Flash Game Sommelier, Part. 2

More resonances of an underappreciated art form.

By: Drew Paryzer

Filed Under: Art Indie Movies

The more I play flash games, the more I appreciate the unique elements they offer their players. Because of their length, they allow one to be very aware of every choice they make, every button they push; the process of understanding the meanings they are trying to convey are heightened, as compared to a standard gaming experience. I’ve found that this is very similar to how one experiences most traditional forms of art, in which the act of deducing meaning is part and parcel of the experience itself. In this spirit, here are another three pairings of flash games and creative works in other mediums, with an eye towards finding combinations that bring out intriguing elements in both. If you missed the first edition, please read it here.

Time Fcuk
A version of yourself twenty minutes from now emerges from a seemingly innocuous box, telling you it’s imperative to go in it after him before he physically forces you in. You find yourself in a space where reality is fragmented in all senses: toggling between alternate ‘layers’ of reality, while versions of yourself instruct and encourage and taunt you. This is the world of ‘Time Fcuk’, a game that manages to provide an experience that is simultaneously disorienting and engaging, tried-and-true and novel.

-Being John Malkovich
The box in Time Fcuk traps you within the haunting ambiguities of yourself and your futures; the portal on the 13 1/2 floor in Charlie Kaufmann’s first feature-length is the anathema to this nightmare, letting you escape entirely the constraints of your own skin. The ability to ‘toggle reality’ is present in both pieces; indeed, the mechanic is one of the most novel and pleasurable elements of the flash game, and proves to be an irresistible draw for the characters in the movie as well.

A picturesque, poetic tragedy in flash-game form. You play an alien freshly alighted onto Planet Earth, where you quickly make friends before making acquaintance with the darker sides of humanity. The mechanisms of pain (both of your character and its newly adopted family) that the game employs are so simple, so heartbreaking; the way in which the game constantly places you on the razor’s edge between selfishness and selflessness is masterful. By placing the gamer in the body of a supernatural being, an outsider, it gives him/her fresh access for explore motivations of protection, survival, loss.

-District 9
A movie that — despite its Academy Award nomination for Best Picture in 2010 — seems like it never got its due. Like ImmorTall, this film sheds new light on certain elements of human experience by looking at them through a supernatural lens: in this case, notions of xenophobia and apartheid are picked apart and hammered home, though the plight of the impoverished extraterrestrial group known as the “prawns”. Wilkus van de Merwe, the Afrikaner bureaucrat whose progression through the movie is from being a callous subjugator of the prawns to one who intrinsically understands their plight, is a good analogue for the player’s identity in ImmorTal. Caught between the love of those who care and the hatred of those who are frightened, the player is called upon to form an identity according to their immediate plight, combined with their impulses. It is sad, and telling, that both the movie and the game withhold redemption from their alien protagonists.

Take A Walk
This is a brief little aesthetic delight that takes about ten minutes to play, going down nice and smooth. You take the eponymous walk through three different stages, listening to music of varying types and tempos, and the basic platforming you’re called upon to do syncs up in various ways with the music; if you stop (or are stopped), you have the option of ‘rewinding’ yourself and the music to before the roadblock occurs. Combined with its meticulously ambient, hand-drawn art, the result is something of a Guitar Hero for the daydreamy and contemplative: a way of taking music and interacting with it so that it’s brought to life in a different way.

The Very First Looney Toon
The very first black-and-white cartoons take a similar approach to music: constructing a reality around songs that melds image and sound into a new harmony. Indeed, most of them were unafraid to create their own physics to serve this purpose — this classic, for example, is eager to make a xylophone out of any row of similar objects imaginable. Neither of these pieces aims to tap into a groundswell of great emotion; they simply explore how we can get a trifle of enjoyment out of combining music with other media.

Filed Under: Art Indie Movies

About the Author:
Drew is the guy who comes over and demands you play Mario Tennis with him. He is also a playwright, couch-surfing traveler, and sometime Internet-writer for such conglomerates as MTV Networks and Village Voice Media.

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