Saturday, November 10, 2012

Curiosity: Where idiocy, genius, and opacity converge (and why it's bewildering)

If I had to describe Curiosity, I would say it is a deconstruction of why we play games that has no real point and may or may not be intentional. 

 Curiosity- What's Inside The Cube? tasks players with tapping a gigantic cube. Yes, that's the game. Players all around the world are tapping away at tiny tiles on a gigantic cube. The idea is that slowly but surely players will whittle away at the cube until they have shed all the layers, a process that may take an ungodly amount of time-especially with the servers being such a bad state. One person will then receive a link to a video that shows them what's inside the cube.  There are very few gameplay "hooks" in Curiosity; vaguely satisfying sound effects are tied to the shattering. I can’t think of a way that the game could be described as interesting on its own merit without the help of curiosity and collectivist altruism.  In some ways, Curiosity is the most pure game I've played. All unnecessary personality and gameplay hooks are stripped out and as a result the game oozes sterility. The color palette is bland, the background is white and empty, and the sound design is maddeningly boring and monotonous. The entire game revolves around tapping at cubes for what we can only assume will be an incredibly long time.

 In some ways, it may be a bit of a comment on the fallacies present in an interactive medium, and an explanation of how video games as a specific artistic medium are just as pointless as any other from a non-human perspective.  Some might call the game a parody of games; Ian Bogost has an interesting quote that is relevant here: 

"Satire and earnestness are very close cousins. Maybe they are identical, or even weirder, maybe satire is even more earnest than genuineness. A philosopher friend of mine named Graham Harman has suggested that things never really encounter the true, real versions of other things. Instead they translate, distort, or caricature one another. And if every interaction between anything whatsoever really amounts to a caricature, then maybe it's best to own up to that fact and stop pretending that anything is more than a travesty of its intended subject."                                                                                                           

 Curiosity agitates me because I can't understand the intentions of the creators. There is no authorial preference when it comes to interpretation; Molyneux has been maddeningly cagey about what the "experiment" really is. It’s almost like I’m reading into the game as a sort of justification for the hour or so I spent in the game and the amount of time I spent thinking about it. It almost reminds me of old NES games that we would play constantly regardless of quality because it was all we had and how we would make the most of it- often ascribing quality to games that didn’t deserve it. 

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