- March 25th, 2009
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PART TWO: LITTLE RAPE RIDING HOOD
Allow me to preface my preface by submitting for your approval that the term “art fag” is only denigrating towards people who are twats.
Now then: allow me to preface using an example for why I, William Heironymous Rumplesthwaite Dungsroman III, despise art fags. They ruin everything. Why, they are even trying to ruin gaming, the un-artiest pursuit ever! But I won’t let them! HERE! HERE AND NO FURTHER! NO! NOT TONIGHT! That was Gandalf and Scarface with the guest voice drops, respectively, incidentally, circumstantially, genitourinarily.
Here’s why. Suppose I bust out a jim-jam of a statement like, say:
THE PATH is nothing more than a rape simulation game!
And all the art fags who heap boundless praise on THE PATH are going to take issue with the word game. Because THE PATH is NOT a game! You can’t play a rapist in game that’s not a game where you don’t technically play it, ergo moreover henceforth schlemiel, schlemazel, Hasenfeffer Incorporated! So now you know why God took all the kittens from us and replaced them with android simulacrums. Art fags.
Also this screenie right here is supposed to be Exhibit A for the rape:
I should point out that in context, that screenshot is entirely unrapey, unless your concept of rape involves falling on pointy things as chamber music plays. Me, I call that a decent Friday night.
I got news and here’s the headline, Chumley: That Which Makes an Art Game an Art Game Gets Lost Along The Path. Wuxtry, wuxtry, read all about it, motherfuckers. Y’see, it breaks down something like this:
AS A GAME: Trick question! It’s not a game! Double trick question! The Hell it isn’t! There’s pretty much a long-standing, entire genre for the type of game it is, and if I asked you what genre that was and you answered “Queefwad Flouncing As Only Obtuse Eurotrash Can Manage,” banana splits are on me.
Now that we’ve laid that to rest, let me further the point by stating that, gamewise gamgee, THE PATH is ploddingly repetitive after the first 30-60 minutes, unless you’re a rock-licking microcephalic and it takes you longer than normal to figure fairly easy things out. Put a pencil in your mouth, let the seizures pass, and pay attention. I will state for the record that those halycon early minutes are fairly well spent and if the developers had thunk up a way to carry that feeling through the remaining five-odd hours, this game could rival PORTAL as one of the best short games ever made.
Too bad it’s mired in bizarro design decisions like reloading and replaying the title sequence every motherfisting time you move onto a new “level” or even “reload” an old “save.” “Fuck” this is getting “ridiculous,” someone pass me the “meth,” it’s hidden in that “dead” “hooker.” Oh, about the save games. Without going into detail: yeah, fuckin’ sorta.
You see my lovelies, there’s this big, overarching quest if you will, and your progress towards that “quest” is tracked and recorded permanently – even if you reload to an earlier point and so forth. Why? Additionally – rather, subtractionally as the case may be – you have to start a new game to truly start over. It’s funnier still because the objects d’quête appear at random for each “level,” and no care was taken to ensure the correct items would load for the correct “level.” Why not? WHO EFFING KNOWS. LET’S ASK AURIEA AND MIKEY, NO THEY DON’T REALLY KNOW EITHER AND THEY MADE THE THING. Oh, you should read what they have said about The Path! Let’s just say that if they were trying for a Margeurite Duras homage, they didn’t quite succeed. Also, Mademoiselle “I Hope Nobody Understands My Next Film” (actual quote) Duras made good art films, especially if one uses fucking as a metric of quality (as I do).
Oh, and then there’s the whole “wandering around a randomly generated forest with recursive edges that turn your travel map into a incomprehensible jumblefuck” angle that constitutes a mere FIVE FUCKING HOURS OF THE SIX TOTAL (conservative estimate). The music helps. Once you figure out what to do helps. And once you figure out that what you do has almost nothing to do with what you do anyway, you want to staple small farm animals to your genitals and run naked in a blizzard. AND THAT, MY FRIENDS, IS WHERE THE ART IS.
AS ART: THE PATH falls by turns into three loose categories of art proficiency: “Striking” (the music and actual artwork of the game), “Co-opted” (the protagonists/antagonists), and by majority, alas, “I’ll Take Will Smith-isms for $100, Alex.”
THE PATH has an intriguing mini-climax, but a wholly unsatisfying ending – such as it is, since it isn’t an ending, really.
The end of each “level” involves you moving your character at an excruciatingly slow, shambling pace towards a resolution that is best described as a confusing transition through a nearly pointless whateverscape, culminating in a completely pointless fruity collage of quasi-disturbing imagery that borders on repetitious by the game’s end.
OK, it’s time to throw down the real spill. Let’s take the actual words of co-creator Michael Samyan on THE PATH:
We do think it is important that there is something to do in a game (even if I would like to experiment with virtual worlds where there is nothing to do at all, where it is only about being).
He wants to make a game about doing absolutely nothing. That is like wanting to cook a dinner that contains no food, a novel that contains no words. It’s mental fappery and nothing more. It also tells you how low the bar is for putting things to do in his games. Oh, you should play The Graveyard, another of their offerings. The game lasts approximately 5 minutes and consists of an old lady hobbling towards a bench in a cemetery, sitting down, being sung to by a floating disembodied head in what may or may not be Italian, then hobbling back out of the cemetery. There’s one other part to the game, but it’s not in the demo, I doubt it last longer than 10 seconds and it doesn’t sound to me like it redeems the experience.
We just don’t think that the things that you do should be structured in a game-like way. Instead of problem-solution-reward structures, we like to skip to the reward part immediately, perhaps. Or create problems without solutions?…
It’s not skipping to the reward part when you’re wandering aimlessly in a stupid forest, and a problem with no solution is THE WORST THING YOU CAN PUT IN A GAME. Incidentally, one of their other games is called The Endless Forest. Hahahah, that’s all it is, the forest part of The Path! And that’s not even the weirdest game they’ve made!
The thing is that we don’t start from the idea that we’re making a game per se. We start with an idea of an atmosphere, a kind of story (though not linear) that we’re trying to tell, how we want people to feel. And the interaction design needs to express this. If this narrative is best expressed through game-like activity, then we design that. If not, then we design some other type of (inter)activity.
The second sentence in the quote above I totally dig, because that is indeed what Michael and Auriea did with THE PATH. The first sentence, however, is what damns them – because it is also true.
The two glaring points through all of this are the fact that no matter how hard you work yourself up to believing that THE PATH is an amazing work of art in and of itself, independent of it being a game, it’s barely passable as that AND if you choose to consider it as a game too, the gaming aspect EATS HOT BEAVER BISCUITS.
In conclusion, I am sad to admit to even myself that THE PATH is in no way an “art game” such that both qualifying words in the term are given a fair shake. It is merely an admirable attempt and has managed to provoke a number of people to wave their hands and hope you don’t notice its glaring faults, instead concentrating on the alleged depth of the game, much of which is impressed upon the game by the players and not even the developers themselves.