By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
"Ruddock Fury Over Woomera Computer Game." What the fuck does that mean? Ask an Aussie: Woomera is the name of a refugee detention center Down Under, and Phillip Ruddock is the Australian immigration minister. The headline on TheAge.com.au refers to a PC game, Escape From Woomera, which is being developed using a $25,000 grant from the Australia Council, a government arts fund. Who hasn't yearned to be a detained refugee? Finally, the game's creators promise, players will live the fantasy, plotting breakouts by tunneling underground, climbing fences, or even hiring lawyersall while being subjected to hyper-realistic drudgery like regular meals, scheduled at the same time as in the actual prison, and "episodic violence." If only we knew where they were being kept, we could program a version for America's Muslim detainees!
Rating 6 (out of 10)
Why get furious over a politically embarrassing computer game when you can get furious about go-karting? As opposed to escaping Woomera, there's something about racing games that's like returning to the womb: the immersion in mindless repetition, symbiosis with a separate entity, tracks in the basic shape of the fetal position, and sudden, disorienting delivery across the finish line. Many other games are like conception: sloppy, unpredictable, better with two or more players, about two minutes long. Which you prefer depends on some Freudian biz beyond this column's purview.
I'll not invoke Carl Jung, considering the fact that I had to check the spelling of his name on Google, but kart titles are like the dreamy flip side to car-racing games, which are measured by the realism of their makes, models, and courses. The up-to-four-player Furious Karting relies on familiar variations on Mario Kart's diversions: nitro, oil slicks, glue, smoke screens, bombs, and, cleverly, chickens, which you can hurl into another car's air intake, causing the driver to slow down and spew feathers.
But you must also keep an eye on your karma, which, contrary to a few thousand years of religious thought, increases only with aggression. The manual advises that you not wimp out "by apologizing too often" with the hand gestures at your disposal. (The chicken, unfortunately, is the only bird available, although a thumbs-down means, "You're a loser!" Whoa! Try not to get too crazy with that one!) Although the arenas aren't fascinatingmall, city street, construction sitethe game's characters represent a broad cross-section of global hipster youth. There's alluring Osaka teen Huni, who likes "wearing provocative outfits," slick Brit Sinclair, who dislikes women "who say no," and American anti-"chauvinist" hip-hop fan Hanna. And boy, do those qualities matter when they're racing!
DeveloperRunning With Scissors
Shocking. Unforgivable. Has everyone, obsessed with the post-millennial threat of international terrorism, forgotten the danger to society that pissed-off high schoolers and blue-collar workers pose? Probably the world's most tasteless game, first-person shooter Postal 2as in, "go postal," not "deliver the mail"updates the 1997 original with only one detail for this time of perpetual war: an Osama look-alike, standing by the "How to Be a Terrorist" section in the library. Or maybe he's just an Arab guy with a beard. Either way, youa white worker at the mercy of the ball-and-chain's demands for milkget to kill him. And whoever else you like. Er, don't like.
Most newsworthily, these targets include Christians, fatties, gay people, and cops. You may make confession, for instance, and kill the priest when he demands cash to forgive your sins. But first, you must run your nagging wife's errands, cashing paychecks or busting into ATMs to get the necessary funds. Naturally, you pick up weaponsscissors, napalm launcher, rotting cow headalong the way. Need a silencer for your hunting rifle? Sneak up on a kitten and impale it on the barrel. Want to make Gary Coleman, yes, Gary Coleman, suffer after knocking him down with your shovel? Piss in his mouth and watch him vomit. Postal's concept isn't the only thing that's crude: Load times seem like eternities, and the poorly programmed townsfolk just don't fight fair. Shocking. Unforgivable. Infuriating, even.
But this is the closest we've come toWeird Science, dammit!