Archive for the 'gaming' Category

Review: FIGHT OR RUN by Kevin Huizenga

fightorrun

FIGHT OR RUN: Shadow of the Chopper
Kevin Huizenga
Buenaventura Press, November 2008
$3.95

Huizenga, as ever, blows minds six times per page without breaking a sweat, but my first read through this project felt unsatisfying. On almost every page I found myself asking “why did that happen?” and resorting to “because he felt like it, I guess.” The victor of each fight is pretty arbitrary, which I don’t mind, but in some fights the apparent loser is declared the winner — which has a certain rock-paper-scissors logic (what the hell does a rock care if it’s covered by paper?) but still struck me as unfair.

Fight or Run is described as “an open source comics game” on the back cover (H doesn’t even list his full name anywhere in the book), which implies that other artists are encouraged to try it out for themselves — it’s an activity rather than a story. Things happen less because of logic and more because Huizenga simply enjoys drawing them. A character has two heads? Let’s go ahead and have him grow another! And then another and another! But what if the head-stack gets severed? Ooh, then each head could sprout its own body — wait for it — made of heads! Once you get into it, the goofy improv fun of the thing is infectious. Of course, Huizenga being Huizenga, he doesn’t even make it halfway through the book before he’s already diagrammed out the Platonic algorithm of the concept, broken his own rules (with a sub-fight taking place between the personified “Fight” and “Run” options themselves), and conducted a deconstruction of the old cartoon dustcloud “fight” symbol.

There’s also a lot of classic animation influence here, I think, where you have two characters engaged in a battle for completely arbitrary reasons (Tom & Jerry, Roadrunner & Wile E., Bugs & Elmer), giving the animators license to just come up with goofy visual gags and tables-turnings. No consequences, just fade to black and fade in with the next gag.

It does seem like a great loosening-up exercise, along the lines of the 24-hour comic, with the added benefit of not requiring 24 hours… and also (though Huizenga doesn’t explore it) the possibility of collaboration. James Kochalka has done similar projects (both “The Conversation” series with Jeffrey Brown and Craig Thompson and the monster fights with his son Eli). Mostly it made me want to hang out with a bunch of cartoonists and try it out… New SPX tradition, anyone?

As a demonstration of the possibilities of a new game, FIGHT OR RUN: Shadow of the Chopper is definitely successful, and certainly worth your $3.95. But like most games, I bet it’s more fun to play than to watch.

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wokka wokka

I have a great love for tiny little communities of clever people quietly reinventing underappreciated art forms. One such community that I’ve only just recently been introduced to is interactive fiction. What follows is hardly the artistic pinnacle of the form, but it’s funny as hell (and extremely reminiscent of the superhero deconstruction/parody genre which was so popular in the late 80s.).

This is the verbatim transcript of an IF game I recently played, written by God knows who.

Pac-Man was a junkie, eyes oozing pus, haunted by the ghosts of those he’d killed.

They called him Pac-Man because he was always packing heat, lightning-quick on the draw with a personal arsenal second to none. But today he woke up in an alley, all weapons missing but his mouth, an animal, starving hysterical naked, trapped in an unfamiliar maze of mean streets. Needing a fix. Needing a fix like nothing else.

And the ghosts are coming.

PAC-MAN
wokka wokka wokka!
Release 1 / Serial number 001029 / Inform v6.21 Library 6/10

Intersection
The streets are all the same, dark alleys with glowing borders keeping the riff-raff like the Pac-Man away from the Elect and their pleasure palaces. Here two of them cross, paths stretching into the darkness in all four directions known to mankind.

“Need to get well,” Pac-Man mutters, shivering. “I just need to get well.”

There is a food dot here.

> eat food dot
Pac-Man chokes down the food dot.

> east

Alley
The streets are all the same, this one constrained to east and west. Pac-Man is tense, his finely honed instincts telling him to get through here fast, that there’s no side exit to duck into if there’s trouble. He learned THAT lesson back in Nam.

A pink ghost comes flying at Pac-Man out of the darkness!

> west
Normally Pac-Man would never run from anything, but right now he’s weak and unarmed and NEEDS to get well… he turns tail and makes a break for it.

Intersection
The streets are all the same, dark alleys with glowing borders keeping the riff-raff like the Pac-Man away from the Elect and their pleasure palaces. Here two of them cross, paths stretching into the darkness in all four directions known to mankind.

> north

Alley
The streets are all the same, this one constrained to north and south. Pac-Man is tense, his finely honed instincts telling him to get through here fast, that there’s no side exit to duck into if there’s trouble. He learned THAT lesson back in Nam.

A red ghost comes flying at Pac-Man out of the darkness!

> examine red ghost
This kid used to follow Pac-Man around, hence the name – Shadow. Runaway or something, looking for protection. Pac-Man didn’t need that kind of crap, so after a few warnings – and he NEVER give warnings – he introduced the kid to his .38.

The red ghost comes closer, ever closer. “YOU KILLED ME,” it hisses. “NOW PAY THE PRICE!”

> south
Normally Pac-Man would never run from anything, but right now he’s weak and unarmed and NEEDS to get well… he turns tail and makes a break for it.

Intersection

> west

Alley
The streets are all the same, this one constrained to east and west. Pac-Man is tense, his finely honed instincts telling him to get through here fast, that there’s no side exit to duck into if there’s trouble. He learned THAT lesson back in Nam.

An orange ghost is sprawled here, oblivious to the world.

> examine ghost
This guy they called Pokey, owing to his penchant for needle drugs. The nickname worked a couple different ways. When he had a bunch of that shit in his system he was the slowest of slowpokes – it’d take him half an hour to stumble across the room to answer the damn phone. And then there were his arms – back when he had arms – pockmarked with scars from pokings past, pokings from a syringe he’d nicknamed Sue. A couple times Pac-Man had found him going through his shit looking for some cash to make a score, and let it go with a kick or a pistol-whipping; this last time, though, he’d had too much, and plugged him with a .357.

> west

Paradise
And then it happens.

Pac-Man rubs the thick yellow slime from his eyes in disbelief as an angel descends from Heaven above, halo replaced by a bright red bow, and presents him with his fix, his medicine, his freaking SALVATION – and then she is gone, but her glow remains, street bright as day with celestial light. He weeps at the beauty of the power pill.

There is a power pill here.

> eat power pill
Pac-Man eats the power pill.

He hears a screech as the celestial orbs whirling in their spheres grind to a halt, observing a perfect moment of stillness.

Then it begins.

The lights the sounds the music the rush the tingling in his skin the beating of his heart the curtain peeled back the guts of the machine the bits the phosphors the world the world the WORLD

The ghosts are upon him but Pac-Man is a GOLDEN GOD and he will eat them again and again and again WORLD WITHOUT END eyes flying celestial substance blue like Krishna sucked back into the matrix that is he and he alone the SUN OF GOD

And thus does he fly high above the maze on wings of energy leaving behind the filth of the mundane and thus ever and ever shall he transcend, TRANSCEND…

*** Pac-Man has GOTTEN WELL ***


Leigh Walton talks comics and maybe other arts. (RSS)
He also works for the very excellent publisher Top Shelf Productions (which does not necessarily endorse the views and opinions, etc, herein).

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Header by me. Contains an interpolation of the final panel from All-Star Superman #1 by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely. Speaking of which.