It was a cool name with no meaning: Art Game Thunderdome. I had thought the fact that my short-lived video series dealt with hypothetical art games in a rough and tumble manner might justify the title…but ultimately the name was just a hollow ideal. There was no sense of competition, I think—no game to the “art game.” It wasn’t even sound and fury signifying nothing. It was just sound.
Thus we come to the new format of Art Game Thunderdome: Playable Criticism. That’s what I call it, at least. And in terms of our first entry, The Great Gatsby, I can’t help but think that “playable criticism” is somehow more appropriate than “videogame adaptation.” We had one of those last year—the very charming Great Gatsby NES-like. But the game had little sense of procedural purpose, I felt…Aside from loosely adapting the epigraph, last summer’s Gatsby was more or less all setting and superficial context. You got a sense of the time period, but not of the characters. I think we can do more. I believe expression to be infinitely adaptable, no matter the medium. And not just the expression of setting…but the deep structure of the characters themselves. We have only to find the way to make such things resonate. And this resonate quality, if it is to be had, must be generated by interpretation…not loose interpretation that only seeks to render settings and time periods, but sharply focused interpretation that wedges its fingernails beneath each stratum…Sometimes the text comes up clean; sometimes in clumps. Regardless of the outcome, this process, for me, is what “playable criticism” means.
And with that idea I began crafting my first game. I had written about them…about how they should be…what developers should be thinking when they make them; but aside from notes and ideas I’d never made one myself. Well, now I have, and you’ll find it below, an “adaptation” of The Great Gatsby. And I don’t give a shit if you’ve read the novel before; nor do I care if you recognize the setting; or that you notice that the title track, “Summertime,” didn’t exist until nearly two decades after the novel takes place. What I give a shit about is proceduralizing characters, in any way I can; to make them meaningful not through name and sprite, but through the raw physicality that occurs when we our fingernails touch down upon the keys. There will be glitches; there will be poor level construction and animation; some of it on purpose, some of it just honest-to-God mistake. The hope is that somewhere in the scrape of its parts…the functioning and barely-functioning at odds with one another…something good is generated.
And I am totally willing to be wrong. To that end, you’ll find the space below perfectly adequate.
+”A” RESTARTS LEVELS
+EACH LEVEL BEGINS WITH AN UNSKIPPABLE WALK ANIMATION. IT AIN’T BROKE, JUST POORLY CONCEIVED