High On Dead End Thrills

Video Games are not about realistic, high fidelity graphics or frozen ‘epic moments’ – but about living people; their dynamic relationships and their strange ideas. Anything else is a dead end

[..] the fundamental qualities that make a good game have remained unchanged and elusive. Consumers still flock to buy original, addictive, and fun games, leaving many flashy products with million-dollar budgets languishing in the $9.99 bin. These costly failures demonstrate that the consumer does not desire a cinematic experience, but rather a quality gaming experience.” -Sid Meier, game designer

Consider Dead End Thrills a mere, slick propaganda website for Cinematic Realism – encouraging the default hollow ‘passion’ and continued lack of imaginative talent behind the world’s most generic video games

Drinking Game: throw back another shot every time another unctuous games industry figurine talks jive about “Passion”

Its ideological mission is to consider the essential elements of Play and Players a mere ‘distraction’ and instead provide ‘lovingly captured’ snapshots of often startlingly empty virtual worlds and their blandly beautiful inhabitants – where even the designer dirt is clean

All of its screen shots seem to come from the same (ideological) engine – an engine that can only render clones and cookie-cutter landscapes

It might accurately compared  the work of a lost “unit stills photographer” on a dull movie set: its job is to falsely flatter and mis-translate “video games” yet (allegedly) without any presence of ownership

To somehow provide a visual document that isn’t diminished by technology – yet which is in fact nearly entirely defined by i.t

Consider Dead End Thrills another overt attempt to further confuse vitally important ‘games as strictly big business’ debates. That is, its only true interest is in the heavily sanitized (corporate) ‘art’™ that exists within what it regards as An Dumb (Entertainment) Medium Only

In a paradoxically sly bid to validate games or win approval from an otherwise intelligent jury of game critics, Dead End Thrills is falsely inspired – primarily by ‘the journal of cinematic illusions

Its choice of games is decidedly discriminatory; even worse, it patronizingly states ‘even the most rushed or underfunded games can dazzle and inspire’ – as though “Hotline: Miami” wants or needs anyone to give it a makeover

The site has gone through few changes over the years, and has settled on what it regards as its ‘purest’ format to date. Images are downloadedable at high rez and are available upon request at ‘extreme rez!’ suitable for print by the hip

Yet while it maintains it’s not a simple wallpaper resource, all of its disturbingly samely snap shots have been taken with that precise use in mind

Dead End Thrills as expensively cheap Videogame Tourism: unconsciously, it loves ogling video game landmarks with a virtual Instamatic – and even ridiculously states this is actually ‘the job of the game itself’ (indeed Rock$tar Games would agree)

Its central underlying ethic is that of Work: to confine and isolate video games from wider cultural questions. Indeed, its contributors discard hundreds more shots than they post in an all out effort of deliberate selection, design and cultural decontextualization. That is their challenge, their hobby and their only source of fun

It’s also why games only tend to feature there if they allow an inherently limited pseudo ‘freedom’ of control over camera and game events. While there’s little ‘photoshopping’ beyond subtle tweaks to gamma common to online publishing, a self-perceived ‘straight white male (gamer) gaze‘ is full effect

Games are heavily modded and made exactly similar because it’s The Serious Business Of Gaming, and not games that Dead End Thrills enjoys. It’s all about ‘Downsampling’ – rendering at hi-rez and then shrinking to ‘improve the quality’ (of the modern image of what it thinks games should be)

In many cases, capturing what makes these games live and holding them inside dead images is only possible thanks to the per-arranged generosity and understanding of developers who provide unlocked or early builds of their games

Failing that, if the retail version doesn’t allow shots that are ‘worthwhile’ – according to its narrow definitions – the game doesn’t feature. ‘Credit’ should go to the hackers and modders who enjoy truly opening retail games up so that anyone can explore them – but it doesn’t; Dead End Thrills only seems dedicated to them

Indeed, it gives clear and outright thanks to the giant hardware corporations whose sole job it is to promote and further the environment destroying technology of games

For seekers of dead end graphical thrills, this is merely a capitalist ‘win-win’ scenario, as one is provided with equipment ‘to crash and burn on a regular basis’

The entire site is proudly powered and indelicately perfumed with the alarming corporate cloud of Intel, Corsair and Nvidia. Images are hosted by the MaxCDN ‘content delivery network’

Note: interesting how the games industry often talks about the millions of hours, the tears and sweat poured into video game art in terms of mere “content” – like styrofoam packing peanuts

How does the site Work

If not for the living players which inhabit them, video game worlds are soulless and dead. The empty spaces visited by Dead End Thrills are explored repeatedly to find what it safely regards as ‘the best possible quality’, the most ‘appropriate’ formats, and the most generically ‘exciting and evocative’ moments

Each game has its own gallery which can be found via the Index; the front page of the site displays a fixed number of the most recent snaps, the number depending upon platform. Image count, thumbnail quality and loading chunks o’ content vary

Passing viewers hover or tap on an image to display information about game and shot, together with icons for sharing on social schmuck networks like Twitts, Disinterest and FakeLook

There’s also a handy cornflower blue icon for downloading the full rez version of an image – though ideological resolutions are somewhat lower than the “original 4K” – apparently the new benchmark for ‘standard, sub-standard’ gaming blandness

Video Game Culture For Hire

Dead End Thrills has produced marketing and production assets for companies such as Bethesda Game Studios, Arkane Studios and Crytek under strict contract – and that doesn’t seem to bother anyone

It’s worked in an entirely voluntary capacity under NDA with companies such as Epic Games, Remedy Entertainment, Avalanche Studios, Crystal Dynamics, Rocksteady Studios and Funcom. Professional work is tailored to their unique requirements of branding and PR teams, and uses years of useless experience in wrangling game engines, shamelessly liaising with developers – and (shock horror) even playing games themselves

If one wishes to enquire about ‘rates and availability’ then they may use the site’s handy contact form

Consider the mighty Jim Sterling on the delightful ugliness and the thoughtful lo-fi aesthetics of Horror Games

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