The tangerine waitstaff loped table to booth table to booth, customers crowded practically swinging from the rafters. Mr. Turtle and Ms. Marjoram offered compliments to the chef: their food was splendous. Mr. Dog wasn’t pleased with his meal. The waitstaff led him through, over, under twisting dining pathways to the kitchen to lodge complaint.
Back there in the greasy dinge steam chugged from appliances, boiling pots were stacked teetering to the ceiling and fogged figures of cooks scampered, fell with edibles. Only the head cook was clear with his gargantuan hands it was hard to work, he waved to direct cooks but nearly toppled various things, it was difficult. It was very difficult to work.
Still Eating Oranges
Since its release in 1991, Éric Chahi’s masterpiece Another World has stayed new. Its visuals are still painterly; its game design is still fresh. Its atmosphere and intensity have not faded. Its critical plaudits have not dried up. Its influence on other video games, such as Ico (2001), continues directly and indirectly even now. What has changed, unfortunately, is its familiarity to the average player. Another World is too odd to be noticed in the age of Call of Duty.
The game stars a hapless physicist named Lester, whose lightning-struck particle accelerator blasts him to the very beautiful, very hostile world in the title. Hostile is the key word: the player’s only real goal is to navigate Lester from one difficult and dangerous situation to another, from one narrow escape to the next. Chahi created Another World alone and improvised its design scene by scene—returning always to the question, “What do I feel right now?”—, and so the game remains unpredictable and repetition-free to the end.
Although Another World lacks dialogue and other typical plot components, one somehow cares about Lester and the alien companion he meets early on. This comes from Chahi’s strange ability to make a story out of the player’s own actions. The plot of Another World is nothing other than what the player, as Lester, does. One feels Lester’s panic, confusion, wonder and relief as he fumbles forward—toward a conclusion that comes achingly and yet necessarily soon after the game begins. Another World may be found on GOG.com, Steam, the App Store and other such services.
Still Eating Oranges
In the cities in which we live, all of us see hundreds of publicity images every day of our lives. No other kind of image confronts us so frequently. In no other form of society in history has there been such a concentration of images, such a density of visual messages.
These words were written in 1972. Their author, postmodern critic John Berger, hoped to reveal the incredible psychical power that advertising wielded over his age. Yet, read today, Berger’s statement sounds like an indictment of 2014. All modernized societies now swarm with advertisements—and not hyperbolically. Advertising punctuates websites, television and radio stations and print publications. The world beyond media is a confusion of billboards, flyers, noise pollution, bumper stickers and even litter proclaiming some product or brand. In the reader’s Tumblr feed, this very introduction appears amid, and is perhaps sandwiched between, advertisements.
But to suggest only that late modern culture is inseparable from advertising would be grossly to understate the situation. It is more accurate to say, with Berger, that advertising is our culture, that late modernity does not generate but is generated by advertising. Any attempt to pursue a reality beyond the one enclosed by advertising is immediately devoured by advertising—even used as an advertisement. An encounter with advertising comes to seem as natural and obvious as a breath of air. A step back is necessary. In fact, advertising is the sinister process of commodifying the universe, so that all things become products for purchase by insatiable consumers.