. Duraborso, Durmabosos, whatever its called. And they talked. I figured it was all part of a bizzare pair-grooming process... all that yackety-yack. Yuck.
After that, player number 4 left immediately. His pain treshold was significantly lower than mine
No other players arrived (I think my predecessors must have spread the word), the next quest was chosen, my craving for carving prevailed and I decided to stay.
During the quest the male player started to patronize the female player in a way that was utterly peculiar, as I deemed. This was neither the usual online-show-off of the more experienced player nor swaggering in the face of the desired female gamer.
It was something else...
It was passive-aggressive, it was rude, it was the sediment of communication.
They had a relationship!
Suddenly they started to comment on food they were sharing. It downed on me, they were situated in the exact same physical space!
Playing on two WiiUs or practicing cross-play via 3DS or whatever.
Whispering sweet nothings and fighting over a Granola-Bar.
A GRANOLA BAR! Fondling each other on the couch.
It was eerie.
When the monster fell under our attacks, the tone of conversation between the two of them changed. In ways that were not so good.
I heard lust in his voice. Hot and sultry passion.
Several times she said: "Don't touch that!" and "Stop, that feels weird!"
I did not experience voyeuristic pleasure but fear and terror
(trying to gut the dead beast for ressources withouth throwing up - not because of all that gutting mind you!)).
"Stop. It feels weird."
Exactly my thoughts.
Actually that was the last I heard from them.
The quest ended, I was transported to the hub and my WiiU froze. It collapsed.
As if it wanted to spare me further pain, it ended this self-flagellation. It made an enervating sound, a high-pitched wheezing, like crying out in pain itself.
I don't know exactly why, but I was afraid. Not violated but genuinely afraid.
What I experienced in that precise moment were feelings of horror and twin-peakish confusion.
the Horror, the Horror
I peeked behind the red curtain and saw the abysmal grotesque. I got squashed in the Moskenstraumen of love.
Do I love videogames? I would have said so without hesitation some hours ago, before I actually started to think about the matter while writing this blog entry.
I do like videogames, getting close to borderline obsession if I am to be completely honest.
But love it is not.
There are I people I do love for various reasons of course. And there are people who I played videogames with. And then there is a certain amount of people I love and with whom I played video games - so far so rather trite.
Yet, I have to admit the shared virtual experience intensified the feeling of love I feel for some of them. Or expanded it's dimension. Kind of.
I love several guys for their "Jekyll and Hyde"-like transformation whenever they take hold of a controller and I love them because I am allowed to call them names when they frag me in their usually very spiteful and sneaky manner.
I love a woman for the way she beats me at Mario Kart and Super Smash Brothers (a love-hate relationship to be precise). And the way she associates with the background stories of games like Where Is My Heart. And her seemingly limitless patience and endurance concerning the Paper Mario series. And the clockwork precision of her playing Bust A Groove (the love-hate-thing again) and Vib Ribbon. And the fact that she is a worthy opponent in Bishi Bashi Special. And for shared emotions at the end of Journey on a lazy Sunday morning. And for sharing regressive obsession and childish joy with me.
an actual feeling of love involved - no.
petit objet a, fetishized object of desire and wish-fulfilling - oh, yes.
Loved ones who can understand or even share this obsession, this joy - the best.
But that's all rather hard to express graphically. Perhaps I'll manage to express all of this via the means of eurythmics&dance. I'll upload a video then.
Instead I decided to depict the most pure form of love ever exhibited in a videogame.
Sweet, unconditional brotherly love. The unshakeable bond between siblings.
I want to ask a favour of you. It might seem lazy, it might seem clumsy, but I am going to ask anyway. A friend of mine is the editor of a feminist monthly (an Austrian one btw.).
They want to dedicate one of their next issues to videogames and I ‘d love to support them.
Over the course of the last few years I read many inspiring blog-entries of feminist and/or LGBT interest here. At least I have a vague remembrance of their existence.
Some of them stood out - they were so good, I even recite them before going to bed.
I want to instrumentalize this think-tank!tank!tank!
I want to recklessly exploit these mental ressources.
So now for my question:
If you happen to have written or read something you deem interesting in that specific context, please feel free to post me a link in the commentary section.
That would be immensely helpful.
Also, if there is a topic or game you think would be interesting and/or of utter importance – please tell me! From the Sarkeesian-incident to the Riptide-insipidity - feminist games, anything goes.
I might contact some of you individually if that is alright – if the magazine-people want to quote your blog or something like that
I am so incredibly late for this, but the following lines are going to be a kind of introduction. I feel attached enough for this now. The process of writing this down was actually a little bit nauseating since I had to notice a certain degree of obsession in my life.
So, videogames. I grew up in a kind of pedagogical black hole, with forces tugging at me from different directions: with my father being rather indifferent to the perils of popular culture (exposing my juvenile mind to classic movie monsters and fascinating comics stashed away in the darkest corners of the bookshelf) I developed a rather distinctive taste for the morbid. On the other hand my somewhat overprotective mother tried to shelter me from Masters of the Universe and plastic guns. Any depiction of violence was a big taboo. Especially videogames were absolutely out of the question.
So I developed an obsession about comics early on, buying many hundreds of incredibly cheap pulp-magazines popular at that time. Gespenster Geschichten ("Ghost Stories") were equally cheesy as they were extremely awesome.
Everything on paper, everything written was not considered to be too suspicious, I hid my treasures anyway. Just in case. Today I have a large collection of movies and graphic novels.
Most of them deal with sex or violence. Or both.
And I started to draw very soon in my life. A lot. At some point I must have realized that creative endeavour was not subject to hours of tiring arguments. That's when I really got into drawing.
I mostly designed death-trap-labyrinths.
This amused me immensely and seemingly shocked my environment, which used to amuse me even more.
The first cut is the deepest: I do not know anymore when exactly it was that I saw my first videogame but I vaguely remember some Game&Watch at school. And I fell in love.
Not so much with the grizzly graphics and the game itself but the mystery and the hysteria the whole phenomenon was connected to. Stories were told of unheard-of adventures and strange, almost arcane languages were used in doing so: "press button B in order to run faster"
What was meant by that?
When I was 8 I got an Nintendo Entertainment System for Christmas. I unwrapped the parcel and after some moments of realization I punched myself in the face. Out of pure joy.
I actually punched myself in the face, twice.
I got a NES and Dr.Mario and nearly fractured my chin. Up to that point I hadn't even detected Super Mario Bros. yet. I think that was the moment when my parents realized that this present might have been a big mistake. They told me later on, that they didn't want me to loose the connection to the digital avantgarde, with the "sudden" rise of personal computers and all that. Ha!
I learned to press button B in order to run faster. I admit that it took me some time,
After the first constitutive years I developed an attitude:
As soon as I understood a game's structure (be it narrative or gameplay-wise) I got bored.
Unless it's structure proved to be of certain elegance. Then I would play it until my thumbs hurt.
Essentially, I unlifted secrets during my really obsessive years of playing games.
I did my best and amassed about 300 games for 8 different systems.
I invested uncounted hours in videogames and the associated subcultures. As a child I videotaped bugs and glitches together with a friend. Whenever Crash Bandicoot got stuck inside some stairs or Mario Kart 64 exploded into multicolored abstraction we would yell:
"Get the camera!" and document the unthinkable: a bug in a videogame...times do change.
Apropos Nintendo64: I also remember now that me and some friends rented a japanese Nintendo64 (in an impressive metal-case), in order to be among the first Europeans ever to play Mario64 - constantly reassuring each other that this game would be the summit of digital creation.
I am also in the possession of the golden membership card of a long gone chain of game-stores, entitling me to a 15% discount. (yay...)
Whole weekends were wasted with playing Doom and burning holes into our gastric mucosa with cheap imitations of well-known soft drinks. I remember counting as much as 14 Bottles (1,5l) of soda for two kids a night. Glorious.
For years he was my closest companion in games, he wrote move-lists for Clayfighters and Mortal Kombat, together we hit the level-cap for River City Ransom/Streetgangs.
He will always be my hero.
(depicted as an old man)
So what else is there to tell?
Something not game-related, yes? I was born and raised in Vienna, Austria.
I have two part-time-jobs (I actually like to do) and I am spending too much of that hard earned money on videogames, comics, cinematic extravaganzas and cigarettes.
I paint and I build things. I write about the erotic of the undead
I really have come full circle (see above).
I even built myself some friends.
I almost forgot to mention that I wrote my final thesis about videogames. About their dualistic nature between disciplinary mechanisms and emancipatory effects, to be precise.
At university I played a lot of Soulcalibur and Medal of Honor - out of adademic interest of course.
Two of my colleagues during an important experiment:
(academic dispute at its best; please observe: a player of Urban Terror, on the left)
The way I see it, every aspect of my being seems to be deeply connected to videogames.
That is frightening.
but now I'm here and all is good. thank you very much
I will always love you, Kickle Cubicle...
And you will alway haunt my dreams, Giant Pirate Chicken.
Floating dead in icy waters. Face down.
Next to the Happy Tree
Kickle Cubicle for the Nintendo Entertainment System (1990) was one of the first games I rented from a video rental store. I did not finish it but it gave me a great deal of satisfaction. The game's mechanics were easy enough for me to handle and it provided me with small doses of success.Not like the ghastly Faxanadu where I failed at beating the first monster hopping around in front of the town's gate.
Somehow I never forgot about Kickle Cubicle. It is stored deep inside my head, like that moment when I first saw Mortal Kombat for the Super NES being played by some older kids in the mall.
There has to be a connection of some sort.
I was one these kids who tend to imitate shooting sounds and the piercing shrieks of the fallen while playing videogames and I always liked a hint of violence in my popular culture.
With Kickle Cubicle I could act out these urges:
Kickle Cubicle takes place in a hibernal realm of snowmen and pirate-chicken trying to mangle you. As a player you have the ability to freeze enemies with your breath, take the icy cubicle to kill other targets or kick them into water to form walkways.
You kick animals into the water to run across their frozen carcasses. How much fun I had.
It was a mortal combat.
Strangely enough I have decided what I wanted to draw long before I even thought about all of this.
While doing some research I found this (right picture):
The American add for Kickle Cubicle not only shows traits of the time-honored MegaMan-tradition of pictoral fraud but also emphasizes the essentially gory nature of Kickle Cubicle.
I salute you, unkown advertising graphic designer!