The Binding of Isaac is a fun, although extremely difficult, game. However, something was bugging me about the game. After playing the game several times I didn’t really have any urge to play it. It wasn’t because I didn’t enjoy the game or that there was any deep game play flaw that prevented me from enjoying the game – it runs smoothly and I have yet to find any bugs. Today I realized what it was – this game represents a lot of things that I really don’t like about the video game community. It should have been more obvious from the start (I didn’t read anything about the game other than it was getting some pretty decent reviews and friends (and friends of friends) were having a lot of fun with it), but I went in playing it as nothing more than a game. It was only when I became introspective about the relationship between the game and myself that I realized exactly what I was playing.
I love the video game community and have many friends who are avid players. However, there are many problems in the overall gaming community – such as misogynists abound and “trolls” that verbally abuse other players online. Although devoid of those problems, this video game represents the childish immature behavior that has run rampant in the video game community and negatively impacts the way games are seen by non-game players.
To understand what I’m talking about you should probably play the game, but here are just a few of the things that portray the immature and childish mentality that can be so pervasive in the video game community. Weapon: The tears of a child; Interactive Environment: Poop; Item: A Coat Hanger which goes through a child’s (your character’s) head, a lemon that makes your pee yourself; Boss: A hulking fetus attached to another fetus by umbilical cord which is crippled. The game is also littered with memes including Forever Alone and Shoop Da Whoop (which I thought had been dead for at least half a decade). There are many other examples of these things, but these are the ones that I wanted to point out. (I have linked to one example so you can get an idea of what I’m talking about, but I don’t really recommend clicking it).
The game is childish, immature, sick, and twisted. The game itself feels like a forced attempt to offend anyone who isn’t still obsessed with 4Chan and Newgrounds. Yet, for some reason, the game has been a pretty big hit.
I should say, the game is enjoyable to play for its mechanics and throwback to top down 2D adventure games. That isn’t enough to make the game enjoyable overall though. There are numerous attempts by McMillan at what I believe it humor but the only humor to be found is in knowing that anyone who doesn’t regularly go to 4Chan or Newgrounds would be completely and utterly offended by the material.
The Binding of Isaac is a game that video game haters can latch on to and say “Look at this pile of garbage. It has fetuses, poop, and a mother trying to kill her son. This is what video games are!” It is the type of game that is fodder for those who oppose video games as a wholly inappropriate form of entertainment. The game is the type of game that shows people outside of our community that we don’t want video games to be meaningful and that the more twisted and f-ed up the game is the better the game is.
I understand sick and twisted. Sometimes I think sick and twisted is a route which can be utilized in order to create a more abstract point overall. To me it seems like the point of McMillan’s sick and twisted is for the sake of sick and twisted – I just can’t get behind that.*
The most important part is that we should be actively working to support and promote games that are more than just cheap forms of entertainment. Games like Journey and Braid, artistic attempts to utilize video games as more than just interactive entertainment, are the Indie Games that we should be supporting the most; games which attempt to progress and move forward the conversation towards something more meaningful and with attempted purpose. Until games that attempt to create empathy and bestow meaning, and go beyond satisfying strangely carnal urges are supported as much as games like Super Meat Boy, Call of Duty, and Battlefield we will forever be stuck; stagnantly perceived as people who care for nothing more than the ability to kill others and a cheap laugh provided by a depraved image of a fetus.
Your Resident Anthropologist
*One point I want to add – McMillan and all others who create games like this have every right to make this type of game. Those who want to play have every right to play this game. I will never say these games shouldn’t be made, but I think that overall its worrisome that this is as popular as it is.