Look at that. Egg all over my face.
To recap: this past Sunday’s This Week in Videogame Blogging contained a link to Eric Lockaby’s review of Deliverance for 3DS, a parodic article for a game that does not, in fact, exist. My synapses were not firing too accurately that day (in further testament to this, I then went out on USC game day wearing a UCLA shirt) and either I did not pick up on Ben’s hint as to the true nature or the article or I did not look too closely at Lockaby’s article itself. Either way, it ended up being framed as a legitimate review instead of a hoax.
If I could go back and adjust the post (futile now that it’s been syndicated all over the web) I would. The frustration of not being able to correct the record seems much greater than the embarrassment of realizing I’d been fooled. It’s not as though I’m a stranger to hoax articles. I once trolled the crap out of my Gamervision readers based on the journalistic equivalent of two twigs, some gum and spit so I really should have had a keener eye for this sort of thing. But even in the shame I gotta applaud Lockaby for the flawless presentation. Well played, clerk.
Ben’s and my fellow editor at Critical Distance, David Carlton, suggested the whole thing is an amusing commentary on the state of game journalism. Mm… maybe. Game journalism can’t seem to go a week without being rocked by scandal. If it’s not rampant misogyny, subconscious racism, horrifying mass layoffs, IP theft, human rights violations, Foxconn suicides, Brian Ashcraft’s continued employment, or Kotaku reposting the wrong article, we invent something else to get up in arms about. The fact that this did by and large sail beneath radars is perhaps the funniest bit about this all, particularly considering this review shared TWIVGB space with commentary on the Slavery: The Game hoax. Someone needs their bullshit sensors recalibrated and I’m not the only one. (though clearly I need mine fixed first if I’m going to continue writing roundups for Ben.)
There’s another reason the hoax sailed right over my head, and that was that I’ve never seen Deliverance. I know, I know. Stripped of film student cred forever. Had Lockaby written a review of a 3DS adaptation of Lolita or Twin Peaks, I’d have gotten the joke straight off. That’s the balance to be struck with writing any sort of humor piece–what the hell is too high- or low-profile to be funny anymore? In a TWIVGB full of articles on post-9/11 war games and fetishization, the tone of the game Lockaby was writing about didn’t even seem out of place. Maybe that’s the full scope of the joke David’s getting at: are we so jaded to turning anything–high art, low art, macabre, political, social, psychosexual–into a videogame that parodic descriptions of using a game stylus as a phallus to symbolically molest women seem a bit disgusting but at the end of the day, par for the course?
I feel, suddenly, like one of those unselfconscious teenagers who can’t believe someone made a book based on Dante’s Inferno. If my game criticism professor heard about this, he might fail me on principle, and also flunk me retroactively for the class I took with him last semester. It’s the sort of thing that makes a person want to put down the comic books and sci-fi TV shows immediately and start catching up on Plato as a sort of self-flagellation. Death of history indeed.
There’s also the more obvious message, which is that nothing is apparently too sacred, too taboo, or too medium-specific to be digitized for use on a little electronic toy these days. I’m split on this interpretation. I fully believe games can and should explore the full range of human expression. But I do think that if this is the future of transmedia–and it’s really not too far off the mark, I mean, they’ll make a licensed game out of anything these days–then perhaps it’s none too inappropriate to be a little appalled in advance. (But even then in the back of my head I hear: “How did they ever make a movie of Lolita?”)
What I can’t entirely figure out is whether Lockaby is condemning his hypothetical game or in some weird way advocating for it. Not a real Deliverance 3DS specifically, but the sort of provocative, experimental, taboo-breaking thing he conceptualizes it as being, the sort of game we don’t get on consoles and especially don’t get on Nintendo. But if it materializes the way he describes–trace the stylus around the woman’s body! press L1 and R1 to unhook Madison Paige’s bra!–then maybe we’re better off if it doesn’t.
…God. I even thought at the time it didn’t look like a real cover. Carl Sagan in cosmos, Ligman, just google it from now on.