–Stephanie Malik

The other day my friend Ellen, who is an amazing video games reviewer (no, I’m not biased), showed me what has to be the most bizarre video game I have ever played. It is a free online flash game called I Made This. You Play This. We are Enemies and it is certainly the closest thing I’ve seen to something that blurs the line between video games and art. (A line that, in my opinion, is not that often particularly blurry…)

At first sight the aim of the game is simple enough… it seems the point is to move a ball through an incredibly basic maze to an end point using the arrow keys and the space bar. However, only a few minutes into playing one sees things get complicated/strange very quickly.

Even before the game is played, what is immediately striking is the sort of deliberately overwhelming, yet under-designed, low bit, user-unfriendly aesthetic (an aesthetic that is in general really trendy right now: the first thing I thought of when i saw the game’s layout was the website of the Golden Gate club in Berlin). The game’s layout is composed of a number of what look to be terribly collaged homepage screenshots from some of the largest websites in the world (Youtube, Google, Disney etc.) covered in a bunch of random MS-paint style scribbles. As the game is played, more and more moving parts come into the picture and how to proceed through the levels becomes increasingly obscure.

Each level also includes a few seemingly unrelated videos that pop up if you click the appropriate boxes (this was one of Ellen’s favorite parts of the game). Also, if you make it through the game’s 10 or so levels, there is a special set of videos at the end, one of which is about the death of the internet (??). From what I can glean, the videos explore similar themes to Ryan Trecartin’s films, e.g. hypermedia saturation, internet identity, post-consumerism (btw Trecartin’s films were recently exhibited at PS1 in New York City at one of the best exhibitions I have ever seen).

What I can’t figure out is if this is a completely brilliant piece of work by some video game art vanguard or a complete piece of pretentious garbage by some insane/creepy weirdo that probably still lives in his parents’ basement. Either way, it’s a game worth playing.

***UPDATE! This article managed to generate enough internet traffic that the artist behind the game, Jason Nelson, got in touch with me and has agreed to do a brief interview. Nelson also pointed me to a recent article in the Guardian where he is interviewed about art games. You can read it here: “Basquiat meets Mario Brothers? Digital poet Jason Nelson on the meaning of art games“. Stay tuned!

More stills from the game and short film by Ryan Trecartin below.


From Ryan Trecartin’s I-BE AREA Series:

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