grand theft auto

Crime Is Sexy Review — Punching Up, Down, or Across

by Jed Pressgrove

There’s not a more vicious mockery of computer game politics than Crime Is Sexy. The sarcastic title has a double meaning, with the more obvious one being the jab at glorified crime series like Grand Theft Auto and Hotline Miami. Developer Jallooligans puts force into this punch by making the 1980s-inspired David Hasselhoff song “True Survivor” the score to its satire. In this context, Hasselhoff’s trivial 2015 Internet hit evokes the same type of retro sentimentality that game development churns out to make its celebrations of illegal activity seem like a part of every happy childhood. The self-aware yet unthinking heroism in “True Survivor” has a parallel in today’s smart-assed consumers who get hoodwinked by industry.

The second meaning of Crime Is Sexy plays off the contracts between players and “Overlords” like Steam, Electronic Arts (Jallooligans steals EA’s logo for an opening credit), and Ubisoft. Jallooligans depicts digital rights management as inherently absurd and, thus, criminal. Crime Is Sexy begins with you filling out credit/debit card information, reading a user agreement that outlines how the “Overlords” own everything related to the game (including you by extension of playing it), and giving away personal details. Hasselhoff’s line “Fighting for life, for good, for all that we believe in!” provides a biting contrast to the lack of action taken against what Jallooligans portrays as make-believe authority.

Crime Is Sexy then opens up as a collection of (supposedly) 1,000 unique games. As you scroll through and try titles such as Middle-Class Conflict Trainer, Bureaucratic Inferiority Non-Game, and Ethnic Downfall Statement (and numerous variations on these and other themes), you find every game is about failure as represented by a block that can’t quite jump to a higher platform. This repetitive send-up, along with an accompanying Kickstarter video pitch suggesting that popular social technology transforms game developers into beggars and swindlers, is mean-spirited but also true to Jallooligans’ class-driven implication that there should be more of a conscious fight from audiences and artists.

Advertisements

What Is a Video Game Marketer?

by Jed Pressgrove

Discussions on “what is and isn’t a video game” and “formalism” continue their savage run. Some say we shouldn’t limit the definition of a video game. Others say we should focus on what makes video games different. But these statements miss the overwhelming influence of marketing on how we perceive reality.

No one woke up one morning and knew what a “video game” was. My first video game was Super Mario Bros. Why? Because my parents believed Nintendo was selling a video game, then they told me Super Mario Bros. was a video game, just like people tell kids today that Minecraft is a video game. Marketing tells us we should try things as different as Pong, Grand Theft Auto III, and Gone Home, and all of these things are placed, by marketers, under the umbrella of video games.

I might argue Gone Home is not as much of a game as Grand Theft Auto III. I might argue Grand Theft Auto III is not as much of a game as Pong. I might argue Gone Home fulfills the potential of video games. I will likely convince no one that I’m right because these arguments are pointless. The more likely result of these “arguments” is that I might inspire people to try Pong, Grand Theft Auto III, or Gone Home to see what the fuss is about. Instead of trumping marketing, these arguments help marketing and constrain critical thought.

We are all marketers to an extent. Twitter, which is a nonstop series of advertisements and billboards, confirms our interests as marketers, though our marketing is not limited to and does not require Twitter. As marketers, we confirm the suggestions of super marketers (the owners and distributors of products and platforms). We confirm Gone Home is about “narrative,” “story,” and “environmental design” (maybe even “social justice”). We confirm Grand Theft Auto III is about a “world,” “deep mechanics,” and “choice” (maybe even “freedom of speech”). We confirm Pong is an old piece of junk that no one plays anymore because it’s not hip.

This marketing also comes with dubious political suggestions that keep people fighting rather than thinking. You are “liberal” if you value Gone Home more than Grand Theft Auto III. You are “conservative” if you value Grand Theft Auto III more than Gone Home. In online video game discussions, party politics is more important than individual experience and perspective.

Only one phrase can accurately sum up these discussions and suggestions: distracting bullshit. We are always going to hear about the Grand Theft Autos and the Gone Homes because the big and little video game marketers tell us we should try them. In response, I think we should do one of three things: (1) critique the games for what they are, (2) ignore the games, or (3) shut up.