Virtual Tourism in Condemned: Criminal Origins (PC)

[..] this is a game designed to increase the overall amount of sadness in the world
~ Daniel Weissenberger, Gamecritics review

A little Virtual Tourism in Condemned: Criminal Origins by Monolith Productions (2005, PC version)

An fittingly, unremittingly bleak (/looking) game with tacked-on supernatural mumbo jumbo (apart from those mannequins, natch) to add the thin greasy patina of cheap scares to an otherwise standard Police Procedural experience, Condemned seems both an interestingly visceral first person brawler and a linear chore – a violent Walking Simulator where walk and sprint speeds have been deliberately set low to cynically pad out perceived game length and value

Throughout all this dreary, poorly lit hallway adventure is FBI agent Ethan Thomas, a total mystery of a man, who seems largely unconcerned that his world is increasingly comprised of creepy visions and hallucinations. It would be difficult to imagine a more flat and unimpressive character arc – Ethan is merely *in* his environment but never truly part of it. Weird things happen, he / you, Player One respond with fists and bits of nearby plumbing, but that’s it

An interesting graphical glitch in the version played here results in being able to see right through the tools and weapons in one’s meaty hands. What this might suggest is however, probably only a minor mystery

Perhaps it is this unique environmental and narrative alienation that makes Condemned more truly disconcerting than anything remotely supernatural; a sad story of a man in a city – any city – who feels very little about anything in his nowhere half-life and can only exist and interact with that life through violence – and the occasional boring phone call to the world’s most dull partner in crime (/detection)

Professional Open Source character concept Fast Eddy Freeburn from Bullitt (1968)

Introducing professional Open Source character concept “Fast” Eddy Freeburn:

Many players / Researchers who’ve watched the classic movie “Bullitt” (1968 starring Steve Mcqueen) will no doubt have been expectedly struck by the sudden appearance and exceedingly dapper cut of Eddy’s jib

Other than his very in-era muttonchops moustache, Eddy looks like a man out of his time, who regularly experiences slight temporal displacement but bears it without complaint – and always a lot of style

Character Background

Non-ironically, little is known about ‘Fast’ Eddie Freeburn. Allegedly born Edward Toms Wienawski and winner of a Colorado hairstylist award, this native of the San Francisco megatropolis has a ferocious reputation for being able to deliver the dirt on nearly anyone in the criminal underground in under an hour – and for a high price

In another age, Eddy would be known as A Real Gent, who’s cool and understated style seems increasingly out of fashion. While more an obscure book lover than a fighter, professional enemies and untrained adversaries find Eddy’s elite sense of male formal (street) business attire and expert grooming extremely imposing, and as a result often feel unwilling to challenge him. He simply look too damn fresh, sharp, clean and “really nice smelling” to mess with

Nevertheless, while an undoubted authority on etiquette and taste in the context of the modern postmodern criminal arts, Eddy’s also a white sash certified master of the internal martial arts, and not adverse to pre-emptively striking, if he feels a lack of professional criminal manners, formal street decorum, formality or common courtesy are not being reciprocated

He’s also more slippery than an electric eel, and always has a cast iron alibi

How to conduct Biz with Fast Eddy

Step One: call up Eddy on teh networks – anyone who’s anyone will know how to get in touch with him – with a polite request for blisteringly up-to-date insider information. Give him an hour, and then meet up somewhere informal, in public

Upon meeting Eddy, by all means be struck by how uncommonly sharp this guy looks. No need to tell him he’s a snapper dresser, however – he already knows far better then you

fast-eddy-01As an initial test before business, he will ask you the following questions: “Remember Zash-Zhoe?” You will reply “They gave him three to five.” Eddy will then ask “For what?” You will reply “For handling stolen data.” Pass these tests and business can commence

Step Two: clearly and concisely inform Eddy about the specific context of your request, and exactly what’s in it for him. Do not leave out any pertinent details or lie – he will know. (Seriously, Eddy’s B.S particular brand of B.S Detector retails for thousands of eDollars.) Eddy will then pause for a brief moment to contemplate the various ‘involved’ ins and outs of The Deal:

fast-eddy-02Step Three: Eddy will then tell you if the deal your making about the info he has sounds “Legit.” If it does not, he will clearly tell you why so you can make the necessary adjustments to the deal, before it is formalized. Go back to step two. If he does tell you it’s legit, pay good attention, as he will then proceed to tell you his information. He will not repeat the information. Feel free to ask him any relevant questions, however. (If these answers impact the initial deal andor require more time to find out, Eddy will inform you)

fast-eddy-03Step Four: do not try go get smart with, talk back at or attempt to contradict Eddy. He knows exactly what and who he’s talking about. This is a ‘go-to man’ of the highest calibre with access to virtually anything in the realtime hypermodern (/cyber-)criminal underworld

Eddy does not enjoy or appreciate the company of time wasters, flakes or idiots, and to say he does not respond well to ‘accusations or suggestions’ is an understatement. You will clearly know when your otherwise friendly and easy-going conversation has taken a turn for the worse, when Eddy immediately stops talking, makes the following stern face and just starts to stare at / through your stupid pointy head:

fast-eddy-04Step Five: if Eddy makes this face, immediately apologize and wait for him to continue talking. If he trusts you’re sincere, he will then make this far more happy face to let you know any immediate treat and danger to this current deal / your life is now over, and that business will conclude as normal and expected – that is, with speed, courtesy and consummate professionalism:

fast-eddy-05Eddy will then genuinely wish you a “Good day”, and then disappear into the crowds without a trace. Do not follow him, but simply stand for a brief while in quiet admiration

Virginia Pete – The Shadow Cast By Light

“Virginia Pete – The Shadow Cast By Light”: an ongoing collaboration with a fellow Researcher into what we term ‘New Media Prophecy’

Virginia Pete - The Shadow Cast By Light
Virginia Pete – The Shadow Cast By Light

Recommend price for this concept as a Virtual Art Experience: £4.2M – to be split 50/50 with The Mathematician

Example Artist Statement

Robert What: “Pete stares, video out, not into the void but as its very expression. The shadow cast by light. Where muted emotional states contrast with cool savage neural intensity of highly angular, calculated symblic manifestation. Crystals hang  in the ancient chemical gallery like boneflakes; a silent prophecy. Life off the radar, under the wires, over the artificial barricades now separating mind death and meat love, animal volition and heavily cyborgized intent. A cry calls out in the mega-urban wilderness of old Virginia. Dirty blood and fire on the run in this disquietingly smart new media labyrinth”

Real / nice: a borderline evil blandness of Suenmue III

By the time you’re driving forklifts and participating in the game’s QTE-filled conclusion, hours upon hours of boredom will have taken their toll
~ Gamespot review of Shenmue

A real / nice scenario: in which by-now standard, internets controversy roleplay over Kickstarter private funding concerns, contrasts greatly with how Players / Researchers, upon experiencing a Shenmue III game poster, often seem struck by feelings of an intense, almost evil blandness – suddenly overcome by nostalgic digital waves of malicious milk-and-water; a radiant insipidity, abrasively welcoming in its all too respectfully flavourless, luminously tedious, disquietingly congenial, repulsively amiable, caustically good natured and terrifyingly sincere manner and tone – a violent unobjectionality, viciously average in its offensive-inoffensiveness

An Evil Blandness of Shenmue III
Having a real / nice time: an Evil Blandness of Shenmue III

Recommended price for this concept as a (no less unremarkable) Virtual Art Experience: £3M

Witness poor Ryo Hazuki with his PH-7 personality, staring out into the middle distance; looks like he’s never read a book (or would even recognize one if he saw it while busy grinding out a living riding forklifts); mind you, stunningly un-mysterious Shenhua Ling looks like her happy kingdom brainpan wouldn’t register an angry nishikigoi jumping out of a pond to tail-slap her back into plastic consciousness. In this regard, consider them and their too-small nasal cavities a perfect in-gaming couple, exceptionally meagre in their extreme conceptual adequacy

Moviebob’s classic Pixels movie review and the ironies of Nerd Culture

It’s like Adam Sandler broke into my house, took a giant, bloody, backed up, post Taco Bell MiraLAX shit in my living room and now wants me to pay him for the privilege”
~ Bob ‘Moviebob’ Chipman

Imagine that Moviebob’s (popular Culture) review rage about the / another stunningly awful Adam Sandler flick “Pixels” derives, not just from the plain fact the movie makes Duke Nukem Forever look classy, but also from the possibility that its unique portrayal of Nerd Culture might simply be a little too close to the truth for Bob

Here’s Mr. Chipman’s awesome, righteous, totally spot-on review

Is this what cavemen felt like the first time they saw what to them what must’ve looked like something literally eating the fucking Sun?

Perhaps this what the world feels like as it sees Capitalism: The Video Game eating it alive

Is this that existential horror thing lovecraft was talking about [..]?

Perhaps horror is what Bob feels unconsciously as he’s presented with the full mind-tearing existential truth about video games – that, just like the movie he’s reviewing, there’s very little meaning there

And the crime is cultural vandalism

Bob almost gets it right; perhaps there is no cultural vandalism, but rather Culture itself is the vandalism. Not that he would be complaining quite so loudly, had this movie given him more of precisely what he (/thinks he) wants in terms of ‘correct’ nerd culture

The vomit-encrusted nadir of the unholy assembly-line transmutation of Generation X nostalgia into the quote-unquote ‘geek’ corporate branded marketing identity – the burning up the library at Alexandria by way of the Hot Topic t-shirt printing press

Generation X nostalgia into corporate greek branded marketing identity is hardly any kind of transformation, Bob. Hyperbole aside, the burning of the library at Alexandria is hardly the same as stupid, trade=unfair cotton t-shirts worn (in ironically anti-ironic ‘fashion’) by blind consumers in standard ‘pop will eat itself’ mode. (Pixels seems simply that – another dumb Hot Topic t-shirt)

Pixels is bad enough to make you hate the things you love and watching it made me want to take a blowtorch every scrap of video game memorabilia in my home

Maybe that’s precisely why players should perhaps take notice of it – as an honest symbol of rejection of mindless play as Culture. Perhaps burning every scrap of expensive plastic memorabilia in your house might be an entirely healthy response to the overwhelming effects that Culture – popular or otherwise – has on people’s minds

I was bored within two minutes,  angry after five and by the time all one hundred had run out I was just sad and numb, which has now simmered into a fine, pure, white hot pants-shitting rage

Sounds uncannily like the common lament of virtually every single modern Player of games out here today, almost utterly bored and angry out of their wits by disposable (yet incredibly expensive and time consuming) Industry Product

A race of aliens have misinterpreted samples of Earth’s popular culture contained within a NASA probe for a declaration of war and have attacked the planet with an army of energy creatures mimicking the forms of circa-1982 arcade games included in said samples

Consider that no ‘misinterpretation’ has taken place – Bob’s just interpreted their interpretation as a misinterpretation. Besides, Popular Culture™ already and always seems a misinterpretation – about what humans really need (hint: perhaps neither lousy movies like Pixel, nor the ‘real, authentic™’ Games Culture to which it refers)

Pxiels wants to shoehorn in a metric ton of Kevin Smith-style pop reference pandering in the form of another tired as hell Man Child Hero’s Journey

The Man-Child Hero’s Journey describes at least 90% of modern culture

A team of former competitive arcade champs to lead the battle,  mostly by engaging in tacky dated stereotypes about these loser weirdo gaming nerds having to prove themselves against the scepticism of the army guys

Tacky dated stereotypes about these loser weirdo gaming nerds seems a little like the movie nerd pot calling the gaming kettle black, Bob

Scott Pilgrim but for assholes

But Bob, Scott Pilgrim’s also an asshole

But for how shamefully expensive it all looks

Hey, highly polished turds slide further along the public imagination trough before being instantly flushed from cinematic history to make way for the next pinched-off classic

Who knows – the movie sure as hell doesn’t care; at one point entering a cheat code works for some reason without explaining how it was entered or why it should matter – these aren’t tiny nit pics though, these are major plot developments getting ground up into some of the worst action story-telling since Transformers

Players take the turgid ‘cinematic storytelling’ of Assassin’s Creed remotely seriously, so why not that of Pixels?

What do the aliens even want? Nobody seems to care. Sometimes they’re evil, then in the next scene it’s all about them being confused. At one point we’re flat out told in a moment of important highlighted exposition that they were a peaceful world until they got a hold of our probe

No, they probably weren’t peaceful – just as players on Earth aren’t really any less violent before they enter an Xbone CODBLOPS lobby

There’s the germ of an interesting idea dying from lack of oxygen within this shit storm, ie. so much of our popular culture being grounded in the mythologising of warfare, competition and the arbitrary Winner / Looser binary – why wouldn’t someone mistake it for a declaration of war?

An excellent point

But what really turns the whole thing from just one more stupid waste-of-time summer comedy [..] is that it’s so oppressively, endlessly, bald-faced cynical about the disingenuous appropriation of its own supposed reason for existing

What ‘false appropriation’ of culture? Rather perhaps, it is Culture that appropriates, aggressively moves in, takes over, makes demands – reasonable and otherwise

There’s not a single interesting joke or visual gag, making use of the presence of all the classic gaming iconography Sandler and his good squad have been allowed to fuck around with. The supposed use of every single pixellated creature in the movie never once rises above the level of – [puts of voice of stupid person] “Hahaha I recognize that”, which for some reason qualifies as a joke now

So what, when single neuron in-game responses like “Lol” and “WTF” regularly qualify as everyday human communication?

This is the kind of bad, licensing driven movie that’s so fucking glib and self-satisfied with its sleazy cash-grab existence, that it takes time out to make sure it also shits on the sorts of more earnest, heartfelt version of the same idea somehow who gave two shits might of made – as you’ve already seen in the trailers

As though being self-satisfied with a sleazy, cash-grab existence would never apply to video games. Right

Dean "I'm Alright Jack" Hall
Dean “I’m Alright, Jack” Hall

Sandler: Pac Man’s a bad guy?
Toru Iwatani: Pac Man is not bad! I created him to bring joy to all the people of the world. They have brainwashed him! You’ll see. [Gets out of car and approaches giant (voxel!) Pac Man] “Hello my sweet little boy, look how big you’ve grown!”
[Pacman Bites his hand]
Toru Iwatani: ” Ahhhhhhh! Somebody annihilate this stupid thing!”

What’s disturbing in this exchange is the very idea of any developer ever actually thinking they create anything to ‘bring joy to all the people of the world’ – like that’s not remotely creepy, apocalyptic, cultish or hyper-hubristic or anything, right? But than also notice how in the same breath Professor Iwatani wants it immediately annihilated. Hey, perhaps this means he’s finally growing up

Toru Iwatani: I will talk to him. He’s my son!

All sons end up hating their fathers, Professor – particularly as they release they’re beginning to resemble them

This, above all else is what so irrationally infuriating about this maggot oozing head wound of a move – it plays at being a sentimental ode to the glory days of classic video games but clearly doesn’t have a fucking drop of sincere interest in what’s made these characters and imagery so enduring, or even what’s made the games of compelling for all these years

There’s a small sense in which “Pixels” might be all too rationally infuriating, Bob. As for sentimental odes, every single modern video game is hyped as a sincere ‘sentimental ode’ to every other damn game ever made; every new IP retread is a true ‘return to the roots of the franchise‘ – and nobody even blinks

No matter how many classic arcade cabinets and eighties MTV needle drops Pixels trots out, its always nakedly the work of a bunch of shit-gargling fuckwits with zero love or understanding of this stuff beyond the ability to sell tickets based on, “Hey, remember Pac Man? Remember Space Invaders?”

Hey you crazy kids, remember Elite? What about Space Station 13?

Sandler’s literal character arc in this movie is learning to let go of the pride he takes in having the skill to excel at classic games and embrace a more open ended, ‘whatever, just try not to die’ modern gaming approach, in order to ultimately succeed – but hey, don’t pay attention to all that, folks

It’s about time King Billy Mitchell learned to let go of his hot sauce and his ironed mullet and embrace a more open ‘just try not to die of embarrassment’ approach

And the only thing worse than all of that, is that it’s probably going to work – it’s going to be a huge fucking hit. One more movie interlude for the movie masses to break up the monotony of our ongoing waddle toward Idiocracy

The obvious anti-irony hard at work here: that Idocracy, despite being about stupidity, is itself no less brainless a product

Pixels is the worst thing to happen to video games since the CD-i, micro transactions, Youtube screamers and the death of the Dreamcast combined

There Bob goes again with that arbitrary High / Low Culture distinction again. Just as Slavoj Zizek has argued, we should view the so-called ‘failures’ and ‘crises’ of Capitalism, not as uncommon outlier phenomena, but the very essence of its inherent structural dynamics. “Pixels” is not merely ‘doing video games wrong'; it seems no more less a central element and authentic expression of mainstream video game culture / Culture as a video game than anything else in our troubled global network of interactive meaning

The story is lazy, the stakes make on sense, the staging is limp and lifeless

Hey Bob, welcome to the modern anti-life