I’ve been meaning to write some more game-related posts, especially in the wake of the very fun presentation that Roy and I gave at WAM! 2008. For now, however, I just have a review of Mighty Jill Off, a free downloadable PC game that I recommend you all check out. It’s bound to be one of the more notable offbeat, indie, retro, lesbian-BDSM-themed jumping games of the year. OK, so it’s probably also the only game that fits those criteria. Ever.
Let’s get the preliminaries out of the way: this is not a porn-tastic game replete with breast physics and girl-on-girl action to appeal to adolescent gamer dudes. If anything it’s closer to the opposite, and the theme actually makes a disturbing amount of sense. (And not only because the creator seems to be kind of into BDSM and fetish stuff herself.)
It’s long been noted by game scholars and humorists alike that there’s a masochistic quality inherent in many games. Hemmed in by the demands of an almost arbitary system of constraints and rules, you willingly submit to the system in search of an elusive and transitory experience of “fun,” to the extent where you let most of your thought processes be taken over.
Mighty Jill Off is one of a long lineage of games that foregrounds this aspect of gaming and turns it into the central experience; the game’s creator, Auntie Pixelante (aka Anna Anthropy or dessgeega) has actually blogged about another recent branch of that family tree, masocore games. There’s a reason these games have retro graphics reminiscent of 80s arcade and Nintendo games. (Yes, that’s a screenshot of a brand new game right there.) Back in the old days, we had to walk uphill both ways to school in the snow, and video games were much harder–personally, I always died and lost my quarter within seconds, because despite being a game designer, I have very poor twitch skills.
Masocore games deliberately turn away from the trend of recent years to make games more forgiving and hand-holding, and instead give you the experience of being squashed by impossibly deadly apples, over and over. And over. And then one more time, because you screwed up just a tiny bit. It’s as if a movement was started by the evil twin of Shigeru Miyamoto, who stayed true to the punishing timing of Donkey Kong instead of taking the broader, well-lit road of Super Mario Brothers. (Eventually Miyamoto’s games, which also include the Legend of Zelda series and Nintendogs, became known precisely for how gentle and soothing their challenge is–an experience that Will Wright once described as like being in an armchair that’s so perfectly, ergnomically designed that you can’t get up.)
Does dying over and over in increasingly random and inescapable ways sound fun to you? No? What do you mean, no!? You should try it… you might be surprised! The frustration, as any good domme knows, is a crucial part of the experience, and the surprises that emerge from the system you’re trapped in are like cherries on top.
Auntie Pixelante, who also puts out a thoroughly indie gaming magazine, also ups the ante by parlaying the masochism into a cute and kinky storyline. Jill, our ragtag heroine (probably no relation to our Jill but certainly a relation to Jack) is clad in the requisite arbitary superhero costume (or is it latex?) and is kicked out of her Queen’s throne room all the way to the bottom of her tower. The entire game, which can be played in under a half-hour, consists of jumping back up to the top by pressing the Z button repeatedly. The only problem, really, is that there are a lot of deadly things you can jump into, which of course all kill you immediately. Pixelante’s level design has a fugue-like ornateness that forces you to master more and more aerial maneuvers that magically emerge from increasingly complex and precise presses of just three keys: Z to jump, left, and right.
Even if you don’t regularly play games, you’ll be able to learn the controls of Mighty Jill Off in seconds. And I’ve already warned you that being frustrated is the whole point, so have at it! Just keep in mind… do you really expect a REWARD at the end of a story like this? Well, maybe you’ll get one. Maybe. If you’re good.
(Addendum: Ironically, when I first posted this I actually neglected to include a link to the game. But come on, you probably could have found it somehow. It wouldn’t have been THAT difficult, it’s not like I was intending to punish you, dear readers. At least not consciously…)