While the pseudo-highbrow titles of the Independent Games Festival are announced with aplomb, each year feeling less and less indie (which is wholly different than being independent), the raw creative reactionism just isn’t there. I don’t think I’m jaded, it’s just not exciting when indie game means a game made with less than a half million dollars employing one of the following play mechanics: Flash physics, time/perspective manipulation, or audio visualization. Or worse.
It’s as if each time the Incredible Machine is developed cheaper, somehow the gaming frontier has been challenged. Seriously now, can we get over it? Remember when garage bands did their thing in isolation, before they saturated punk, ska, grunge, and many so-called underground movements with so many novelty acts that the genre was drowned by its own crowd? Instead, the only game from the festival I wanted to run out and make everyone play was You Have To Burn The Rope, which is an interactive fuck-you as brilliant as Malevich’s White on White, and will no doubt be replicated to death as if the art was in the game, not the moment.
Yet that game tells the very opposite message as Malevich’s piece, as did Rod Humble’s The Marriage, which showed how subjective we really are, and how that can be turned into gameplay. There is no supremacy of form in today’s rabidly media-hungry culture… all elemental form, all sensations, all primitives are transformed instantly into subjects of intricate, post-modernized stories. There is no isolation. I fear the internet has made this change in human cognition permanent.
So why not embrace it? That’s why You Have To Burn The Rope is fantastic… for games to become art there must be an awareness and a conversation with its own history. Film, music, and literary critic call this allusion, but for the creators, this isn’t just a word, it’s a dialogue. Which means it should invite participants. For me, I’m far more intrigued by stop-motion artist Patrick Boivin’s attempt at turning a linked sequence of videos into Youtube Street Fighter.
And don’t even get me started on Flower.