Game Theory: Path to Pretention

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One thing I learned while attending art school was that anyone who thinks he or she is an Artist-with-a-capital-A, isn’t. Anyone who tries to produce Art—complete with layers of meaning and a message and prepackaged interpretations that they are just dying for some sensitive soul to uncover, is inevitably going to produce self-conscious garbage. It will probably be boring, almost certainly ugly, and without question, philosophically tendentious.

In any art, pure technique (honed by hard work and diligent practice) and pure instinct (some mystical combination of observation, perception, and interpretation, most of it subconscious) mingle to create something that speaks as “art.” You can’t fake it.

Thus, when I boot a pretentious art-house game like The Path , I know I’m in for instant seating at the crap buffet, complete with a tepid chaser of trite, high-school-level philosophy about MEANINGFUL THINGS. The Path is… words fail me.

It’s a Little Red Riding Hood game, where you play as six girls, who I guess represent Feminine Archetypes in Our Modern World. (Or something.) I stopped caring when I realized that the designers hate me, which they made clear by firmly instructing me to stay on the path and go to grandma’s house, which is how you lose the game.

You see, you’re not supposed to follow rules! Stupid rules! They’re all arbitrary! Make up your own rules! Grandma is a tool of the establishment! Let her save herself! You have a Voyage of Self-Discovery to embark upon! (Or something.) Wander in the dark and scary forest, complete with fuzzy visuals, sluggish controls, ghastly bits of free verse, and a creepy pedophilic vibe! Get eaten by wolves!

But maybe the wolves are a metaphor for….

And then I realized I don’t like games with metaphors. And I could use about 50 percent fewer similes while we’re at it.

But co-designer Michael Samyn doesn’t think much of your new-fangled games: “Videogames today are simplistic, deal with stale subjects, treat the players like morons, and offer no emotional or intellectual depth, in favor of attempting to please your ego on some caveman level.”

Or something.

Thomas L. McDonald has been covering games for 17 years. He is Editor-at-Large of Games Magazine .

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