Big Ass Battle. It isn’t a Muchachada Nuí sketch.
Analysing a videogame just by an image is like reading cinema from a still photo or talking about porno by its film titles: yes, we’re seeing part of the discourse, but we’ve vaulted over its foundations with a pole. Videogames, as discourse, are syntax: subject (you, the player) + verb + complements. You’re such and such; you do this to get that (complement). Pong, the first commercial game, already understood this as shown in its very brief instructions: “avoid missing ball for high score”.
It’s useful to see videogame design as a later conversation between creator and player: “look, you have these tools”, “Oh, well, and what happens if I use them here?”, “This”, “And this other thing, can I do that?”, “No”, “And what about this other way?”. The craziest designers (and videogames, as a media that for years lived far away from prestige, was fertile ground for madness) offer us a wild lexicon that pushes us to be creative. Anyone who’s ever played The Secret of Monkey Island will remember using the sentence “use the rubber chicken with a pulley in the middle” as if it was the most logical thing ever.
Sometimes, that dialogue opts for the easiest options (“shot” and “jump”); others, like in Monkey Island, it reaches masterpiece peaks; sometimes it fails hitting the target by being obvious and pretentious (“press F to pay your respects” in Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, “press X to pay respect to your parents” in Batman: Arkham Asylum); sometimes, we’re amazed by its worldly commands (“sweep the streets” in, well, Street Cleaning Simulator, or “walk the dog” in Inu no osanpo), and other times, my favourite, we’re allowed to break the toys with buttons to swear, dance like a bad-ass stripper, give our finger or flirt with a talking dove.
If you don’t play, you can’t begin to imagine the amount of atrocities, politically incorrect actions, and stupidities you can do with a single click. I think these little childish transgressions are a good imagination-enhancing drug and an antidote against pedantry. I don’t even know for sure whether I like them or not, but I’m grateful they exist. Their most obvious prop is eschatology: in Postal 3 I can piss on the streets, in Duke Nukem Forever I can pick faeces from the toilet and use them as projectiles, in South Park: The Stick of Truth I can attack people with farts, and in A Dog’s Life I have the most complete arsenal plus, to crown things off, a shitting button. I can’t believe no one has made a supercut with all this to the rhythm of Enrique y Ana’s song Caca, culo, pedo, pis (Poo, Bum, Fart, Pee).
The serious matter of alcohol drinking is another constant in this carnival design. If I drink all sorts of liqueurs in World of Warcraft, my vision becomes blurred, controls deteriorate and to any “s” I write down with my keyboard, an “h” is automatically attached, so I sound like thish, ash if I were Mariano Rajoy. In Dead Rising 2, cheap vodka retrieves a couple of lives but it also makes you virtually puke. Drugs haven’t appeared too much on videogames, apart from a granny’s Xanax to stabilise the pulse in Metal Gear Solid, maybe to avoid controversy, but there’s an LSD: Dream Simulator (Dream simulator?? Oh, yes, right…) I couldn’t make sense of even with the instructions in front of me.
Brute violence has its own video-game landmarks, like the popular fatalities in Mortal Kombat or the re-murders in MadWorld, a kind of Frank Miller comic mixed with anime in which you can skew your friends with a lamp post and blow them up into the air with fireworks. Setting as weapon, combo as a poetic gesture. All this excess becomes Tarantinian if we add, like in 50 Cent: Blood On The Sand, a swear button to swear like a sailor, something that makes your score higher if you press it right after shooting your enemies. This video club-style gore can be torn upside down when you start thinking about who’s going to clean up the mess. When you start Viscera Cleanup Detail, a hero has already saved a space station from an alien attack and has left the whole place a shambles, so you have to clean up the blood, pick up caskets and cover bullet holes. Did you think the “Titty Twister” cleaned itself or what?
The third vertex of the coarseness triangle is, obviously, sex of the worst exploitation kind, with bikinis, tits and big butts. Duke Nukem 3D would be a typical case, with its strippers showing flesh if we give them a dollar, but I prefer Lula 3D, a loathsome graphic adventure (probably the worst videogame in history) in which you control a porno actress and do things as erotic as looking for a granny’s hearing aid (spoiler: it’s in the fridge). The best softcore hook is always misplaced, like the hip hop drunk go-go dances you can do in Resident Evil: Revelations 2 in the midst of a zombie massacre. To make it even more gratuitous you have to dress the main character in a sexy cowgirl outfit. Here’s some proof of it:
You can see a bit of flesh too in Dead or Alive: Xtreme Beach Volleyball 2, which includes mini games such as Butt Battle, in which two young girls fight in a swimming pool to make the other fall into the water by hitting each other with their butts. “Press X to kick ass” is the Like a Virgin of videogames.
There’s more. The award to the most animal and demented action game (combining eschatology, pseudo-eroticism and violence, on top of it), goes to Boong-ga Boong-ga, an arcade game based on kanchô, a Japanese children joke that consists of uniting your two index fingers and assaulting the anus of a poor victim. Its arcade machine has a finger-pistol and asks you to attack a physical and soft butt located under the screen, to which you can add the face of, among others, a con man, a mother-in-law or a child molester. On the table, right by the buttocks, can be read, “Have a Fun! Enjoy!” How not to comply?
This sense of silliness and mad fun is, I guess, what elevates these games. Maybe they were trying to eliminate the (still present today) idea that they’re something childish or were trying to do just the opposite, appealing to the idea of innocent mischief that only a child (a real one, not a Disney movie one) has. I don’t know. Beyond their intentions, these games manage to reach a double goal: they make us become adults playing at being kids, and kids playing at being adults. They offer us (sometimes useless) actions that have nothing to do with regulations or order but a lot with the festive, unproductive, inexplicable and even bad taste gestures that prove that life is a carnival and that the most beautiful thing is to keep on playing. I’m sure Mikhail Bakhtin would really enjoy himself with a PlayStation 4!