In June, I wrote a piece that was meant to be a roundup of recent small/freeware games for a website. It was meant for an audience of people interested in the arts but unfamilliar with videogames, and I wrote it hoping I could perhaps bridge those two "camps", by demonstrating to people interested in arts, politics and culture how videogames are relevant, meaningful and very interesting! Unfortunately though, it never got published, and I was later informed that it wouldn't be at all. So I figured I may as well put this little slice of writing on my blog. Please Enjoy!
The World The Children Made - James Earl Cox III
I first came across James Earl Cox III when I found I’m a little teapot lingering on the gamejolt newly addeds. In the game, you hold a teapot with a stitched on mouth and eyes, and pour out tea until the room is filled. When you pour, the teapot starts to scream maniacally, amongst a loud and messy choir-chant of the children’s song. The game is jarring and somewhat uncomfortable, yet this is exactly how it succeeds in being funny and fun to interact with. With games like Potato or Big Minta Bronson: A Vegetable Love Story, Toilet World, and “Snot City,” Cox is able to craft a particular form of absurdist comedy, that twists and muddles familiar imagery to create surreality in its settings.
But occasionally, James Earl Cox will create a “serious” work, or something that isn’t as eccentric but has more weight to its tone. In “The World The Children Made,” Cox portrays a vintage- futurist setting where we play as a housewife in a stereotypical nuclear family. They’ve just moved into a new house, and the husband has a new job, so the wife is left to stay at home and do what the social division of labour pusjedi women to do in the mid-20th Century. Now this isn’t exactly new ground, I would even say that the game’s very typical portrayal of gender and the family obscures important identity politics (mainly that this is a mostly white-American, suburban image of the family), but I’m interested in how well the game communicates the mundanity and misery of this woman’s life. Every day, we see her go through the same process of cooking meals, cleaning rooms and dealing with her children, most of which are done by the house itself (it’s a future house, see), but it’s also the weightlessness of these interactions, how trite and inconsequential they feel, as they’re actions done through instant one-button prompts. Only the “nursery,” a simulation room meant for the children to play in, provides a small moment of escape and excitement for her, and it serves as the most visually flamboyant moments of the game.
As the weeks go by, the same tune plays over again. We see her grow distasteful of the house, as shown with her nighttime interactions with her husband (the only time they really get the chance to talk), but they don’t materialize for a long time. The World The Children Made is very slowly paced, but it manages to find a thematic core that makes it a worthwhile play, and it’s a welcome change of pace from James Earl Cox III.
The Pyramid Gate - Strangethink