['Bell, Game, and Candle' is a regular GameSetWatch column by writer Alex Litel, discussing stuff that happens in the game business. This time - a sociopolitical analysis of recently released Wii platformer de Blob is abound.]

For the past week or so, I seem to be reading the financial crisis into everything I watch, hear or play—Annie Hall, Dear Science and even de Blob1 suddenly have an acquired meaning. This might have some psychological significance, but I would attribute it far more to the topic ‘s ubiquity in present news cycles. Last Thursday, I waggled my way through Chroma City Uptown level of de Blob, where I transformed financial institutions2 into music halls. Something that was merely an ironic happenstance at the time—financial institutions are becoming so valueless that they might as well be music halls.

The next day I went back to that Uptown level and realized that you were transforming a private entity (a financial institution) into a public one (a music hall). Of course, private proprietorship to public proprietorship is one of the definientia of communism.

Like I assume any gamer would, I immediately paused the game and queried “communism” and “de Blob” on the Google. Surprisingly, only a pseudonymous member of the Edge staff remarked on this similarity in a a preview, but suggested the game’s usage of communism is primarily for humor value.

If only one person (excluding me) has picked up on the similitude, it suggests one of two things: de Blob is less successful as agitprop than Dance Dance Revolution or only a modicum of the métier is familiar with introductory sociology or political theory.

It seems the primary obstacle to the comprehension of the sociopolitical underpinnings of de Blob may be that the game is just so…unusual. The Downtown level might very well be one of the most baffling hours I have ever spent playing a game, I converted the Church of Inktology3 into a skatepark with skateboarders and a divinization of the extreme; I transformed monochromatic lots into soccer fields and posts of oppression into football idolatry.

I would be more forgiving if the politics of de Blob were not blatant even admist the bizarre, and even more salient than those of the notedly scathed first person polemic BlackSite: Area 514. Other than de Blob, I have never encountered an E-rated title that speaks of “imperialism”5 or allows one take the mantle of a labor organizer and liberate suppressed miners and gardeners from unbearable conditions of the slums. If I am doing my math correctly, this means the game is subversive6.

However, subversion does not necessarily entail profundity. I could make a first person shooter where you play as the gun; I would probably get a mention on NPR, if not plaudits. In other words, I could make a game version of American Gun7, and I would get plaudits and a mention on NPR.

Likewise, an overwhelming majority of gaming enthusiasts are quick to confuse clumsily and tritely didactic spectacle (GTA, MGS8, BG&E and others that invite shorthand reference) with profundity, when it is really just simple mastication. Really, said enthusiasts have little right to feel indignant in response to folk ignoring of pseudo-profundity

Quite often in de Blob, the player is tasked with liberating allies of the “color revolution”9 from prisons and transforming them into something more productive, which often takes the form of a structure that literally incorporates art supplies into the design. I have never seen a game even attempt to tackle the topic of correctional efficacy, but for the first game that touches on the subject matter to be a quirky, brisk platformer suggests that there is quite a bit of work to still be done. Still, this is confirmation that the medium is capable of tackling such a serious topic without excessive violence.


1 This might be superfluous, but just because it is next to the other two does not mean it is qualitatively comparable.
2 I am guessing that in Australia, “uptown” means “downtown,” much like how “liberal” there means “center-right.”
3 I assume it has little to do with any other -ology and does not symbolize mental liberation from a cult with confusing imagery, but I could totally be wrong—thinking about this makes my brain tell me that it is going to explode.
4 I played through BlackSite and found it rather enjoyable. So, that vitriol was not coming from me.
5 The Imperial Troops of Star Wars do not count. Not to mention that the game’s statement on imperialism sounds like something a somewhat obtuse nineteen year-old art major under heavy influence of a substance would say.
6 If a tree falls down and no one is around, is it still subversive? If someone makes a game of this, is it doomed to the fate of being a budget title? If a sexagenarian vegetarian does not purchase Chicken Shoot for their grandson because of the aforementioned vegetarianism, is it a victory for gamers?
7 A derided drama that is pretty much Crash except even worse and with guns instead of race relations. Aside from the qualitative objections, the film does for the gun issue what 24 does for detainee treatment (and my perception of Kiefer Sutherland).
8 New York Times, will you put my analysis about how my very comfortable New Balances are a commentary on the rise of the military-industrial complex in a Sunday edition? I even drew a tank on the left side of the right shoe; I drew a peace sign on the right side of the left shoe.
9 Divorced from the actual color revolutions, but is comprised of “color revolutionaries,” which sounds kind of like “counterrevolutionaries”—I would posit that this was intentional.

[Alex Litel can be reached at alexlitel@gmail.com and occasionally found at alexlitel.blogspot.com.]