This Is How You Will Die

Jason Nelson’s anti-game “This is How You Will Die” fits best out of all his games into Galloway’s counter-game categories.  First, Nelson foregrounds TIHYWD in that, while the player does not see any coding or visual programming, he does witness the rules of the game as the random predictions spin around before bestowing you your death sentence.  Second, TIHYWD perfectly conforms to Galloway’s predictions of aestheticism.  The 2D graphics, while extremely minimal and basic, play a much greater part in the work than game play.  Since the player merely clicks one button to begin the cycle, the emphasis is on the generated text.  While TIHYWD does realistically model the physics of the spinning choices, the illusion is broken by two transparent stripes that partially reveal additional possibilities for your death sentence.  Unlike his other games, TIHYWD refuses to interact the viewer, probably to make an artistic statement that we have no choice in our death; figuring it out is as likely as winning big at the slot machines.  As an unavoidable result, Nelson fails to achieve a radical action, merely relying on his strange graphics and eccentric death predictions to make his game nontraditional.

Personally, I feel that Nelson’s anti-clean, anti-organized, anti-minimalist graphics become a hinderance to the message of his games.  While they spoil TIHYWD less than the others, these amateurish skins undermines his legitimacy (I didn’t feel safe clicking on any of the links) and often make his messages unreadable.  I understand that it’s part of his message and style, but the messy, thrown-together style of Nelson’s work makes me feel that he does not respect me as a player and does not care enough about his game enough to make it visually pleasant.  Personally, I preferred the subtle, implied meaning presented in the minimal, pristine skin of Every Day the Same to Nelson’s cluttered portrayal of his enigmatic messages.  As a player, his seemingly-careless graphics fail to engage me enough to figure out the complex (and doubtless meaningful) puzzle he presents.

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7 Responses to This Is How You Will Die

  1. Hayley Roder says:

    I’m going to agree with you partially on this one–I think his messy, anti-organized graphics do hinder the message, but I think they also show us some great examples of countergaming.

    I had to, rather soon, turn the music off, because it was just too distracting. There might have been a message in that I therefore missed. The only game I could stick with long enough to attempt to figure out a message was “I Made This, You Play This.” I never did figure out what he was implying, but after I muted it, I found it at least playable.

    Where I think we disagree is where you mentioned that he might not care about us as players or about the game. I think he probably does care about the game–whether or not he cares about the players is probably debatable. I’ve said this in my other comments, but I think a major point of countergaming is to be able to do whatever you want, however you want. If these were clean and minimalist like EDTSD, they would either feel a lot more like or just simply be regular games. It seems to me that he exercises his artistic freedom well–and while I appreciate it, I don’t necessarily like it.

    You made some awesome points about how TIHYWD fits in with Galloway’s chapter–I hadn’t thought about the physics of the spinning choices!

  2. kstrylow says:

    Oh I do think he cares about the players and the game (why else would he publish it) but I think his style just seems to say: “I spent 10 minutes making this in Paint because I was bored.” I know it’s not true, but it still communicates this to me.

  3. rderkse1 says:

    I disagree that the Paint-esque visual aesthetic is an indication of carelessness. Especially in “I Made This, You Play This,” the headache-inducing graphics and distracting music and animations contribute to his message. Though his intent is obviously unclear, one can infer that he is offering a criticism of many socially dominating websites, including Google and Yahoo!. Microsoft’s new search engine, Bing, asserts itself as the cure to “search overload.” At first, I was frustrated with the overwhelming visual and audio components of Nelson’s game but, after playing for a few levels, I was able to see past the skin and play the game through to the next level without paying too much attention to each level. Nelson’s intent, perhaps, is to draw attention to the fact that we can (or can not) desensitize ourselves to the overwhelming nature of search engines, both visually and conceptually.

    Past the first two levels, however, Nelson begins criticizing other corporations, such as Disney, and I agree that his dizzying aesthetic does not make sense for a critique of such concepts. No artist makes a game without care, however; I don’t think he intends his Paint lines and graphics as casual or disrespectful, but he designed them to be visually overwhelming to the player and joltingly different from the clean lines of “traditional games.”

  4. sshapir1 says:

    I totally agree with your thoughts. It’s one thing to disagree or choose to not conform to a societal norm because you have legitamite reasons to believe that there is something wrong with that norm, but I think Jason Nelson’s games are just disagreeing for the hell of disagreeing. His games are haunting and the extreme details and decoratory components of the game distract from what the actual message is.

  5. Jason Ko says:

    People seem to think that the message in these games is unclear. Perhaps the unclarity is the message. Why does there have to be something to “get”? We are bombarded by the media all over the internet, but how much of it actually has value? Like this game, we just tune out the noise, as rderkse1 said.

    There is a manufactured sense of “truth” here, even though the truth is chaos, and I would argue the same can be said for Disney.

  6. kstrylow says:

    I agree with your point Jason; I’m sure that Nelson’s aesthetic is intended to comment on the constant “noise” of modern life; the overwhelmingly constant bombardment of information. You could also argue that the “sloppiness” of his style reflects the amount of pointless junk that people post and consume on the internet. The only thing that weakens this point is the fact that he uses the same style in all his games. Unless his messages all basically say the same thing, shouldn’t his style reflect the nuances of each (to establish that his style is intentional)?

    • Jason Ko says:

      This monotony is seen in the monotony of mindless content on the internet. I would actually say that the continued use of one style is greater indication of it being intentional. If he were truly just throwing stuff out at random, then there would be greater variance.

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